Monday, May 23, 2011

Review: Anne of Green Gables

Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Published: 1908
Genre: Fiction/429 pages
Source: iPad
My Rating: 5/5

Anne Shirley is an 11 year old orphan, adopted by two older siblings, Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, who live on Green Gables farm on Prince Edward Island in Canada.  Anne is a boisterous, loquacious child who brings trouble at first to their homestead, but after a time she brings a new vitality as her guardians gradually learn to love her and then cannot imagine life without her.

I have been meaning to read this book for a long time and I'm so glad to have finally done so. Anne is an inspirational character who never fails to be happy with all the obstacles which do befall her as time goes on. She chooses how she will feel using her imagination to help her along.
As Anne states, "It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will. Of course, you must make it up FIRMLY."

Her exuberance for nature and romance is contagious to all around her. She gives special romantic names to the lakes, woods, and people surrounding her. She is also fiercely competitive as she strives to be first in her class; she achieves what she sets out to do. She works hard to learn from her faults and to get what she wants out of life for herself and for her friends and family. Anne is always on the lookout for "kindred" spirits - people to whom Anne "can confide her inmost soul." She enjoys being with others like her imaginative self and purposefully seeks them out. I loved how she also stands up for herself, making sure everyone spells her name properly ending with an "e". 

This was my first book by this author; I will definitely continue to read more of her work. This book is classified as a children's book, but I think it is for young and old alike. There are many valuable lessons to be learned and to remind the reader how to live the life he or she might want to lead- a life filled with imagination, love of nature, time for friends, hard work, and the realization that family is the most important in the end. This book inspires a zest for life!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Review: Galway Bay

Title: Galway Bay
Author: Mary Pat Kelly
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing, 2009
Genre: Historical Fiction/576 pages
Source: Ipad
My Rating: 5/5

Galway Bay is the story of Honora Keeley Kelly, a young Irish mother, who survives the famine in Ireland, and escapes to America with only the clothes on her back and some of her family. It is a story spanning two generations of the Kelly's family struggle with starvation in Ireland, their desperate departure from Ireland, and their hardships that follow as they make a new life in Chicago. It is also a story of enduring love for her family, her husband, and most of all Ireland, especially Galway Bay.

The author is Honora Kelly's great-great granddaughter. She was told Honora's story over the years, so she spent many years thoroughly researching it and wanted to tell her amazing story of survival. This story was very common during the time of the potato famine in Ireland. Whole families would succumb to starvation and eventually death if they didn't have any way to get some food. Luck was needed, but in Honora's case, her determination and her husband Michael's hard work, allowed them to persevere. Their love for one another helped them to carry on. 

I love the ancient Irish stories told by Honora's grandmother of the times when Irish was only spoken, and families were free to live off the land without being beholden to any English landlords. The horse races, the dangerous lives of the men fishing in Galway Bay, the beautiful imagery of the Irish landscapes brought Ireland in the 1800's closer to me.

I also enjoyed reading about her family's struggle to survive during their time in Chicago. The Irish immigrants did come to together in their churches to help with advice and community, but otherwise you were on your own as to how you would get money, shelter, and food to live. In Honora's case, her small boys had to work in the factories where cattle were slaughtered. It was hard on young children who were expected to help the family get money. School was secondary when you needed food.  But somehow, these Irish familes achieved a life of prosperity for the following generations. They were the backbone of the growth of cities like Chicago and other big cities in America. 

I enjoyed this story because I am first generation Irish-American, and I have heard stories of how my great-great grandmother also survived the famine by eating from the garbage of her landlord. It was a very realistic representation of this time in Ireland, and the author is a superb storyteller.