I need happy books

so I don’t sink into any depths of despair. I was glancing at the book reviews in Vi, my quality Swedish monthly magazine, and finding some possibly very worthy books, but it all sounded very despairish, really. Even the bright sunshine failed to stop me feeling low.

And I’d been feeling very happy, even though I’d just finished my latest re-reading of Anne of Green Gables. Anne is a happy book, by my reckoning, despite her desperate beginnings and the death of Matthew, which had my tears running freely, but in a happy sort of way.

For the Anne and hanky brigade there is now another book to cry over. To celebrate the centenary of the original Anne, Canadian writer Budge Wilson was given the job of writing a prequel to L M Montgomery’s series of books.

I’m not a prequel person, and I’d never hankered after any knowledge about what happened before Anne was picked up by Matthew at the station. I was more than satisfied with knowing that Anne went on to have a good life.

The one thing that had stuck in my mind was the ipecac and the croup, and that was before I produced croupy Offspring and started handing the ipecac out myself. So, I’m quite pleased to have read about the background to Anne’s going round saving children’s lives like that.

Budge Wilson’s Before Green Gables feels very much like a biography covering the early years of someone famous. Someone real, I mean. It’s absolutely amazing what Budge was able to do with the little snippets of facts that Anne mentions when she talks about her past. To build a whole book on this and to make it credible, is a real achievement.

Before Green Gables starts with introducing Anne’s parents, Bertha and Walter. Then it’s swiftly on to Anne’s life with the Thomas family. There’s a lot of bad, but there is good too, and maybe both Anne and the reader need this, for Anne to turn out as lovely as she did. After the Thomases it’s the Hammond family with all the twins, and finally the orphanage.

This is not only a story about our old friend Anne, but it’s a piece of (Canadian) history. To read about daily life in those days, and to find out what it was like for the women in particular, is very interesting, as long as I don’t have to live through it myself.

One of my reasons for quickly re-reading Anne again was to see exactly what is “true” and what’s made up. So much in the prequel struck me as things I already knew, except I can’t have. Budge has done a great job, and she has added a new dimension to Green Gables forever.

And it’s a happy book, even though it ought to come with a very large handkerchief. Preferably pink and with flowers.

8 responses to “I need happy books

  1. It’s absolutely a piece of Canadian heritage – the book and its setting on Prince Edward Island brings thousands of tourists across the bridge from the mainland every year. Really must read this book…

  2. Yes, more boy readers for Anne! Good idea.

  3. Got acopy of a thin paperback called the Puffin Cyclopedia of Children’s Classics free with the Observer today. Seems from that that in August a new edition of Anne of Green Gables is being published by Puffin with a cover and introduction by Lauren Child. Some other lovely new Puffin classics featured too.

  4. Yes, I’ve seen it. Can Lauren Child do Anne, do you reckon? First Pippi, now Anne…

    And unless I’m going mad, which can’t be ruled out, there’s a new Anne out on Thursday this week, too.

  5. I think the Lauren Child connection would probably lure in my daughter to give Anne of Green Gables a go. It would act as a kind of imprimatur. I suspect the same would go with my boys on seeing that Chris Riddell is doing Alice in the same series (they met him at the Guardian Newsroom once and he was incredibly nice to them adding even more to their Edge Chronicles enjoyment) and Cornelia Funke The Wizard of Oz. Makes them seem like a ‘safe’ choice to read.

  6. Need to learn it’s not for us oldies. Do you think your children will try the classics? I’m despondent at my end.

  7. Not sure if they have TIME to try the classics. I mean there is a question of what good new writing we leave out if they are going to spend time reading something old. There is so much current stuff that I would not want them to miss for the world – I’m thinking most recently for example of Linda Newbery’s ‘Nevermore’, for example, or Alexander Gordon Smith and Jamie Webb’s ‘The Inventors’. One classic my boys greatly enjoyed though was ‘The Phantom Tollbooth’ while my daughter loves the Enid Blyton Faraway Tree stuff. They have a good knowledge of things like Greek and Roman myths because of contemporary re-tellings. But they may never have more than a hazy notion of Tom Sawyer or Black Beauty. But then as a non reading child I have to admit that my knowledge of any of this came from TV.

  8. TV is OK as a source, as long as it teaches us something. I feel a lot of my knowledge of old stuff has been helped along by the BBC and others. But television series often had me running to the library for the book afterwards.

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