Judy Blume movie in Concord

Union Street is the main street of Concord, North Carolina. It’s been partly closed off the past few months because they’re doing construction. But on Sunday, both sides of the street were blocked from traffic. So towards sunset, we set off to see what the occasion was. Maybe some kind of street festival, now that COVID is (hopefully) waning? I dropped my books off at the library, and then we walked further down the street. The street was indeed closed off — jammed up as it was with old cars.

‘Look!’ I said. ‘Maybe they’re going to a have a parade.’

It looked like a large outdoors museum. We were about to nestle ourselves among the cars and get a close look, when some men, heady with their authority and yet not as alert as they ought to have been, noticed we’d gone further than what was allowed.

‘Excuse us, you can’t go any further, you have to remain behind there, this is all closed off.’

‘What for?’

‘A movie set.’

I nearly rolled my eyes. I supposed it was some rinky-dink group of high schoolers, or maybe a college project, filming with their cell phones, and because their dad was friends with the mayor, they’d managed to get downtown blocked for their own private uses.

But then we found out it was a famous book — a Judy Blume book — and with famous actors — like Oscar-level actors — Kathy Bates and Rachel McAdams. You know, the girl from the Notebook and from Mean Girls, everyone kept telling as, just in case you didn’t know who Rachel McAdams was.

Here in downtown Concord???!!!

We crossed to the other side of the road, and behind some orange cones, there were about 15 or 20 people. Kids, parents, everyone.

I asked a nice-looking older lady, wearing a mask (and I was also wearing a mask!) if she’d seen anything, been there a while? She pointed at two teenagers or young twenty-somethings and said, they’ve been here since 7:30. In the morning. (It was 8:20 pm by this time!). So they were able to tell us everything. First, who the actors were (Rachel McAdams, you know the Mean Girls girl), and they had decided to film here because they wanted to re-create New York City in the 1970s.

Imagine that! Downtown Concord being chosen as a fair copycat of New York City.

How, out of all the towns and cities in America, was Concord even on the radar of the movie people? I wondered out-loud.

No one knew, but then they told me that a few days ago, the movie had gone filming at the Moose Drugs in Mt. Pleasant. Ahahahahahahahahahaha — Mt. Pleasant — and Moose Drugs — is going to end up on movie screens around the country???? It’s literally a pigs-can-fly scenario. Granted, Moose Drugs does have a very old-timey feel — I’m sure it’s going to be perfect. But how in the world did Mt. Pleasant get on anyone’s radar for anything? Except if it’s Trump rallies, of course.

Any case, then they told me what they’d see throughout the day. First, the producers show up; then the extras come; and last come the main actors. So yes, they had seen Kathy Bates and Rachel McAdams and everyone, and the little girl who is starring as Margaret (“she was in the Antman”).

“They were filming the scene where they are moving out from their apartment in New York City, you know, that part in the book,” said the mom.

I nodded, though I’ve never read this book. (Though I’m planning on it now!)

“They spent five hours just filming the part where the Dad is closing the trunk of the car after they’ve packed everything up,” said the teen boy.

He said that they’d watched all of that happening, and then the actors had all retreated into another of the stores, one with a green awning or something, which was set up as a ‘green room’ (is that a real term or did I mis-hear) and that’s where the actors could recharge during the filming downtime. They were supposedly all in there at that very moment, as the sun was setting behind us.

The teen boy had on a hat with the logo A24 on it. He explained that it’s the parent company or something of Lionsgate — it’s Lionsgate that’s producing the film (that’s the one that also did Twilight and the Hunger Games). And that it was his dream to meet the producer who is the head of A24, who was also on set.

‘Did you see him?’ I asked.

‘I did see him,’ he said. ‘He was walking past and he came within this much of me,’ pointing at a spot 5 feet away.

And the mom added that at the end of the day, when the filming is all done, there’s a chance the actors and producers and everyone will come to to the little crowd avidly watching every move behind the orange cones, and that the guy with the hat was hoping to get it signed by the producer at that point!

Apparently, this all has been in the works for a while, because all week they had been transforming the look of Union Street to match with 1970s New York City. The sign for the ‘The Bistro’ is gone, replaced with a pizza parlor, and a blue phone booth as been installed. The teen girl showed me the picture she’d taken, earlier in the week, from when she’d gotten into the set as it was still being constructed and snapped a photo of herself in the phone booth.

You can just barely see the top of the phone booth above the shiny copper van. And the yellow-and-blue umbrella is not normally there! The Pizzeria and Village Meats signs are both foreign, as is whatever sign is behind the tree. And the very farthest sign that I can’t really read.

I don’t know if they’ll be filming again in downtown Concord, but according to this casting call site, they will be filming somewhere else in Concord this coming Thursday.

And the family I was speaking to said that sometime in June, they’ll be filming in Southpark Mall.

How old is Anne of Green Gables in each book?

It’s simple enough for the first few books, because it’s mentioned, and the passage of her birthdays is commemorated.

But then, there’s a little hiccup that occurs in the timing right around book #4! And past book 5, her age isn’t really mentioned, until book 8, and at that point, the accounting is all wrong and inconsistent.

So, let’s do the math ourselves:

*Keep in mind, Anne’s birthday is in March.

Anne of Green Gables

She’s 11 when she shows up at Green Gables, and the first book ends when she’s 16 and a half.

Anne of Avonlea

She’s 16 and a half when the second book opens, and she spends two years in that book as a teacher.

Anne of the Island

Book three: it’s when Anne goes to college. She’s 18 at the start, she’s 22 at the end. Midway through, when Anne is 20, it mentions for the first time what Marilla’s age is. She was 60 at that time, so she is exactly 40 years older than Anne. This is important for later!!

Anne of Windy Poplars

Book four: this takes place right after book #3, chronologically … and the book lasts for 3 years as Anne works as a principal in Summerside … so it goes from age 22 to age 25 … so far, so good … but wait for the next part …

Anne’s House of Dreams

Book five: this is where it gets tricky! In the beginning of this book, it’s mentioned that Anne is 25, but what always messed me up is that it also says: “It’s been 3 years since we last saw her” (it says this in the first chapter). I took that to mean that possibly Anne was in fact 28! She’s 25 when we last saw her in Book 4, so add 3 more years. However, “three years since we last saw her” actually refers to book 3, when Anne was 22 at the end. Book five was in fact written like 2 decades BEFORE book 4! Book 4 wasn’t thought of when Book 5 was being written. That’s why it says, ‘it’s been three years’ (since Book 3) but it’s actually been no time at all since Book 4 ended.

And how old is Anne throughout Book 5? The book starts with  her wedding to Gilbert in August, and the two of them moving to Four Winds harbor, and Anne is 25. The following June, Anne gives birth to little Joy, who dies within a day. Anne would have turned 26 the preceding March. The following summer (it doesn’t mention exactly what month; but it is stated that Little Joy would have been over a year old), Anne gives birth to Jem. So she is 27 at that point. In the fall of that year – maybe October – Anne and Gilbert and Jem (and don’t forget Susan Baker) move out of the House of Dreams and into their new home in the village. And by the way, it is hinted that Anne is already pregnant (with a boy that turns out to be Walter) as they’re moving out. That’s where the book ends … so Anne is still 27; around 27 and a half.

Anne of Ingleside

Book 6: At the start of this book, baby Jem, who was just 2 to 4 months old at the end of Book 5, is around 6 years old and has started going to school – has been going for almost a full year. It is not the start of the school-year, but rather the following spring — so in March, Anne would have her 34th birthday. Within a few months of the start of the book, she gives birth, in July, for the seventh time! This last baby is called Rilla (short for Bertha Marilla). By the end of the book, Rilla has just turned six. So Book 6 encompasses 6 years of material, and Anne would be 40 at the end. The book ends in August or September.

Rainbow Valley

Book 7: picks up in May of the next year, and Rilla is still six – almost seven in July. We know that Rilla is six because she is referred to as six during the open scene, plus about two weeks later, when Mary Vance chases her with codfish through the village, her six-year-old pride is referred to. Anne’s March birthday has passed, so she is now 41. The twins, Nan and Di (I always hated their nicknames), are 10, and Jem is 13 (will turn 14 in the summer). It’s also been 13 years since Miss Cornelia got married, which happened at the end of Book 5, right around when Jem was born. Book 7 lasts 2 years and a few months (it ends in September). Anne grows from age 41 to age 43. Also, Marilla’s age is mentioned once again. She is 85 at the start of the book. BUT! Something’s wrong with the accounting here. If Marilla is 85, then Anne ought to be 45 (as per the notes from Anne of the Island). But she was exactly 27 and a few spare months when she gave birth to Jem, who is now 13 – but close enough to 14 that Anne has already celebrated her March birthday. 27 + 14 is just 41. So I believe that in fact, Marilla ought to now have been only 81. Now, before moving on to the last book, let’s also account for the ages of the Meredith kids, since the book really focuses more on them than Anne’s children, plus they remain important for Book #8. At the start of Rainbow Valley, when Jem is 13, the Merediths are introduced with Jerry being 12, Faith being 11, Una 10, and Carl 9 (their ages go up like the steps on a staircase, says Miss Cornelia.)

Rilla of Ingleside

Book 8: the last book ūüė¶ And it centers around the last child, Rilla. At the very start of the book, Rilla is now 14 – a few weeks from turning 15 in July (July 1914). Since Anne had already had her 34th birthday in March of the year when she gave birth to Rilla, then she would be 49 at this point. Also, Jem is stated to be 21 years old. However, Jem’s birthday is also in July or summer-time (see Anne’s House of Dreams) and he must be turning 22 right along as Rilla turns 15. That’s the only way it works out, because Jem and Rilla are seven years apart. Anne gave birth to Jem at age 27, so adding 22 gives you 49. Remember, Anne’s birthday is in March, so she’s going to turn 49 even while Jem is still 21.

But here we run into a problem! Because, in the second year of the book — we know it’s February 1916, because it happens just after the Parliament buildings in Ottawa were burned — this girl called Miranda gets married. Anne gives Miranda her own old wedding veil to wear for the wedding, and says, ‘It is twenty-four years since I was a bride at old Green Gables.’ Well, if you refer back to Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne gets married in August, and she is 25 years old. So this is implying, therefore, that Anne is 49 (25+24) in February 1916 (and presumably about to turn 50 in March?) Right? Wrong! See, we know that Rilla turned 15 in July 1914, and when Rilla was born in 1899, Jem had already attended school as a six-year-old for a whole year and was turning seven himself (this is at the start of Anne of Ingleside); we know, from Rainbow Valley, that when Jem was 13, Rilla was 6. Those two are seven years apart. Since we know from Book 5 that Jem was born two years after Anne got married at age 25, and she was therefore 27 at Jem’s birth, we therefore also know that Anne was 34 when she gave birth to Rilla (seven years older), and so therefore, in fact, since Rilla is sixteen years old in February 1916, that pegs Jem at 23 years of age, and so THEREFORE … at this point, it’s been 25 years since Anne was a bride. Anne is therefore 50 already at this point, and about to turn 51 in fact, because she was already 49 during the first year of the war. The accounting of the ages that author does at this point is simply wrong.

A few other things are wrong with the accounting of the dates and ages. When the book has progressed as far as spring 1917, Bruce Meredith is established as being 9 years of age, almost 10. Bruce is the child of John Meredith and Rosemary West, whose romance is narrated in the previous book. Well, there’s something wrong. If Bruce turns 10 in spring or summer 1917, that means he was born in spring/summer 1907. So let’s work backwards a bit. Since Rilla turned 15 in July 1914, we know she was born in July, 1899. In spring/summer 1907, therefore, Rilla would have been still 7 years of age — about to turn 8. The book ‘Rainbow Valley’ begins in the spring during which Rilla is 6 — so it would have been the year before, 1906. Well …. Rainbow Valley spans over two years, and John Meredith and Rosemary West don’t get engaged until the very end, with the double wedding (since Rosemary’s sister Ellen was also getting married) scheduled for September — that would be September 1908. Do you hear that, Rosemary and John Meredith were just getting married in September 1908, and you know with saintly Reverend Meredith, there would have been no child out of wedlock. The earliest their son Bruce Meredith could have been born was, roughly, summer 1909. Therefore, in spring 1917, when it is said of Bruce Meredith that he is about to turn 10, the oldest he actually could be turning was 8!

Continuing on like this (and this next one is HUGE problem), in the opening chapters of this book we also learn that Shirley — Anne’s child who is mentioned least of them all — is 16. To reiterate, this is summer 1914. In the third year of the book (spring 1917), Shirley announces that since he just turned 18 last Monday, he now wants to enlist in the army like his older brothers. Now, this is obviously wrong. Many things in life have ambiguity, and very little is ever black-and-white, but this is one such case: you simply cannot already be 16 in summer 1914, and then not turn 18 until spring 1917. But let’s to simplify things assume that the second age-marker is correct, i.e., Shirley turns 18 in spring 1917. If that’s the case, then he turned 16 in spring 1915, and therefore he turned 15 in spring 1914, and therefore … are you spotting the problem? Because Rilla turns 15 in herself in July 1914! Rilla turns 15 just 3-4 months after Shirley does? First of all, this is another unambiguous part of life: it’s impossible. Any two consecutive children that the same mom gives birth to have to be nine months apart at least, am I right or am I right? Unless the first kid was premature and in that case, the parents have bigger problems on their hands than having a second kid right away. Second of all, we know that Anne was very sick after Shirley was born and say in bed for weeks and weeks; so even the 9-month scenario isn’t plausible, because there’s no way Anne got pregnant with Rilla right after giving birth to Shirley. This is all just plain wrong. I think that the truth is that Shirley was indeed 16 at the start of the book (June 1914); and let’s say he really does enlist in spring 1917; well, he hasn’t ‘just turned’ 18 when he does so, that is all. He’s actually turned 19 (or way more realistically, he’s been 19 for a while) and you know, because Walter had died, and because Jem was already in the trenches, for the sake of him mom, he didn’t enlist immediately upon coming of age.

We also learn in the opening chapters of Rilla of Ingleside that Walter is 20; and Faith is 19. This kind of checks out, because that makes Faith two years younger than Jem, which checks out with the hierarchy in Rainbow Valley — except Jem is turning 22, so Faith needs to hurry up and have her birthday so that things remain in sync. Although it’s not explicitly mentioned, the twins Nan and Di should be 18 at the beginning. In the second year of the war, it is mentioned that Carl Meredith has just turned 18. At that point, Rilla is 16, so it checks out — in Rainbow Valley, Carl is 9 while Rilla is about to turn 7. They are just two years apart. The book opens on June 28, 1914. It last till the war ends in November, 1918, when Anne was 53. But the book continues as soldiers are returning home, months after the war ended. So she might even have turned 54 by the time the book closes.

Anne is born in 1865?

And this last book is also what clues us into the years when the Anne of Green Gables book take place. Book 8 starts in 1914 – on the very day, in fact, the news of the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand is being reported (June 28, 1914). This is the only point in the whole book series, I believe, in which a date from the real world is included, cluing us in to when the action occurs (well, except that after this point, so many real-world events are included — Italy declared war! Sinking of the Lusitania. Battle of the Marne and so on — that you can exactly figure out what month and year it is). Rilla’s fifteenth birthday was in July, 1914, so she was born in 1899. If Anne was 34 at that point, then Anne herself was born in 1865. Oh, wow, the end of the Civil War. If Anne was 11 when she first meets Marilla and Matthew in Green Gables, then Book #1 starts in 1876. Incidentally, Lucy Maud Montgomery herself was born two years before that! So she ended up being 9 years younger than her most famous character.

Though I suspect originally Anne and Lucy Maud Montgomery maybe were vaguely supposed to be the same age (Anne is sort of based off the author, per the biography Gift of Wings). L.M. Montgomery started writing the books and had already published two or three of them before World War 1 ever started. When that War started, and she decided it would form part of the arc of the book series, that is when Anne’s age had to be adjusted backwards to accommodate the new time span.


One day I was riding around in the mountains, and we passed a sign for “Crossnore, 5 miles.” I sat and thought, Crossnore, Crossnore … where have I heard that before?

The only thing I could think of was reading the book “The Suitcases” in middle school, which I had really, really loved, and re-read many times. But I don’t think I’ve re-read it now for many years. It’s the story of three girls who are half-orphans. Then their father abandons them in the middle of the Great Depression, and they have to make their own way after that.

I loved that book so much that I wanted to have three dolls, or three girls, or three something, that I could also name Betty, Anne, and Caroline.

Any case, in the book, the girl Anne ends up going to a boarding school for orphans. Except I couldn’t exactly remember if this was truly the case, because I remembered for sure that the three girls finally end up with a good and protective foster mother … and if that was the case, why would Anne have left and gone off to a boarding school? Plus, I was getting confused because there’s another book I’ve read, long ago — also re-read many times — which also involves some sort of neglected girl and she ends up at a college in Kentucky — I’m pretty sure it’s Berea College. And OMG — I can’t even remember what the name of this book is at the moment! Any case, I was certain that Berea College had figured in stories about neglected girls — so was there room for another at Crossnore?

We ended up driving through Crossnore and what gave it away was the big sign saying “school and children’s home.” I also later looked it up and yes, indeed — Crossnore was where Anne went to boarding school. I couldn’t believe it. It was a book I’d loved so much, and here I was seeing the place where Anne spent a few years of her girlhood (Anne is a real person).

And I saw not just the school …

but also the church …

and this beautiful set of statues of children:

It’s a really cute village. They have art installations, apparently, and a bookstore and coffee shop and a second-hand store, and I would have gone into them all but for COVID.

There is one intersection in the town, and then the school is set up the hills behind. In the middle of the intersection is a stone fountain and a bench. Isn’t it sweet?

All the books Lucy Maud Montgomery mentions reading in her journals

When I read the journals of Lucy Maud Montgomery, she kept on mentioning all the books she was reading. She was writing between about 1886 and 1940. So it’s books from that era or earlier. Eventually, I got interested and wanted to read them myself, and started keeping a list of them. Here are all the ones I caught.

I, by the way, had access to Davis Library at UNC Chapel Hill when I started reading these books, and that library system has like 8 million books. They had most of these, even though a lot of them are now unknown or not the thing that you’ll find in a regular town library. But even after moving on from Chapel Hill, I have found quite of few of these in our small town library. And I don’t usually read books online, but since a lot of these are no longer in copyright, you can find them on Project Gutenberg and places like that.

Can I just say one thing? Having written all of the below out, and seeing all the books put together like this, I am realizing that practically all the titles or authors that are unknown today are not that good. So why am I reading them? Fine, not all. There have been some gems among the rust.

The count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas, 1844 — I read this before I knew that Lucy Maud Montgomery had read it. I read it a long, long time ago. But I think I liked it. Oh, except I do remember every woman in the book (and there’s a lot) is described as a perfection of beauty. Whenever I thought back to the book, it seemed like the standards for womanhood were very appearance-centered and very impossible to attain. Of course, the book was written by a man.

Midshipman Easy, Frederick Marryat, 1836 — this book was terrible. It’s an adventure story of a boy in the English navy, early 1800s. It’s an ugly, violent, misogynist book, and the hero himself, and all the “good characters”, are celebrated by the author for being nasty and brutish. And the “heroics” and “valor” of the hero are not so great, mostly it’s all coincidence and it gets so tiring and annoying.

Froude’s Elizabeth

Trilby, George du Maurier, 1894 – this was a best-seller from 1895. This book made me realize why though a book may be popular at its time, 100 years later no one has heard of it. It has some good points and some good passages. Otherwise, the very over-blown section describing Trilby’s angelic singing was not inspiring, but annoying. Trilby is depicted as a perfect saint and a perfect beauty, and as such, the ideal woman. It was all very ridiculous. Plus, the book says very nasty things about Jews. They don’t tell you in school that books like this were published in the decades preceding the Holocaust, became best-sellers, and showered anti-Semitism over everyone. Explains a lot.

Sorrows of Satan, Marie Corelli, 1895 — A best-seller from 1896. It was really, really good at the beginning. But later it bogged down. In part because the character Mavis Clare is so ridiculous – she’s very perfect, and the fact that she spends all her time telling people how perfect she is, apparently doesn’t take away from her perfection. I liked Sybil a lot more. I don’t think she deserved the end she got. What’s even more ridiculous is that Mavis Claire is supposed to be the author herself. Talk about vanity.

Kate Carnegie, Ian McLaren, 1896

A book that Tennyson’s son wrote about him, by Hallam Tennyson

The flower patch among the hills, Flora Klickmann, 1916

Tommy and Grizel, John Barrie — This is by the man who wrote Peter Pan. It had some of the funniest passages I’ve ever read: Tommy and his “broken” leg, Grizel’s handkerchief, Tommy’s conversations with the rich, stuck-up lady. But in other places, the book kind of dragged. And I don’t know what the point was in it ending the way it did.

Hypatia, Charles Kingsley — I have not read this. But I did check it out once, with every intention of reading it. It’s about a female mathematician in ancient Egypt, and it’s written as a fiction. So I’m going to try to actually read it one day. But the time I had it in my possession, the first page looked overwhelmingly boring. So I didn’t even start.

The end of the House of Alard, Sheila Kaye-Smith

The mill on the Floss, George Eliot — Lucy Maud Montgomery mentions reading this in her journals multiple times. It was my second George Eliot book – I first read Adam Bede, also on the promptings of Lucy Maud Montgomery. The first 300 pages and change are good – just a little bit plodding. You keep saying, okay, okay, and now … ? The next 200 pages and change are riveting, and will make you sit up and pay attention with a vengeance! I was very engrossed. Then there were about 50 pages left, and I was very interested to see how all the confusion was going to be wrapped up. Well! It was awful!!! Just awful. That was the worst ending to any book – it pretty much seemed like she’d gotten tired of writing (wouldn’t you?) and she just polished it off in the quickest way possible. And it’s not just me that thinks that, because I then read the introductory notes and other people have felt the same, and George Eliot in fact agreed!

Roughing it in the Bush, Mrs. Moodie


Ardath, Marie Corelli, 1889

Undine, Friedrich Foque, 1811

Penrod, Booth Tarkington, 1914

Wooden ships and iron men, Frederick William Wallace, 1925

Our sentimental garden, Agnes Egerton Castle, 1915

The heart of the ancient wood, Charles Roberts, 1900

Tish (1911) and Tish plays the field (1926), Mary Roberts Rinehart — This is a series about a main character called Tish. The one I found in the library was: Tish: the chronicle of her escapades and excursions (1916). From how Lucy Maud Montgomery described it in her journal, I was all ready for a book about a saucy and spunky 20-year-old back in the early 1900s. Well, it turned out that Tish is 50. Yet in books today, rarely will you see a spunky and saucy 50-year-old that can match Tish. Tish knows how to change a tire on a car, and lots of other things, that I don’t know how to do. The words ‘feminism’ or ‘girl power’ are never mentioned in the book, but they don’t need to be mentioned. As I read Tish, I started realizing how many books I have read whose authors lived in the 1800s and early 1900s, and how independent and capable the female characters they created were — even though we’re kind of conditioned to think of women back then as submissive and docile. The problems with this book were 1) some of the chapters were a little boring and repetitive, and sometimes the writing wasn’t clear enough to figure out what was going on and 2) the use of racial slurs and nasty comments towards immigrants. There’s a whole chapter about a young man who’s immigrated from Syria. The author tries to make him seem foolish and worthy of contempt; but it was a poor attempt, because the contempt in the author’s words were actually unable to disguise that this young immigrant was simply a person trying very hard to make a new life for himself.

Roughing it, Mark Twain, 1872

Flaming Youth, Samuel Hopkins Adams, 1923 — I haven’t read this, but Lucy Maud Montgomery hated it and shredded it into her fireplace

Guadalla’s Palmerston

The woman in White, Wilkie Collins, 1859

Zanoni, Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1842 – I was in love with this book. This book was a favorite of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s when she was a child, and I could see why. It was beautiful, mysterious, idealistic, romantic. It took me to all these places, and all these scenes, I’ve never gone before. I was all ready to tell everyone to drop everything and read Zanoni. But three-fourths of the way into the book, one of the characters does something very stupid and honestly, something very out-of-character for that character. The action made no sense. But I was going to forgive that, because the last fourth was exciting and swept me and my doubts away again — until the the last 3 paragraphs. They were just very stupid. But you should still probably read this book.

Beside the bonnie brier bush, Ian McLaren, 1894

The days of auld lang syne, Ian McLaren, 1895

Doctor Thorne, Anthony Trollope, 1858

Framley Parsonage, Anthony Trollope, 1861

Life of Lady Byron, Ethel Mayne, 1929

The wind in the willows, Kenneth Grahame, 1908 — I started reading this; it was very slow and boring. Mostly I got impatient with the slow descriptions of nature. But then I remembered: when I was little, I would have pitied someone who got impatient with descriptions of nature as slightly indecent. So I kept reading and it was after all a very lovely story.

The story of an African farm, Olive Schreiner, 1883

Elizabeth and her German garden, Elizabeth von Arnim, 1898 – At first, I liked it: it was kind of amazing how you could write a whole book with pretty much no action, and just talking about this lady’s garden. This was a best-seller (100 years ago). But then, towards the end of the book, the husband says the stupidest things about women, and the two women present, Elizabeth and her feisty friend whose name I can’t remember, don’t make him shut up. So it’s like the husband won. These were super offensive comments about the intelligence and capabilities of women. So I started thinking that the author must have been very stupid, but then I read about her on Wikipedia. She didn’t sound like someone who believed women are silly and nothing else. Did she make the husband say outrageous things, with no surefire pummeling in return, because the comments were outrageous enough that even 100 years ago people would have been angry, without the author needing to point it out? I don’t know. And she also made a whole awful lot of mean, unjust implications and comments about people not as rich as her.

Herodotus’s history

Little Katey and Jolly Jim, Julia Matthews, 1865 — This book was published in 1865. Lucy Maud Montgomery mentions it a lot in her journals as a favorite childhood book, and I thought from the title that it must be a very jolly, fun read. Well, it was not. In fact, it was 1/3 very sweet, and 2/3 ridiculous. Like super ridiculous. This is a book that just doles out fanciful, evangelical prescriptions to poverty. It’s in fact really annoying.

Books by the Bronte sisters, c. 1847 — these are all great books.

Life of Charlotte Bronte, Elizabeth Gaskell, 1857 — this was a beautiful book. It’s a biography of my favorite author, and it’s full of her letters, which are just as beautifully written as all her books. Plus, I learned all about the old English moors from back in the day. I was just in despair because right afterwards, I found like 10 huge books with the originals of all of Charlotte Bronte’s letters, and I just won’t ever have time to read them all.

Fraulein Schmidt and Mr. Anstruther, Elizabeth von Arnim, 1907

Sam Pepys’ Diary, 1660-1669

Elizabeth and Essex, Lytton Strachey, 1928

The Black Douglas, Crockett, 1899

Elsie books, Martha Finley (there’s a ton of these books), 1867-1905

The cross, Sigrid Undset, 1920-1922 — This is the third part of a trilogy. The books all together are just named after the main character, Kristen Lavransdatter. When I looked it up, I was pretty excited to read it, and I stayed excited for the first 130-ish pages. And then it was all downhill. And it’s a long downhill, because the book is 1128 pages long. It’s the most boring long book I’ve ever read. There are multiple 300-page lumps of pure boredom that you have to get through, to be rewarded with about 50 pages of some interest, before things are boring again. Because it’s basically 1000 pages of Kristen being “white-faced” and all the color draining out of her face, and not being able to breathe, but still able to speak calmly in the middle of her distress! On the inside-flap of the book, some prestigious reviewer had compared the book to The Brothers Karamozav. Are you kidding??? The Brothers K, where every sentence and every scene made you stop and breathe at either the beauty of the language, or the situation, or the thoughts being presented. No, there is no comparison between that and this Norwegian clunker. This was 1100 pages of blah blah blah. There is more profound feeling and thought in Taylor Swift’s new album Folklore. Seriously. Oh, and one more thing. The author kept confusing herself (and me) by saying things like: It was absolutely silent in the night; one heard the sound of the river and the sound of the wind in the trees and the sound of cowbells echoing around the mountain and the sound of the horses stamping their feet … are you confused? Or she’d say things like: it was a still, windless night, with great gusts of wind battering everything. I mean …

The last of the Mohicans, James Fenimore Cooper, 1757

The house of seven gables, Nathaniel Hawthorne, 1851 — This was kind of bad. When Charlotte Bronte goes on and on and on, I don’t mind because it is all beautifully written. This book was not. It could have been summed up in 20 pages. Wow, the dragging out of details was just painful. And the 15 pages devoted to unveiling that a man was dead, who we already knew was dead – well, it was a bit too much.

Adam Bede, George Eliot, 1859 — my first George Eliot book and also the first book she wrote. It’s really quite good. I didn’t like it as much as Charlotte Bronte’s Villete and Jane Eyre. It kind of dragged in some places. And the insights are not as insightful as with Charlotte. I did like the mom a lot. Hettie is silly and annoying, and the lady preacher is good and sweet. But can’t we use a little of both in life? Was Hettie supposed to be punished so harshly, or was the author criticizing the societal notion that scandal and silliness must lead to such a terrible downfall?

Farthest North, Fridtjof Nansen, 1897 — This book was a bestseller way back in 1897! It’s about a polar expedition that made it “farthest north” to the North Pole than anyone had ever been before. Nansen was the head of the expedition, and when they got back, he wrote this book. He’s Norwegian, therefore I am obligated to dislike the book. However, you could read it for sure. It takes you along through the moonlit Polar night!

Vanity Fair, Thackeray, 1848 — I know this is a classic, but it is an awful book. The only thing clear from the book is the great opinion Thackeray had of himself – he apparently thought he was the only moral person on the planet, the only one who really knew how to live an upright life. Meanwhile, he wrote before the Civil War and he thought slavery was the best thing ever. When I finally finished and picked up “Farthest North”, I felt like my soul was being washed from all the pollution and grime of Thackeray.

The Alhambra, Washington Irving, 1832 – The story of when the author took a trip to Spain, and swung by the city of Granada, and spent several weeks hanging out at the old Moorish Castle, the Alhambra. It was nice to get to walk in his shoes, see the sights with him, and read the magical and somewhat wild legends of long ago.

Rupert of Hentzau, Anthony Hope, 1898

Linda Holeman

Very early this year, before coronovirus upended things and before the Black Lives Matter protests, one of the big pieces of news and talk was that book, American Dirt. I know, seems forever ago! Hardly a blip now!

American Dirt was disliked for the way the White author had portrayed the Mexican characters, and I think even more so for the fact this book was elevated so much by the publishers and bookworld, above books written on the same topic by authors of Mexican origin.

There’s another book I want to challenge here on similar grounds: A book called The Moonlit Cage by Linda Holeman. This has been bothering me in the background for a year or two, since I came across it on Amazon. Now, I have not read this book. But in it, a young Muslim woman in Afghanistan is saved from oppression by a White British guy (eww) who is apparently the first man to show her kindness. Now, I am totally sure that it is possible to not know any nice men in a meaningful way if all you know are Muslim men; but — this is so obviously written by a White person, is it not? Her little fairytale dream of a sweet, lovely Muslim girl being saved a big, strong, handsome White man, that’s all it really is. In reality, do British do any saving, or are they more likely to be going around destroying? It’s completely racist, is it not? Why did she not write a book where all the White men were the mean ones, that’s completely in the realm of possibility, too. But no, it had to be the White man who did the saving.

And what really made me mad is this book has tons of good reviews, and apparently this author has sold millions of books. There you can see how public opinion is reinforced, and how worldviews are formed. It’s just so gross.

Swedish words learned from Harry Potter

I read the first Harry Potter book in Swedish. Here’s all the words I was able to learn, either by context clues, or by remembering what the exact phrase in the original book was (so cool when that happened). Maybe you will recognize the scenes and the reason for these words, too:

bl√§ck — ink

mantel — robe

j√§ttelik — giantlike

pergamentpapper — parchment paper

strimming — striped

besynnerligt — weird

kittel — cauldron

beg√•vad — talented

st√∂na — groan

klandra — blame

spetsen — point

tenn — tin

stj√§rnkikare — telescope

trollstav — wand — except there’s two words. Trollstav if it’s a wand for a boy, and trollsp√∂ if it’s a wand for a girl. I think.

enh√∂rning — unicorn

disken — the counter

granska — inspect

fr√§ste — snapped

handled — wrist

h√∂k — hawk

svimma — faint

kvastk√§pp — broomstick

stolpar — posts (like poles, not like blog posts)

gristryne — pigsnout

kalkon — turkey

fl√§mta — gasp

stamning — stammer

genv√§g — short-cut

svartalfar — goblins

fl√§ddermus — bat

b√§gare — goblet

kravla — crawl


The quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s

I was reading the Chronicles of Avonlea. It’s a collection of short stories by Lucy Maud Montgomery (she who wrote Anne of Green Gables). The stories are so good!

One of them was about a quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s. I hadn’t paid attention to the title, but then, boom, halfway through, there it was … a smallpox epidemic (this story was published in 1912), and the Board of Health was involved, and police were guarding the houses of people under quarantine to make sure they didn’t stir out. And here I was, also in quarantine unexpectedly over 100 years later. It was quite a surprise to see our current situation reflected in the story. If I’d read this at any other time, I would have thought: oh, how quaint, they had disease outbreaks back then and had to quarantine, such a bygone era!

Contact tracing, quarantines — it was all in there. Except they (in the book from 1912) were actually taking it seriously, and had a whole protocol in place, from the Board of Health to the doctor to the police. Not the happy-go-lucky as-God-wills-it approach we seem to have taken. Here’s the main bit, and you can read the full two pages below that:

IMG_20200525_170746 excerpt quarantine




Anne of Green Gables, the match-maker

I’ve been re-reading a lot of the Anne of Green Gables books over the last year. In Book #6 (Anne of Ingleside), Anne is getting ready to match-make. But it’s¬† not the first time Anne has match-maked, because she then lists off all her earlier conquests:

I’m really an adept. Think of all the matches I’ve made … or been accused of making … Theodora Dix and Ludovic Speed … Stephen Clark and Prissy Gardner … Jane Sweet and John Douglas … Professor Carter and Esme Taylor … Nora and Jim … and Dovie and Jarvis …

I was always confused reading this list, because even though I’ve read the books dozens and dozens of times, I could not remember these matches! So were these matches that occurred behind the scenes and were never described in the books?

Well, I have since investigated and discovered where you can find these stories. They are in more out-of-the-way books about Anne:

Chronicles of Avonlea: this book isn’t officially one of the eight “Anne” books, and in fact, it’s not really a book. It is a series of short stories — very lovely short stories — and Anne pops in and out of some of them. The unions of Theodora Dix/Ludovic Speed and of Stephen Clark/Prissy Gardner comprise two of these stories.

Anne of Windy Poplars: This is the fourth Anne book, and it’s the one I’ve read the least, mostly because we didn’t have it at home, and I don’t think it was in the library a lot of the time, either. But I re-read it for the second time just last year, and I discovered that the matchmaking of Professor Carter/Esme Taylor and Nora/Jim and Dovie/Jarvis all take place in this book.

That leaves Jane Sweet and John Douglas. Apparently this match occurs in book #3, Anne of the Island. Which I also re-read just last year but alas! I don’t remember this story.

The last of the mohicans

I’m reading the “Last of the Mohicans”. I’m reading it because Lucy Maud Montgomery read it and mentioned it in her journal. However, I checked it out 2 months ago and I am still on page 45. In the meantime, I finished reading “How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents” and started and am over halfway through “The Mill on the Floss,” which is 550 massive, small-print pages. So you may infer from that what I think of “The last of the Mohicans.”

Is this book considered offensive towards American Indians? I’m going to do some digging into that.

In the meantime, though, the book is describing an utter wilderness of what is now upstate New York, way back in the 1700s. An untouched forest where you easily can lose your way in between two different forts: Fort Edward and Fort William Henry.

last of the mohican map
Fort Edward is at the bottom, and Fort William Henry is just over the tip of the screenshot (couldn’t fit)

Now look. That whole wild forest where the main characters got lost has just vanished. It’s kind of sad. Lucy Maud Montgomery writing about Prince Edward Island helped preserve nearly all the natural beauty there, it seems like; it’s sad Last of the Mohicans couldn’t do the same for this area. Maybe because the book really is bad.

Books I didn’t finish

I’ve decided that one New Year’s resolution should be the prevalence of grumpiness and bitterness throughout my days, that way I can ensure one resolution will come true.

To start: I keep a list of books that I’ve read, but let me also keep a list of books that were so bad I just gave up on them:

Juliet takes a breath, Gabby Rivera – I got to hear this author talk as part of a panel, and she seemed really cool, and her book sounded really cool, so I got it from the library. Now the first chapter or two were really good and well-written, but after that, things just fell apart. It was boring, and not making sense, and characters were just popping in and out. Now, surprises are fun in books, but this book did not have surprises – it just jerked you around sloppily because the organization of the writing didn’t make sense. So I put it down. Have you ever noticed that some books are very nicely and creatively written for the first two pages, but after that they fall down a hole (Twilight books, for example.) It’s like the author was ordered to go back and make the introduction especially well-crafted, so that no one would notice the rest of the book is just bad? This was one of them.

Gabby Rivera
Gabby Rivera is the one in the blue hat, and she’s really interesting in person. The other authors were Sarah Dessen and Lilliam Rivera.

A wrinkle in time, Madeleine L’engle – I’ve read quite a few of this author’s books that I liked, and since the ‘Wrinkle in time’ movie was coming out, I thought I should read it. However, how is it people like this book? It’s kind of ridiculous. I gave up about 70 or 100 pages in, after they’ve been flying on birds for a long time, and just happen to land on a planet, and they see a big dark cloud coming, and get scared. I mean, there is no sense of puzzle pieces fitting together. There’s just, oh, let’s land on this planet and make up something dangerous before we can get off it.

Six of crows, Leigh Bardugo – I saw a very intelligent girl rave about this book, so I thought, let me read it! Must be really good. Except it was not. I gave up after a chapter or two. I just had a sense of a very disjointed piece of work, that was unrelentingly dark and humorless, and I just didn’t care if the main character got ambushed by rival gangs or not, and I really didn’t feel like reading scenes of violence just for the sake of the violence, with nothing else going on.

Cold Comfort Farm, Stella Gibbons — a book written in the 1930s. I saw it in the library. It was praised on the cover as full of humor, etc, etc. In the tradition of old English Victorian literature, was my impression — friendless girl out on the moors. But I only got about 30 pages in, and I lost all interest. It was just not well-written. The dialogue was boring. There was some mystery or secret hinted at while the man of the farm was milking cows, but by that point, I didn’t really care about any of the characters, and the mysterious secret annoyed me — because not enough was let known about it to make it tantalizing, so I felt sure whatever it turned out to be would be a let-down, like the rest of the book.

White oleander — I peeked into this sometime in middle school. I read the first pages, and decided it was really bad. It was written in this stilted, spare, profound way, except nothing of what was said or described actually was profound. It was silly things described in a wanna-be elegant way. In middle school, all that I mostly read was Anne of Green Gables books. So it didn’t take me long to see that this book was a fake.