The Monday Netflix Series: Anne with an E

I’m spending time with the parentals while Dad recovers from surgery, so not getting a lot of reading done just now. Which is how I discovered what fun the Netflix series Anne with an E is. anne

Now in season 3, the series is based on Lucy Maud Montgomery’s best-selling classic series Anne of Green Gables–and a thousand other places. Montgomery wrote 11 books about Anne and her family, plus a couple of spin-offs regarding other characters.

The books are so sweet you kinda need to wash your mouth out with dirt afterward. Think Sound of Music without the dancing. The series…. well, it’s been updated. And as much as that word usually signals movement in the opposite direction, upgraded.

Picture the producers’ meeting: we need to get this series into the 21st century while leaving its character in the 1800s. Whadaya got? Desperate to go to lunch, the hapless interns and newbies produce: a gay character who needs to move to the city, an Indian village that causes people to examine their attitudes toward others, child abuse and sexualization handled with more sensitivity than usual, black-white friendship in a rural area, and the emancipation of women before they could vote. They’re handled well, not stuck in to make the series work, but working within the boundaries of the series’ timetable and social mores.

Anne Shirley, the orphan child taken in by accident when a brother-sister duo running a farm decide they need help and can’t afford to hire it,  is the Canadian equivalent of Laura Ingalls Wilder in many ways. The Little House series produced one of my favorite TV land quotes ever. Michael Landon, who played Pa but was also one of the executive producers, was asked once why the series deviated so much into, well, child abuse and women’s rights and black-white friendships, when those weren’t in the books.

His answer was glorious: “There’s a whole chapter in On the Banks of Plum Creek called ‘Laura Catches a Frog.’ You think you can hold an audience with that topic for an hour?”

Anne with an E is charming, true to its time period in background and setting, filled with enough updates to upgrade it well, and a really nice escapist series. Highly recommended.

The Between Books Blue Funk

dull bookWell, it’s happened. The miasma is upon me. After a string of really enjoyable reads, I am Between Books.

I know you’ve been there, that unhappy head space where you’ve got high, high expectations from having just finished a really enjoyable book (or, if one is lucky, a spate of three or four) and you’re tired when you go to bed because a bunch of new real-life projects are in the works, and you turn to your bedside table piled high with great choices ….

… and go flat. I like Sarah Allison’s writing–that matchmaking apple-flinger tree was one of the most lovable romance characters ever–and I admit readily the reason I can’t get into The Peach Keeper is me, not her. Or The Rebel Bookseller. It’s a great book with important things to say! So is Big Box Swindle. Each of these waits on the table by my bed, weeping softly. All of these are books I’ve looked forward to reading.

Sarah Nelson discusses in her memoir So Many Books, So Little Time how your mood and recent life moments must align in some way with what you’re reading, or you can’t get into authors even though you want to. Wise readers put them down and return later.

Usually the catalyst for breaking my Between Books Blue Funk is to read something completely different from what I normally choose. So the other night I grabbed a post-apocalyptic young adult novel, and settled in.

It didn’t work. The novel was awful, but not even awful enough to trigger the horrible-writing-response that lies dormant in all of us, inciting print-blood lust to rip the thing apart. This was more the toss-aside casual disdain of “oh, please.” In a badly-crafted amalgam of  Hunger Games goes on The Road, literary crimes are just way too obvious to ignite passion.

And so I sit, stuck. How could this happen to a bookshop owner, you ask, spoiled for choice an’ a’ that? Perhaps that’s part of the (first world) problem; too many choices reduces one to making none. Or perhaps this is the consequence of binge-watching the whole Season Four of Downton Abbey in one week. (Yes, we know, but we won’t spoil it for you.) I’ve let my reading muscles go slack.

Although I did get quite a lot of crocheting done.

Whatever the combination of reasons that have led to this winter of my book discontent, I hope it’s over soon. There are so many new writers and worlds to explore, I hate to fall behind.