It’s the season for comfort: comforting clothes like scarves and puffy jackets and flannel pajamas (and hello, a little something we’re calling preggings), comfort food like leftover stuffing and pie and all things mushy and brown, and even, I’ve been thinking this year, comfort reading. When you are the pregnant mother of a toddler who loves to dance and dislikes to sleep, and you can barely stay up for an hour or two after baby bedtime, it’s hard to find appropriate reading material.
I always feel funny if I’m not in the middle of some fictional world. It just makes life feel a bit too small. And after attempting some of the actual grownup books in my formidable to-be-read stack, I landed on a sweet old-timey favorite, Anne of Green Gables. I loved this book as a kid, and just couldn’t wait for Harper to be old enough to read it to her. It’s surprisingly hard to find a book that’s this nice, you know? And sometimes what a mushy pregnant brain needs is nice. This book is just so – nice!
As I revise my own book, which is about a depressed person making bad decisions – is there anything else a novel can be about? – I’ve been thinking a lot about how to make a complicated character sympathetic. You’d think I’d have learned this last time I wrote a book that, as it turned out, had similar problems in the revision process, but whatever. And then here’s Anne, who’s maybe not all that complex but just as sweet as can be. The novel always makes it clear that her so-called flaws – absent-mindedness, imagination, temper, having red hair – are actually strengths in disguise. She’s off-kilter and out-of-step with everyone around her, but she tries so very hard to be cooperative and good. Maybe that’s what’s so lovable about Anne – that she’s always trying so hard to be normal – no attitude problems here! – but she’s just irrepressibly zany, and vulnerable.
I love this: “There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
I mean! Oh please let Harper be into these books at some point, and not whatever apocalyptic dystopia the kids are reading about by the time she’s into chapter books. Anyway, it’s been really lovely to reread this book. The descriptions of Prince Edward Island are so lush and beautiful; Anne is so fun to be reunited with; there’s something just so, well, comforting about the largely shapeless, episodic plot that really lends itself to the sporadic sleepy reading sessions I can handle these days.
(By the way, we are firmly back in the realm of Brown Bear here in the daylight hours, the newest development being that I hold the big book and Harper holds the “tiny book” (yes, we have two copies) and we “sing it” together. Over and over and over and over and over.)