A Totally Biased Review of Netflix’s Anne with an E

I say biased because I grew up reading the books and absolutely loved them. I may have mentioned that before in previous posts, but in case you missed it, I LOVE Anne of Green Gables. I read the first book over 15 times, and I know this, because by the time I got to read number 15, I gave up keeping track of how many times I’d read it. So I think at this point in my life it’s safe to say I’ve read the book at least 50 times, and still plan on reading it again soon, especially after watching the new show.

I managed to watch all seven episodes in three days, which doesn’t sound impressive, but with a full-time job and grad school work, seven episodes in three days is an accomplishment for me. I just liked the show that much and felt myself taken back to childhood, hearing the old familiar dialogue and looking forward to the iconic scenes. The show did not disappoint. Even though there were a few deviations from the book, it still remained true to most of the story and the spirit of the characters.

Amybeth McNulty is an exquisite Anne, I think. Her voice and eyes are so expressive when delivering her lines, which is exactly what Anne Shirley is all about. Also, in the scenes that bring to light the true horrors Anne has seen in her life (something I appreciated that’s different from the book), her performance is heart wrenching and I couldn’t help but tear up so many times for poor, dear Anne.

Geraldine James is exactly what I always pictured Marilla to be when I read the books, and she does such a magnificent job of changing from being the completely stern authority figure to newly-made mother with a soft spot for her girl. She handles her role with grace and wit, making Marilla a lovely character to be fond of. I also love the portrayal of her relationship with Rachel Lynde, and how the two women have their differences, but truly it is like they are sisters with how well they know each other and feel comfortable with their banter, especially in a society that tries to stifle women’s personalities.

The last thing I’m going to say about the show (last because otherwise I’ll just keep going on) is I adore how unashamedly feminist it is. I write this as I wear my Mockingbird “Ask Me About My Feminist Agenda” t-shirt. That’s the thing about media that takes on a feminist message. It often feels like if it overtly states it, it’s trying too hard or pushing an agenda, but watching Anne With an E, for the first time I questioned myself, “Why shouldn’t it be overt and pushed? Why should touting feminist ideals be subtle or hidden or gently suggested?” I just really appreciate how a childhood favorite grew up to resonate still with me as an adult.

Slow and Steady

It’s been three years now since I went on my trip to Spain and brought home two books translated from English to Spanish. I picked them up so I could start practicing the language and have a better understanding of the writing structure. I started reading one of those books, Leyenda, two years ago, and it has been a slow go. I was trying to sit down with my dad and read it with him since Spanish is his first language, so he could correct me on my pronunciation and explain the words I didn’t recognize, but damn, it’s hard to get a minute with that man. No grudges though; he works hard and it’s understandable how tired he is every time he comes home. I’m not a kid anymore, so he’s not obligated to pay attention to me and muck through my elementary out loud reading skills, because trust me, reading in Spanish feels exactly the same as reading in English did at five-years-old: excruciating and frustrating.

The challenge has also been fun though. I started reading on my own, keeping my laptop open with a Spanish to English dictionary on hand to help me out when I get stuck. That’s the beauty of today’s technology. I can have an entire language’s lexicon at my fingertips, and even have the option of an auditory sample to know how to pronounce it. Reading out loud in Spanish on my own leaves me giggling like a mad woman because I can hear how foreign I am to my father’s native tongue, but I like that I can’t get the accent quite right and my tongue still trips over rolled R’s. It’s simultaneously amusing and frustrating that I can say the word mentally, and know how it should sound in my head, but can’t get my mouth and brain to connect to form the words properly. I am a stranger in my own land, and it is exciting and aggravating and makes for a roller coaster reading ride.

I also noticed something new happening. Well, not so much new as an old habit that I’d phased out once I learned how to read at a proficient level in English, and that habit was to imagine the details in my mind like a movie playing out. I’ve become so adept in the English language that it’s easy for me to breeze through a book and barely blink at a passage as my eyes rove over the page and understand the scene that is taking place. I process what the words say, but I don’t stop to visualize the characters’ actions anymore. Reading in Spanish forced me to do that so that I can get a grasp on the vocabulary, grammar and syntax structure. The slow reading brought back my ability to read the action on the page and see it in my mind’s eye as it plays out like an image on a TV screen. I see the woman’s hand shake as she opens the envelope that could hold the very information she’s been seeking for over a decade. I see the priest’s apprehension as he hands over the document that could compromise his faith’s foundation. Slowing down to understand what’s happening on the surface made me slow down and dig into the rich imagery the writer took care to create for the readers.

I’ll take this as a lesson when I progress in my English reading, to remember to slow down and really read beyond the words into the visuals and sensory details. I need to remember it’s not a race, but a journey through different roads and perceptions, and I can’t truly appreciate those perspectives if I don’t take the time or care to stop and see the story.

Crushing on Classics

For the longest time I could not put my finger on what about classics made me love them so much. As far back as I can remember I’ve been a fan of the classics, starting with stories like Anne of Green Gables and The Wind in the Willows. Eventually I graduated to works such as Kate Chopin’s The Awakening, Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, and made my way through high school readings like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice and various Shakespeare plays. Of course like every other 13-year-old of my generation (probably. I’m just making that up), I became obsessed with Edgar Allen Poe and Bram Stoker’s Dracula.

While I take pride in having a fondness for the classics, I know I’m not a literary snob. Classics are obviously not the only worthwhile books to consume, and I’m certainly a fan of cheesy fantasy/scifi novels as well as comic books and mystery-thrillers. I read across genres frequently, but I always come back to the classics.

I think part of my love for them is the language. Since becoming a kindred spirit with my dearest Anne Shirley, it was the first time I ever read a character that sounded like me. She was a young girl like me and she spoke in earnest and with what the adults and others around us like to call “big words.” I always felt so strange being the kid with a sophisticated vocabulary, but trying to speak the way I was expected at my age felt wrong. It wasn’t until Anne came along that I found a repertoire of characters and people that spoke like me. The flow of the language, its poetry and drama, all spoke to me on an unidentifiable level.

It wasn’t until recently after I started watching Jane the Virgin (great take on the telenovela btw) that I realized why classics called to me. Remember that part I said about the drama? Well, growing up in a house with parents that watched telenovelas, and having been a huge fan of Aguamarina myself, I know a thing or two about drama. The classics spoke to me because even though they were written in English by Europeans (most of the ones I’ve read, anyway), they reminded me of home and my culture’s way of storytelling.

Everything is life or death. Love or hate. Joy or sorrow. Nothing is in between. Apathy does not exist in classics the same way it goes by the wayside in novelas. Catherine’s and Heathcliff’s toxic romance is something straight out of a show on Telemundo. And when Edna Pontellier makes her stand against the men who think they own her, I see glistening eyes, perfectly arched eyebrows, set crimson lips and an icy glare so piercing it makes the room go quiet.

It’s easy now to see the connection between what are considered the classics and my experience with passionate, dramatic storytelling. The language is big and over the top and emotions run high, because whether it’s Aguamarina or Pride & Prejudice, rich people got first world problems that suck everyone into their drama. And I am up front and center with popcorn in hand.

The DNF Doubt

First of all, I only learned what the acronym DNF (did not finish) stands for within the last year. I had to look it up because I’m at that awkward age where I’m a millennial but I don’t know all the lingo the kids are using these days. Anyway, DNF hadn’t been a part of my vocabulary not only because I didn’t know what it meant, but because I used to be the type of reader who couldn’t fathom not finishing a book (except Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood…sorry Ms. Tucker!) Ok, there were two others that fit the rare DNF category, but in my defense they were Jonathan Swift and Nathaniel Hawthorne and I was 8-years-old. My mom was a proponent of letting me pick up books she knew I wouldn’t understand and letting me figure out for myself that I was not smart enough yet to get them.

Other than those three rare occasions, I was never a DNFer. How could I possibly put down a book I’d started without giving it a chance? How could I truly judge its quality without reading all the way through? And what if even after 100 pages of nothing, I missed something truly incredible? I couldn’t not finish a book, no matter how boring or bad it was. Besides, what did it matter if it wasted my time? I had time to waste.

Alas, I am no longer the carefree student with time on my hands and a dwindling bookshelf. Now I’m a responsible adult who has to divide my time carefully between all the things I want to do, read, watch, listen to, etc. And my bookshelf? Double-stacked from top to bottom and I’ve barely made a dent in the last five years. Time can no longer be wasted. Therefore, I decided to no longer waste time on books that just don’t do it for me. I can proudly say in the past year I’ve DNFed two books! And one I stuck around with because “well I already started it and I’m more than halfway through and it’s for my reading challenge I might as well finish it.”

I did it again. I let the DNF doubt drag me down into another non-enjoyable book that I gave nothing but excuses. It’s like I’m in a bad relationship with my book boyfriend. Take my advice, readers. Don’t do this to yourselves. If a book isn’t sparking your interest, or if it’s making you mad or any other negative feeling, don’t hate read or try to give it the benefit of the doubt. Just let it go. There are so many good books out there waiting to be read, and we do not have time to waste on those that do not give us joy.

Set a standard if you have to, whether it’s determining how many pages in you can go before you decide enough’s enough, or taking notes and reviewing how it makes you feel. Just figure out a way to let yourself know it’s time to get out and move on.

Audio Books! Can I Get An Amen?

I started listening to audio books a little over a year ago, hesitant to take on the endeavor because I thought, “I can’t possibly pay attention to a story if I’m listening to it.” Of course, that logic is flawed because that’s how I used to take in stories when I was a kid, before I knew how to read. What opened me up to the idea of audio books was actually podcasts. Once I started listening to things like Limetown Stories, Welcome to Nightvale, Wolf 359 and a plethora more, I realized I did in fact have the capability to multitask when it comes to paying attention to stories audibly.

I started with re-reads, as I figured it’d be easier to listen to a story I was already familiar with, so if I miss a line or two, I wouldn’t be totally lost. Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series is where I dove in to the audio book scene. While I recovered from my LASIK eye surgery a couple of months ago, I voraciously ate up Pride & Prejudice through Spotify and listened to Amy Poehler narrate her memoir Yes Please on Overdrive through my library. Slowly I became more comfortable with listening to audio books and taking care of such tasks as scrolling through Twitter and catching up on emails. Long car rides are also an ideal setting for audio books.

I started a new job last month and I can only listen to so many podcast episodes before I’m all caught up and have nothing left to listen to. I ventured into Playster and decided to give new books a try, now that I was a more skilled multitasker with enhanced listening abilities. Once again, Cassandra Clare came to my rescue with Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy and The Bane Chronicles. Honestly, I marvel at my ability to write about traffic school and listen to the enthralling voices of Chris Wood and Keahu Kahuanui all at the same time. Also, hearing the chilling encounters in World War Z helped me get through the day writing about vital records (it’s a thing; go look it up).

Now as I work I am finally getting into another classic that’s been on my TBR list since 10th grade: Jane Austen’s Emma. British narrators are possibly the best, in my opinion. The wonderful thing about audio books, and I’ve saved this best part for last, is I can add them to my Goodreads count of books read! Why is this so exciting for me? Because on top of starting a new job last month, I also started grad school, which means I’ve had no time whatsoever to do leisure reading. Audio books have changed the game though.

I used to be one of those people who thought, “Audio books don’t really count,” because I had that notion that one can’t really pay attention to them. I have been proven wrong and seen the light. Listening to audio books is just an enhanced way of reading. It’s engaging, entertaining and it definitely counts. Audio books are a full-time worker grad student’s best friend. Hallelujah!