Things Are Looking Up

Much to everyone's amazement, my mother is getting stronger every day. She gets out of bed and dressed every morning. She's going to physio, eating better, feeling less weak and nauseous and is walking with a walker and very little assistance. We are all beginning to relax a bit and are spending our nights at home now instead of in the hospital family room. The change since last week at this time is absolutely incredible. Thank you so much for your prayers and supportive comments. Hopefully my next post will be about books!

Troubled Times

Thought I'd better explain why I've been neglecting my blog the past couple of weeks. I have been reading, finished three books in fact, but haven't had the time or energy to write reviews. Ten days ago my mother (86) went into hospital for knee surgery. We'd been talking about it but with her history of heart disease she decided it wasn't worth the risk. Then one morning she couldn't get out of bed. She couldn't stand and certainly couldn't walk. The knee had gotten so bad that without the surgery she would have to live in a wheelchair from that point on. She decided to take the risk and have the surgery. A few hours after the surgery she was awake, sitting up and talking. We were all thrilled it went so well. The next day, she had a heart attack. The hospital called the family in because it didn't look like she'd make it through the night. When we got there, her blood pressure was 46/24. They moved her into ICU and she began to rally. That was nine days ago and it's been a roller coaster ever since. One minute we're losing her and an hour later she's sitting up, talking and laughing. Some days she can't eat at all, then the next day she'll eat three meals. Some days the least little bit of energy expended, like moving from the bed to a chair, leaves her heart pounding, her stomach nauseated and her body drained. Her kidney's have malfunctioned. She had a bleed into her stomach. She's been wheezing on and off as fluid builds up but then her breathing returns to normal and she feels better for a while. We can't really say it's day to day, it's more like hour by hour. At some point in every 24 hour period her condition deteriorates badly, but so far she's been able to bounce back every time. Most nights we've stayed with her overnight because it was just so unpredictable, but tonight and last night we felt reasonably comfortable about leaving her. She's exhausted and frustrated, but keeps bouncing back. She's been transferred to different floors 4 times now and we're finding that difficult. It absolutely wears her out, and each time we have to bring the new nurses up to speed on what's been happening. She's in a rehab section now, with the emphasis on getting the use of her leg back. I'd rather she be in a Cardiac unit where her heart can be monitored, but I know the nurses are doing the best they can.

We don't know if things will settle down or continue like this. For those of you who pray, my Mum needs peace of mind and my sisters and I need strength to deal with whatever each day brings. Nerves are beginning to fray. I'll check in again in a few days. Thanks for your support.


"Looking For Anne"

Looking For Anne by Irene Gammel

Looking For Anne is the story of how the beloved childrens book Anne Of Green Gables was written. The author has searched through Montgomery's personal and family correspondence, court documents, journals and popular publications of the era to piece together Lucy Maud Montgomery's life experiences leading up to and during the writing of her most famous novel and presents it here as the solution to the "mystery" of Anne.

I didn't enjoy this book at all until I was at least three quarters of the way through it. I was very disappointed because I love the Anne books and I wanted so much to enjoy reading how it all came about. Unfortunately, instead of enjoyment I got the uncomfortable feeling Gammel was working very hard to make me dislike Anne.

The overall tone of Looking For Anne is negative and critical. And I found the author making some very big assumptions at times. Writing about Montgomery's mother, who died when Maud was a baby,  she says "...neither of the two photos available suggest that she would have possessed the wit or the intelligence that Maud valued in spiritual kin such as her great -aunt Mary, who was a brilliant conversationalist and literary mind." That seems a rather harsh judgment to make from just a couple of photographs. It doesn't come across as reasonable. Then there are scenes where she tells us what Maud was thinking at the time and again, that's not very realistic to me. I  was never sure what was fact and what was assumed from circumstantial evidence.

Gammel writes at length in this book about female friendships in Montgomery's era and about those in the book, and has a great deal to suggest about the sexual qualities of those relationships. "Through clever wit and irony, Maud had a gift of bringing her readers tantalizingly close to unspoken feelings of sensuality and sexuality, while ingeniously portraying these feelings as universal and innocent." She says a lot more about Maud's sexuality but I'm not going to go into it here, because it's not Maud's sexuality I have a problem with. I do have a problem when she begins to imply Maud wrote sexual feelings into the children's friendships in the Anne books. These are 11 year old girls. I've never, ever picked up even a hint of that when reading the Anne books and frankly I find it more than a little bit creepy. She suggests strongly that Montgomery was bisexual and perhaps she was, but I will never in a million years believe that we are meant to think the relationship between those little girls is in any way sexual.

Gammel clearly has a taste for the melodramatic. It shows up when she calls Anne of Green Gables "a much more secular and subversive novel" than other novels of the day. And again when she refers several times to Maud Montgomery being a "virtual prisoner" during the years she lived with her aging grandmother; she probably did feel trapped at times, but say it too many times and eyes will roll. Then, when Maud is returning home from a business trip to Boston (the one get-away approved by her grandmother), Gammel, to emphasize the empty life she is going back to after a happy, fun-filled time away, writes "When she arrived at the train station on Prince Edward Island, George Campbell picked her up on the cold and rattling buggy. Sleet blew into her face the whole way home."  Overkill?  For me, yes.  

Another thing that struck me the wrong way was Gammel repeatedly referring to Anne as a pagan. In fact she implies that all lovers of nature are pagan. I looked up the definition of pagan just to be sure I wasn't overreacting and it seems she does mean to say that Maud, Anne and anyone else who loves flowers, brooks and fields are unbelievers, and "unbeliever" is the dictionary's definition, not just mine. Now, I believe in God. But I'm also very fond of growing things, bodies of water and night skies. These things are really not mutually exclusive. I think Gammel is taking way too big a leap here, and when considered together with the leap taken from friendship to sexual feelings, and her tendency toward melodrama, this author loses pretty much all credibility with me.

As I said earlier I didn't like it at all till close to the end, and the reason for my interest at that point was that she might say other outrageous things I wouldn't want to miss. Or maybe she'd somehow make all the other stuff make sense. And, this was our book club selection for March and I didn't want to miss anything. So I read through to the end, and now, truthfully, I sort of wish I'd never read it at all.

"The Moonstone"

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins

I've overlooked this book for a while because I thought (blush) it was sci-fi. It's called The Moonstone so it had to be sci-fi. Obviously I haven't read much Wilkie Collins or I would have known better. Well, when I'm wrong, I do it big and I now find myself more than a little embarrassed.

This, of course, is a Victorian era mystery as was the only other Collins I have read, The Woman In White . It has the lovely language that I so love to read and is full of propriety and manners and all things English. Needless to say, and yet I will anyway, I loved it.

In both of the mentioned novels, Collins hands the narrative duties from one character to another to tell the story from their particular point of view, or at least whatever small part they may have experienced in the bigger story. I find this a very effective way of retaining reader interest, though I confess it can get irritating in sections narrated by the more unlikable characters. Fortunately they seem to be the shorter sections and if nothing else they serve to confirm your misgivings.

There is a paragraph early in the book that I found very entertaining and I'm going to quote the whole thing to give you an idea just how delightful Collins' writing is:

"Here follows the substance of what I said, written out entirely for your benefit. Pay attention to it, or you will be all abroad when we get deeper into the story. Clear you mind of the children, or the dinner, or the new bonnet, or what not. Try if you can't forget politics, horses, prices in the City, and grievances at the club. I hope you won't take this freedom on my part amiss; it's only a way I have of appealing to the gentle reader. Lord! haven't I seen you with the greatest authors in your hands and don't I know how ready your attention is to wander when it's a book that asks for it, instead of a person?" 

That puts a smile on my face that isn't easily removed. It's fresh and imaginative and just a little bit cheeky; I keep reading it and getting the same charge out of it I got the first time. But enough about me; I really should tell you what the book is about.

The "moonstone" is a yellow diamond (and not a piece of space rock...), taken from it's home in India where for centuries it had "been set in the forehead of the four-handed Indian god that typifies the moon". The jewel, long kept hidden in England, is bequeathed to a young woman and presented to her on her birthday. That night the jewel goes missing and the fun begins. Scotland Yard gets involved, the servants are all suspect, tragic deaths occur and "three mahogany-coloured Indians in white linen frocks and trousers" are spotted in places where they shouldn't be. The story gets complicated, as a mystery should, and comes to a satisfying conclusion at the very end.

I'm so glad I discovered Wilkie Collins. My usual response to discovering an author I like is to find and read all his novels as fast as I can. I don't know if I'm finally growing up or just getting old, but this time I'm going to space them out and enjoy looking forward to them. I heartily recommend them; they are one hundred percent enjoyable.