Tuesday, 30 June 2009

The “Anne” books by L.M. Montgomery

 Published 1908

Like many women of my generation, I read Anne of Green Gables when I was young, and I saw a couple of adaptations on television, but it wasn’t until last year that I discovered how many books there were in the series, and decided to embark on them all in order. It was a year in which I considered myself fortunate, because I spent many happy hours immersed in the events of Avonlea and Ingleside.

Anne of Green Gables, the first in the series, tells the story of the orphan Anne Shirley’s arrival at the farm of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. They were expecting a boy, and there are tense pages for Anne and the reader while the elderly brother and sister make up their mind as to whether she can stay. Once it’s decided, Anne’s natural ebullience is unquenchable, and she gets into a succession of scrapes to try the patience of her new guardians, while making friends and rivals in the community. Anne is instantly lovable, and the reader shares her despair about her red hair, and her yearning to be called Cordelia, so that when, at the end of the book, she has to curtail her dreams, we both suffer with her and admire her determination. I read this book in the edition edited by Cecily Devereux, which has an introduction and some interesting back matter, including contemporary reviews, which I found quite informative. I would have welcomed similar treatment for the whole series.

Saturday, 13 June 2009

Thy Servant a Dog by Rudyard Kipling

Published 1930

I will tell you by Times and Long Times—each time at a time. I tell good things and dretful things.
Those in the know will recognise the style of Rudyard Kipling from the Just-So Stories; some, I expect, will find it vomit-inducing. Thy Servant a Dog is a very unfashionable sort of book which, somewhat to my surprise, I greatly enjoyed. The story is told by Boots, a young Scottish (or Aberdeen) terrier whose master meets a young lady walking her own terrier, Slippers, in a London park: “There is 'nother dog like me, off-lead. . . . There is walk-round-on-toes. There is Scrap. There is Proper Whacking.” The two households are quickly joined:
We are all here. Please look! I count paws. There is me, and Own God—Master. There is Slippers, and Slippers’ own God—Missus. That is all my paws. There is Adar. There is Cookey. There is James-with-Kennel-that-Moves. There is Harry-with-Spade. That is all Slippers’ paws.

There is also their arch-enemy, the Kitchen Cat, with whom insults are frequently exchanged, and the Tall Dog discovered singing sorrowfully in the woods who becomes a regular partner in crime. When Boots and Slippers restore the lost dog to his family he tells them he is called Dam Puppy, but they discover later that he is really called Ravager, son of Regan, and comes of a line of notable fox hounds. Later, too, there is Smallest, who becomes Slippers’ special charge.