Books are a Bridge

Monday Morning Musings:

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Once again Jane Dougherty inspired me with a prompt—a muse for my musings.

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading”.

–William Styron, Interview, Writers at Work (1958)

 Books are a bridge to the mind,

A link between author and reader.

Across it

Ideas slither stealthily—or—

Stride boldly,

Characters stroll, march, and dance,


Emotions gallop with the force

Of an army.

When I was younger

I fell asleep while reading a book

And I was there.

Astride a horse in the north of England,

Speaking in a voice and accent

That are not my own.

The air was cold,

The horses warm,

And it was so real

That I remember it now

Decades later.

When I awoke

I was sad and wanted to return to this

Foreign land that was not mine.

But that I knew. Somehow.

From a book.

Who hasn’t wanted a wardrobe

That leads to an enchanted land?

Or wondered what it would be like

To go back in time?

To live in another world?

I lived the teenage emotions

Of Anne, feeling first love

And fighting with parents,

The joy of being alive

Even while crowded in

A secret annex during WWII.

And I wanted to not know

Her fate.

I also wished another fate

For another Anne,

Whose head would be parted

From her slender neck.

They placed traitors’ heads

On London Bridge,

A bridge of the living

And the dead.

But not hers,

Which was buried with her body

In the Tower

Where she had been a prisoner.

I read Hilary Mantel’s

Books of Thomas Cromwell

And Wolf Hall.

Tudor England became alive.

I sat at the table with Thomas More,

I rode on the river barges

I saw Cromwell with his family

And pet dogs,

A different side of the man.

I imagined it all

And so

I could hope while reading

That the story might be different

That history might change

And Queen Anne might live.

Still another Anne,

In another time and place,

That’s Anne with an “e,” please,

Delighted me with her love of big words

And the time she got her friend Diana drunk

And accidentally dyed her red hair green.

But I cried when Matthew died,

Didn’t you?

And when Beth, the third of the Little Women, died

I cried then, too.

I read the passage early in the morning

Lying in bed at my aunt’s house

Before anyone else was awake.

Books,  a refuge from the turmoil around me.

Jane Eyre, who became my friend,

Had a friend, Helen, who died in the horrid Lowood School,.

My school was nothing like that,

Although it had its horrors, too.

But that was long before she met Mr. Rochester

Or his mad wife in the attic.


My daughter’s wedding fan.

I cried for the inhabitants of the plague village of Eyam

Brought alive by Geraldine Brooks,

This time reading late at night, an adult,

My husband already asleep,

But I could not stop turning the pages

Until I reached the end.

During graduate school,

Douglas Adams’s books brought some comic relief.

I laughed so much at his world of unwitting space travelers

That my husband had to read the books for himself.

Remember to bring a towel.

Good advice, always.

I’ve walked side-by-side with Wordsworth

And seen the host of golden daffodils

Beside the lake.

Haven’t you?

And haven’t you fallen down the hole with Alice

And learned to beware the Jabberwock

And not to drink or eat items

Simply because there are notes telling you to do so?

Recently I crossed a bridge with All the Light We Cannot See

To enter a new land

Where I felt the tiny houses that blind Marie-Laure

Could not see,

Smelled the salty air,

Felt the vibration of the bomb blasts,

Knew the wonder

Of an orphaned brother and sister

As they hear a voice and music

That traveled from Brittany

To Germany

As though by magic

To reach their ears.

And the book was magic, too.

Just last week, I closed the pages of Golden Age

The final book of Jane Smiley’s Last Hundred Years Trilogy

The saga of the Langdon family.

I experienced the history of the United States

Through their eyes

And experienced it with them—

Technology, wars, cults, births, and deaths

A farm in the Midwest,

A world in microcosm.

The final page was so brilliant and beautiful–

And perfect–

That I thought,

“I want to read this whole trilogy again.”

So many feelings and ideas

So many characters that I grow to love

All of these books–

And those yet to be discovered and read,

Old and new,

Crossing the bridge,

To new places

Entering my mind

And taking hold.

But the knowledge is sweet,

Minds, like hearts,

Can never be too full.


Standing on the “Smoot Bridge” between Cambridge and Boston

Smoot Bridge








A Picture Not Worth a Thousand Words?

Cover of "Anne of Green Gables"

Cover of Anne of Green Gables

“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables

Do you share my outrage? I refer, of course, to the new book cover for Anne of Green Gables featuring a buxom young woman with blond hair and a come-hither expression. (She’s also wearing a plaid shirt that is just wrong for the turn-of-the-century story, as well as being just wrong.) As anyone who has ever read the book knows, Anne has RED hair. This is not simply a question of me being disappointed because a fictional character does not appear as I imagine her. I mean it bothered me that Inspector Lynley had dark hair in the BBC series instead of blond hair, as Elizabeth George described him, but I got over it. Anne’s red hair, however, is of such major importance to the story that it is almost a character in and of itself. Moreover, when Anne of Green Gables begins, Anne is a child of about ten years old. She is described as skinny and freckled with two red braids—hardly the sexy young woman on the new book cover.

I’m not certain when I first encountered Anne, but the book I read over and over again had a dark green cover without a picture. It’s possible that there had been a dust jacket that was lost long before I found the book. It had probably belonged to my older sister, and I decided to “borrow” it one day. I did that quite frequently. I first read Anne as a pre-teen, and then I read it many times throughout high school, and even as an adult. When I needed something to cheer me up, I would read favorite sections—the chapter about Anne accidentally getting her best friend drunk (not as racy as it sounds), or the one where she tries to dye her RED hair raven black, but instead turns it green. I read several of the other books in the series, as well, which follow her journey from student to teacher, to young wife in her “house of dreams,” and finally to her life as a mother of several children.

Anne has continued to play a part in my life. When my daughters were young, we watched the Canadian Broadcast Company’s version of Anne of Green Gables. Megan Follows was a perfect Anne—with RED hair. We laughed at her adventures, and we cried when a certain major character died.

The spunky and imaginative Anne (the “e” on her name is also important) also helped me to make a dear friend after we realized she was one of many common bonds we shared. As Anne would say, we were “kindred spirits.”

Apparently, the criticism of the new book cover has been so harsh that the book, created through Amazon’s CreateSpace platform, has been taken down. Well, we all make mistakes, and sometimes we learn from them. As Anne remarked, “But have you ever noticed one encouraging thing about me, Marilla? I never make the same mistake twice”.