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Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Books Read in February

 I hope to write about the books that I read in January when I have time, but I'll have to start off with my February books.  The first one was a biography of James Stewart.

James Stewart by Marc Eliot

Jimmy Stewart lived a life full of integrity and had a stellar acting career.  He began his career as a rather sweet and innocent young man who'd lived a reasonably sheltered life.  He became a war-hardened man able to identify with many different types of characters and show anguish in his face.  In his greatest role in the film, It's A Wonderful Life,  Stewart took his character from an ambitious, cheerful young man to a despairing, disappointed man on the verge of suicide.

Stewart was a war hero - he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for showing incredible bravery during the Second World War.

This book is long and full of interesting anecdotes, many of which should probably be taken with a grain of salt.  Did Jimmy Stewart really lose his virginity to Ginger Rogers?  Did his crush on Margaret Sullavan have such a big effect on his life?

The problem with this biography is that it is just too detailed.  Every one of Stewart's movies is analysed at great length.  It is advisable to skip some of this if you haven't seen the particular film being discussed.  I got rather tired of this detail.  However, the summary of Stewart's character was excellent, I thought.

Hidden Treasures of the Romanovs by William Clarke

This is a nicely written book about a strange, complicated man who bravely saved many of the Romanov's jewels.  Bertie Stopford was an antiques dealer who mixed with high society and a secret agent until a scandal marred his life and he discovered who his true friends were...

I felt that Clarke preferred to write about people like Gladys de Grey and the Ballets Russe.  He obviously loves the grand life of the Belle Epoque. He was also in his element with Russian high society and the value of the jewels. However, the book certainly didn't disappoint although I didn't enjoy it as much as Clarke's last book.

A Romanov Fantasy by Frances Welch

I found this a very odd book. Welch describes Anna Anderson and the rather mad cast of characters who supported her in a rather abrupt way.  It's amusing but I found the writing pedestrian and it just doesn't flow.

It's a pity because the story of this imposter is incredible.  Most of her supporters appeared to favour her because of her rudeness and nasty character!  I would have thought that anyone truly aristocratic would be gracious.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

NB: This contains spoilers.

This wonderful book retains all of its old magic, although I was disappointed when I first read it.  I started off with Anne of the Island and found the first one in the series a bit childish after that. However, I enjoyed it much more later.

Anne of Green Gables is the story of a charming red-haired orphan who is adopted by mistake by Marilla and Matthew. The old brother and sister really want a boy to help them on the farm.  Anne manages to win their hearts, however, and the hearts of all of Avonlea people.

This book is full of constant action as Anne gets into constant scrapes.  She lies about Marilla's brooch, dyes her hair green, accidentally gets her best friend Diana drunk,and hits her rival Gilbert on the head.  Anne certainly has a lot to deal with in this book.  Apart from the scrapes, she  has to obey strict Marilla, attempt to outdo Gilbert in the exams and endure the sneers of Josie Pye.

Anne also has a lot of growing up to do.  She has to face kind Matthew's death and decide whether to make up her argument with Gilbert.

Many girls have been inspired by Anne.  I think that they like her independence and ambition as well as her famous optimism and charm.  She is also easy to identify with because of her many scrapes.

L.M. Montgomery's writing can hardly be faulted.  All of her characters are memorable and her main character is adorable.  She writes with great depth about the troubles of young girls and obviously understands them.

Her descriptions of Prince Edward Island are so vivid that the beautiful island becomes another character of the book.  Any 'Anne' fan who visits will be able to immediately recognize such settings as The Lake of Shining Waters and Lover's Lane.