But there was--of course--a copy of Anne in the cottage we rented that first time on PEI. And so, as a considerably less-tough-guy gal in her late fifties, I inhaled the thing. It reminded me a bit of Tom Sawyer in all its strengths (and occasional creakinesses--I'm more of a Huck fan, myself). But I love Twain. And I wasn't shocked to discover that that Twain had been an Anne fan, too.
However, I was surprised to realize that I then really, really needed to join the tourist scrum up at the Green Gables site and buy ALL the other Anne books. And I was maybe just a bit embarrassed about being glued to them for the rest of that late summer into the autumn back home in New York. And thereafter needing very much to re-read A Wrinkle in Time. And then the rest of Madeleine L'Engle's Time Quintet. Of course I hadn't read the other books in that series as a young adult, either. I was into Salinger. It was the '60's.
I'm so glad I don't have to pretend to be hip anymore. Or grown-up.
I'm reading Lucy Maud Montgomery's Emily books now--the series that starts with Emily of New Moon. They're very much of a piece with Anne; there's an orphan and a strict adoptive auntie, and gorgeous PEI scenery--and lots of what I had been taught to sniff at in my study of Serious Literature as Local Color. As in "Oh, she's just a Local Color writer."
I'm here to tell you today that I will surely fatten your lip if you say that about my old friend Lucy Maud. The Emily books are exactly what I need to read now. Sentimental in places, yes. Unabashedly Christian--absolutely. But the kind of Christian, really, that Pope Francis is, and there is NOTHING wrong with that. And what really blows my mind is that they are, as we say in the 21st Century, incredibly meta. They are novels about writing, about the process of writing, and about growing into being a writer, and they tell it true. They are smart books. Would they work in today's YA world of wizards and Hunger Games and vampires? The vocabulary and authorial intrusions would probably be a heavy lift for a kid today. But the Emily series is a group of books that need reading. As heart food for writers, they're up there with Bird by Bird. For real.
We are all orphans, really. Especially writers. So yeah, I wrote a YA novel of my own after I did all this Anne and L'Engle reading, and it's a book I believe in and I hope it sees the light of print one day. I intend to keep poking at it until it does. Trudging up that Alpine Path, I am. I went by Lucy Maud's grave before I left PEI this time, as I usually do. It's got lots of really stunning geraniums on it this year. I didn't used to like geraniums, either. Some stuff you just have to learn.