Books and reading · Reading

Summer of ‘79

Summer holidays means putting on the Golden Breed T-shirt and the wrap around batik skirt. Summer means cuddling up to a blonde bloke with scraggy hair who smells of surf and weed and sex. We sit around a campfire on the back beach. Someone burps in the dark.


Photo by Tobias- unsplash

I wake up. It’s my reoccurring Golden Breed dream which plays out like a rose-tinted Coca Cola commercial very night. I have it every summer. School has ended and eight weeks ahead before Uni. I’m in the back yard twirling my hair with boredom. All my friends have boyfriends. Boys who are apprentice tradies and driving hotted up cars. The boys have mullets and wear corduroy pants and check shirts. Nice boys all of them. But I’m dreaming of my imaginary surfer, the rock star and other non-suburban types. I’m sick of playing third wheel but too shy to go out on my own. What can I do to fill in time?

I go to my bookshelves. I have an entire shelf of LM Montgomery books. A chronological reread of the whole lot. in a Melbourne summer. I can go to a Prince Edward Island and the world of Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon and Pat of Silver Bush. I can walk down Lovers Lane, listen to Judy’s spooky tales in the Silver Bush kitchen and follow Emily as she writes in the attic at New Moon.


Photo by Erica Murdoch

I remember the boys of these books – the delectable Gilbert Blythe, the unsuitable Dean Priest and poor faithful Jingle.

I haven’t read these books since my early teens when I was claimed by hormones, Brandavino and popstars. I left the books on the top shelf and read very little at all till Year 12 and then had to read Camus, Kingsley Amis and Mark Twain.


Photo by Erica Murdoch

I suddenly remember why I loved these old Montgomery books. The manners and morals made me laugh and the social mores were outdated and silly. And the world of PEI was too good to be true. Yet, it was the sweetness and innocence that drew me in, the themes of young love, friendship and the pains of growing up. The Anne series and beyond explored the moving from childhood into womanhood. But it gave other alternatives, the glorious unmarried women; the Miss Patty’s Miss Cornelia and Marilla Blythe. I love the heroes of Anne and Emily and Pat – all strong and smart and sassy. I revel in the folk tales, adventure and tribulations of the Islanders. I want to be Anne and Pat but most of all I want to be Emily of New Moon- the child writer, thwarted in love, living with strict unloving relatives. I long for her talent, her passion and her second sight. I pull down Anne of Green Gables from the shelf and read the first sentence. “Mrs Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea road dipped into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladie’s ear drops and traversed by a brook that had its source in the woods of the old Cuthbert place…”


Photo by Erica Murdoch

A month later, I lie in the hammock, and with the series finished, I think back on it all. I haven’t gone to the beach, to the city or met up with friends. I’ve spent days in the hammock under the frangipani tree. I’ve munched on the cheese and tomato sandwiches and drank mum’s home-made lemon cordial. But lunch was an interruption to the book at hand and I’d get back to it revelling in descriptions of snow covered silent fields of a Canadian winter with a Montgomery heroine baking cookies, reading bible verses and dreaming of the boy in school. Not that I really wanted to be a red headed orphan in rural Canada in the 1870s but the simplicity and sweetness of the time took me away from unrequited live, friends who disappointed and embarrassing parents. Hours later, I’m jolted back to an Australian summer night as the sprinkler swishes on the back lawn and the cicadas began their nightly screech fest. It wasn’t the summer I had intended to have and perhaps it was a waste but the reuniting with my childhood book friends was special. Book friends give me so much of themselves and don’t require anything of me. And, if nothing else, I learned to love reading again which was probably the most important thing of all. I think LM Montgomery would have liked that.


Photo by Scott Walsh unsplash

Thanks to Paula Jones for getting me starting on the Anne books

2 thoughts on “Summer of ‘79

  1. I love the Anne books too. A Canadian icon. I hope you get to visit PEI some day. I don’t like the touristy spots but seeing the countryside brought an extra dimension to the books.


    1. My visit was supposed to be this year. I’m very sad as its not going to happen.Next year – hopefully!


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