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Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The subject of Africa and Africans and the relationship of Africans to Americans is one of my fascinations. I read Ms. Adichie’s novel, Americanah, with that fascination firmly in place. But the book was just ironic, sarcastic, and insightful enough to make me a little uncomfortable. I don’t think I’d enjoy meeting the author, and I don’t think she would like me very much. (According to one character in the novel who may or may not speak for the author, “American conservatives come from an entirely different planet,” obviously not a good one.) I feel as if Ms. Adichie, assuming her characters speak for her in some respects, would have something sardonic and probably also uncomfortably perceptive to say about me and my interest in Africa and my WASP background and my conservative Christian worldview.

Through her main characters, Ifemelu and Obinze, especially Ifemelu, the novelist has a lot to say about Nigerians and “Non-American Blacks” (NAB’s) and American Blacks (AB’s) and American Non-Blacks and Brits and other Europeans and poor people and rich people and bourgeois middle class people and everyone else whose weaknesses and foibles Ifemelu manages to expose and ridicule and deflate. Thought provoking, yes. But Ifemelu is also self-absorbed, sometimes pitiable, and irresponsible and unreliable. In short, she’s a real person with a sin problem, although she wouldn’t use that term.

Ifemelu is a Nigerian immigrant to the United States. She leaves Nigeria partly to escape from the lack of choices there and from her dysfunctional family and partly to study in the U.S., the land of opportunity. She finds that when she comes to America, she suddenly becomes “black”, a category she never considered one way or another back in Nigeria. She is subject to the racism, overt and subtle, that American Blacks encounter and deal with all of the time in this country. And she also becomes “African” in the eyes of many Americans, black and white, who tell her about their charitable contributions to an orphanage in Zimbabwe or their trip to Kenya or their love for Mother Africa, as if Africa were one big country, and of course, she would identify with people and entities half a continent away from her own nation and culture.

Ifemelu, however, is an honest and incisive thinker, and she forges her own identity in the U.S. She eventually becomes a blogger with a widely read and profitable blog called Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black. She writes about race in America, about black women and hair, about subtle and not-so subtle racism, about Michelle and Barack Obama, about her own experiences as an immigrant to the U.S., and about the people and interactions she observes. Her blog posts about race in particular prick the consciences and destroy the pretensions of many of her readers. (The unrealistic part, of course, is that she makes quite a bit of money as a result of the popularity of her blog. How many rich bloggers are there?)

Americanah is a smart, penetrating, rather dramatic look at the immigrant experience and at the emigrant experience and at the experience of returning home. But it made me feel the way I feel when I’m in the company of intellectual people who spend their time mocking and pointing out the defects of those who are “beneath” them, outside their little clique. Americanah is an opinionated book, and it’s not a kind book. The characters in the book are honest, possibly right about many of their opinions and insights, but not very compassionate or forgiving.

“What are you reading?” Kelsey turned to Ifemelu.
Ifemelu showed her the cover of the novel. She did not want to start a conversation. Especially not with Kelsey. She recognized in Kelsey the nationalism of liberal Americans who copiously criticized America but did not like you to do so; they expected you to be silent and grateful, and always reminded you of how much better than wherever you had come from America was.
“Is it good?”
“Yes.”
“It’s a novel, right? What’s it about?”
Why did people ask “What is it about?” as if a novel had to be about only one thing. Ifemelu disliked the question; She would have disliked it even if she did not feel, in addition to her depressed uncertainty, the beginning of a headache.

At the risk of being relegated to the realm of all the Kelseys of this country, despite my lack of “liberal” credentials, I will say that Americanah is about the Nigerian immigrant experience, both in the U.S. and Britain. It’s also about the issues and stresses of being a black woman in America, specifically in the Northeastern part of the U.S. And it’s a novel about romantic love, and lost love and recovered love. The ending, like the detail of the money-making blog, struck me as unrealistic and unlikely. But I did learn a lot along the way.

Warning: Self-absorption and sexual license abound in the novel, just as they do in the real lives of many, both Africans and Americans. That part of the novel is almost too realistic.

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon by Alexander McCall Smith

There are a few authors I could read all day, all week, and never get tired of their books, their characters, and their writing style. Whereas some authors I read and enjoy but then need a break—Dickens or John Grisham or even Tolkien. Others are so delightful and amusing and light-hearted that I could take a steady diet and not feel too over-filled or burdened. P.G. Wodehouse, Jan Karon, Agatha Christie (well, maybe not “light-hearted”), and Alexander McCall Smith fall into the latter category.

Mr. McCall Smith has written several series of novels set in various locales, and I’ve enjoyed at least a few of the books in each series:

Corduroy Mansions in London
44 Scotland Street in Edinburgh, Scotland,
The Isabel Dalhousie novels, also in Scotland,
Professor Dr. von Igelfeld novels in Germany and other settings,
and of course, The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency set in Botswana, Africa.

The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon is the latest, and perhaps greatest, of this best-selling detective series. I enjoyed the contrasting of modern ways and the old conservative ways of traditional Botswanan culture—and the compromises between the two. I enjoyed the two mysteries and their cozy solutions. I enjoyed the continued unfolding of the friendship between Precious Ramotswe and her assistant Grace Makutsi. And Mma Ramotswe’s husband Mr. J.L.B. Maketoni continued to work in this book as in others at loving and caring for his traditionally built and professionally astute helpmeet. The supporting cast in this series also make an appearance and add to the story, each in his own way: Mma Potokwane, Phuti Radiphuti, and the apprentices, Charlie and Fanwell.

A couple of quotes, just to brighten your day and give you something to think about:

On forgiveness:
“She had forgiven him, yes, but she still did not like to remember. And perhaps a deliberate act of forgetting went along with forgiveness. You forgave, and then you said to yourself: Now I shall forget. Because if you did not forget, then your forgiveness would be tested, perhaps many times and in ways that you could not resist, and you might go back to anger, and to hating.”

On beauty:
“You could be very glamorous and beautiful on the outside, but if inside you were filled with human faults—jealousy, spite, and the like—then no amount of exterior beauty could make up for that. Perhaps there was some sort of lemon juice for inside beauty . . . And even as she thought of it, she realized what it was love and kindness. Love was the lemon juice that cleansed and kindness was the aloe that healed.”

The Beekeeper’s Apprentice by Laurie R. King

This Sherlock Holmes tribute starts off slowly, but the pace picks up about halfway through when the author has finished setting up the relationship between Holmes and his teenage, female apprentice, Mary Russell. Mary, a sharp-eyed, feminist mirror image of Holmes himself, is, from the beginning of their acquaintance, mach more actively involved in Sherlock Holmes’ experiments and detection than was the ever-admiring, but frequently dim-witted Watson. Russell, as Holmes calls her, becomes Sherlock Holmes’ protege, and eventually his equal partner in sleuthing as the two of them face off with an enemy even more subtle and diabolical than the deceased Moriarty.

I had a good friend in high school/college days who was a great fan of Sherlock Holmes. I preferred Nero Wolfe or Miss Marple. I wish I knew where Winona was. I would definitely recommend The Beekeeper’s Apprentice to her—and to any other Sherlockian mystery fans, at least those who aren’t offended by the non-canonical addition of a female genius apprentice who sometimes outdoes even the Great Sherlock Holmes himself in her deductions and observations.

I’m in the middle of the second book of the series, A Monstrous Regiment of Women, and the feminist themes are definitely predominating in this one. However, the plot and characters and the writing are all stellar, and I’m definitely in for the long haul, unless the quality goes down or the feminist* propaganda gets to be too much. I’m looking forward to getting to know Ms. King’s version of Sherlock Holmes and his (now) partner, Mary Russell, over the course of twelve books.

*I would never use the word “feminist” to describe myself because the term has way too many connotations and associations that are anti-Christian and anti-male. However, Mary Russell’s version of feminism, so far (only in the second book), has much to recommend it. Ms. Russell is an independent and highly intelligent young woman who is learning how to relate to and older male mentor in a way that is dignified and and at the same time grateful for the things that he is able to teach her. So far, I like Mary Russell very much.

March 17th: St. Patrick and Kate Greenaway

I have written in past years about this poem, The Breastplate, attributed to St. Patrick, but probably not actually composed by him. However, we do have a couple of written pieces that most probably were the work of St. Patrick, one of which is his spiritual autobiography, St. Patrick’s Confessio. For today’s Lenten reading, I suggest you take a few minutes to read through Patrick’s confession.


“I was like a stone lying in the deep mire; and He that is mighty came and in His mercy lifted me, and raised me up, and placed me on the top of the wall.”

“For beyond any doubt on that day we shall rise again in the brightness of the sun, that is, in the glory of Christ Jesus our Redeemer, as children of the living God and co-heirs of Christ, made in his image; for we shall reign through him and for him and in him.”

For a fictional treatment of Patrick’s life and work, I recommend Stephen Lawhead’s novel, Patrick, Son of Ireland.

And here’s a list of picture books for St. Patrick’s Day from Amy at Hope Is the Word.

And yet another list of St. Patrick’s Day picture books from Mind Games.

Celebrating the Irish at Semicolon.

'Image taken from page 43 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

March 17th is also the birthday of British author and illustrator, Kate Greenaway (b.1846, d.1901), whose name is used for the Greenaway Medal, the British award for distinguished illustrations in children’s books. Her illustrations are very Jane Austen-esque, aren’t they, although Greenaway herself would have been more of a Victorian/Edwardian era illustrator. Ms. Greenaway was homeschooled until she was twelve, and then she attended the Finsbury School of Art for six years. Her first book, Under the WIndow, was published in 1879 and almost immediately sold out of its first printing of 20,000 copies. The Book continued to sell well for years, and Kate Greenaway’s illustrations and artistic style was widely copied and admired in England and in the U.S.

Greenaway was friendly with Randolph Caldecott, the other famous illustrator of children’s books of the time, and she maintained a twenty year long correspondence with John Ruskin, the famous critic. Ruskin and Greenaway eventually met; however, her relationship with Ruskin, who was probably mentally ill and morally corrupt, was not good for Kate’s confidence or for her art. Kate Greenaway died in 1901 of breast cancer, convinced that her public had rejected and outgrown her art.
~Information taken mostly from the website, Women Children’s Book Illustrators.

'Image taken from page 10 of 'Little Ann, and other poems. ... Illustrated by Kate Greenaway, etc'' photo (c) 2013, The British Library - license: http://www.flickr.com/commons/usage/

More K-Drama Recommendations

Julie at Happy Catholic: When a Man Loves. Julie’s friend Renee says, “The main character, Han Tae Sang, is a thug for a loan shark who turns his life around. The show is full of great Catholic themes like mercy, forgiveness, and redemption.”

The Headmistress at The Common Room recommends You Who Came from the Stars. High praise: “I might even like it better than, or at least as well as, King2Hearts, my previous favorite.”

One reason I’m enjoying my exploration of the world of K-drama so much is the structure and composition of the dramas themselves. K-dramas generally have a set number (16-20) of related episodes. The entire drama has a beginning, a middle and an ending, and each episode builds on the ones that come before it. So, it’s a bit like watching a soap opera, but a soap opera with an ending. Some of the K-dramas are drawn out and artificially stretched a bit to fit this format, but the scheme usually works to give enough time for character development, but not so much that the plot and the characters’ interactions become repetitious and boring. In the best of the dramas, hints as to the characters back stories and motivations are embedded in the first few episodes, to be revealed and explored fully in the later episodes.

Unlike American TV series, which are more like a series of short stories about the same characters, very episodic in nature, K-dramas are like a novel with a long slow development of plot and characters until the action reaches its climax in episode 15, 16, or 17– and a final ending, either happy (comedic drama) or sad (melodrama) in the last episode(s).

I prefer novels to short stories.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown

The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown.

With the (winter) Olympics coming up and my aforementioned current interest in the 1930′s, The Boys in the Boat was just the ticket for reading on a very cold day in January. The nine Americans in the title were: Don Hume, Bobby Moch, Stub McMillin, Johnny White, Gordy Adam, Shorty Hunt, Roger Morris, Chuck Day, and Joe Rantz. They were the crew of an eight-man shell for the University of Washington. Their coach was Al Ulbrickson, and George Pocock, famous for building racing boats for Washington and for many other championship rowing teams, was their mentor and the builder of their shell, the Husky Clipper.

The story focuses on crew member Joe Rantz, since he was the member of the Olympic team that the author first met and from whom he heard the story of the “boys’” journey to the Berlin Olympics. I put “boys” in quotation marks because by the time their story was published last year (2013), the boys in the boat had all passed on. But Mr. Brown got to interview some of them before they died, and he spent a great deal of time researching the backgrounds of the boys, talking to family members, reading journals that some of the boys kept, and preparing to write an inspiring and flowing account of their rise to glory at the Olympics.

One of things that the book emphasizes is that rowing is not easy:

“Competitive rowing is an undertaking of extraordinary beauty preceded by brutal punishment. Unlike most sports, which draw primarily on particular muscle groups, rowing makes heavy and repeated use of virtually every muscle in the body. . . And rowing makes these muscular demands not a odd intervals but in rapid sequence, over a protracted period of time, repeatedly and without respite. . . The Seattle Post-Intelligencer’s Royal Brougham marveled at the relentlessness of the sport: ‘Nobody ever took time out in a boat race,’ he noted ‘There’s no place to stop and get a satisfying drink of water or a lungful of cool, invigorating air. You just keep your eyes glued on the red, perspiring neck of the fellow ahead of you and row until they tell you it’s all over. . . Neighbor, it’s no game for a softy.’”

I was filled with admiration for these college boys who practiced in rain, sleet, wind and snow to go to a total of two races: one in their own Washington waters against arch rival, the University of California, and the other in Poughkeepsie, competing against California again and against all of the East Coast teams who saw the westerners as country cousins who were out of their league in the East. The persistence and fine-tuning of the team and its precise movements required all that the nine member team could give, mentally and physically–and then, a little more.

The book also made much of the contrast between Depression-era country boys struggling in Washington State to get an education and make the Olympic team at the same time, and Hitler’s desire to make the Berlin Olympics into a showcase for the Nazi regime in Germany and the Aryan youth of Germany who would be competing for the glory of the Reich. The impending war serves as a focus and a frame for the story, even though the boys in the boat were completely unaware of the imminent approach of a world war that would change all of their lives.

Some interesting mentions in the book:

Actor Hugh Laurie’s father, Ran Laurie, was member of the British eight-man crew at the 1936 Olympics.

Louis Zamperini (Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand) is mentioned once in this book, as possibly the only athlete on the boat to Europe for the Olympics who had a bigger appetite than rower Joe Rantz.

Swimmer Eleanor Holm was expelled from the U.S. Olympic team for drunkenness on the boat over, after an all-night party with some journalists, who then proceeded to make headlines with The Eleanor Holm Story in newspapers all over the United States.

The coxswain for the team, Bobby Moch, found out for the first time in a letter from his father just before he left to go to the Olympics, that his relatives in Europe, whom he had never met, were Jewish, and therefore that he was of Jewish heritage.

Hitler’s pet filmmaker, Leni Riefenstahl, made a well-regarded propaganda film about the 1936 Olympics, called Olympia. The film was secretly funded by the Nazi government, and it was shown all over the world to great acclaim.

All in all, The Boys in the Boat is a great book for anyone interested in sports stories in general, rowing in particular, the rise of Nazism, the 1930′s, Olympic history, and just plain inspirational stories of perseverance and courage. If there were a few extraneous details, they were details that I enjoyed learning. And the prose was well above average.

Agent Zigzag: A True Story of Nazi Espionage, Love, and Betrayal by Ben Macintyre

“Eddie Chapman was a charming criminal, a con man, and a philanderer. He was also one of the most remarkable double agents Britain has ever produced.”

I like spy stories, especially true spy stories. Author Ben MacIntyre’s story of Eddie Chapman and his activities as the consummate double agent for Britain during World War II is particularly fascinating because it’s well-researched and full of details that were gleaned from recently declassified MI5 files.

So, first, I had to get straight the difference between MI5 and MI6:

“The Security Service (MI5) is the UK’s security intelligence agency. It is responsible for protecting the UK, its citizens and interests, against the major threats to national security. The Secret Intelligence Service (SIS, or MI6) operates world-wide and is responsible for gathering secret intelligence outside the UK in support of the government’s security, defence and foreign and economic policies.”

Well, that’s clear, but I can see how during a war like WW II when the outside threats (of German infiltration and even invasion) were quickly becoming inside threats, the lines would get a little blurred. Anyway, Eddie Chapman worked for MI5 because he came to England as a Nazi spy and saboteur. When he reached Britain, parachuted in by his German employers, he immediately reported to MI5 about what the Germans had taught him and what they wanted him to do while he was “in the field.” (The Nazi wanted him to sabotage and blow up a factory where British warplanes called Mosquitos were being manufactured.)

Mr. Chapman is an interesting character, a very flawed hero. He was “a man who kept every option open, who seemed congenitally incapable of taking a bet without hedging it.” Terence young, the filmmaker, who had known Chapman before the war, wrote to MI5 officials about Chapman,”One could give him the most difficult of missions knowing that he would carry it out and that he would never betray the official who sent him, but that it was highly probable that he would, incidentally, rob the official who sent him out. . . . He would then carry out his [mission] and return to the official whom he had robbed to report.” Chapman had a girl in every port, or country, and he seduced each of them into thinking that she was the only one. But when none of his long-term partners was available, he found it necessary to visit prostitutes or find a new paramour. He performed some incredibly valuable missions of misinformation and spying for the British, but he was paid mostly by the Germans who believed that he had done great things for their side.

If you’re interested in World War II, British intelligence services, James Bond and the like, espionage, or just morally ambivalent characters, Agent Zigzag is a good read. MacIntyre does tell what happened to the major players in this episode of double and even triple cross after the war was over, and the index is useful for finding specific incidents and information if you’re studying the era and the subject.

Game of Kings by Dorothy Dunnett

If you’re a logophile, a lover of words, you’re bound to like this beginning book to a five volume series, set in sixteenth century (1547) Scotland. The hero/villain of the tale, Francis Crawford of Lymond, is a veritable fount of words, a repository of language, a giddy young man with a facile and garrulous tongue. Here are just a few of the beguiling, beauteous, buxom words I descried in the course of reading this historical fiction adventure:

Enteric: of or pertaining to the enteron; intestinal.
Decorticating: to remove the bark, husk, or outer covering from.
Damascened: of or pertaining to the art of damascening (to produce wavy lines on Damascus steel).
Decumbiture: Confinement to a sick bed, or time of taking to one’s bed from sickness.
Peripetia: a sudden turn of events or an unexpected reversal, especially in a literary work.
Yaffle: another name for green woodpecker, imitative of its cry.
Parure: a matching set of jewels or ornaments.
Sphacelate: To develop or produce gangrenous or necrotic tissue.
Hebetude: the state of being dull; lethargy.
Bauchly: in an inferior or substandard way
Cibation: The act of taking food; (Alchemy) The process or operation of feeding the contents of the crucible with fresh material.
Predicant: preaching.
Talion: lex talionis; exaction of compensation in kind.
Thrawnness: twistedness; crookedness; distortion.
Snib: a bolt, catch, lock, or fastening on a door or window.
Encysted: to enclose or become enclosed in a cyst.
Frangible: easily broken; breakable.
Corium: Anatomy, Zoology , dermis. (skin?)
Probang: a long, slender, elastic rod with a sponge, ball, or the like, at the end, to be introduced into the esophagus or larynx, as for removing foreign bodies, or for introducing medication.
Roulade: a musical embellishment consisting of a rapid succession of tones sung to a single syllable.
Crapulence: sick from gross excess in drinking or eating.
Fossa: a pit, cavity, or depression, as in a bone.
Hackbut: harquebus; any of several small-caliber long guns operated by a matchlock or wheel-lock mechanism, dating from about 1400.
Squab: a nestling pigeon, marketed when fully grown but still unfledged.
Calx: the oxide or ashy substance that remains after metals, minerals, etc., have been thoroughly roasted or burned.
Columbarium: a sepulchral vault or other structure with recesses in the walls to receive the ashes of the dead.
Pannage: pasturage for pigs, esp in a forest; acorns, beech mast, etc, on which pigs feed.
Sudorific: causing sweat; diaphoretic.
Insifflating: (insufflating?) to blow or breathe (something) in; to breathe upon, especially upon one being baptized or upon the water of baptism.
Canescent: covered with whitish or grayish pubescence, as certain plants.
Barghest: a legendary doglike goblin believed to portend death or misfortune.
Fugitation: Scots law, a judicial declaration of outlawry; the act of fleeing.
Escharotic: producing a scab, especially after a burn
Limmer: chiefly Scottish, scoundrel.

Yes, Mr. Crawford and I are both a little drunk on words. But there’s a story here, too, a plot just as labyrinthine and inscrutable as the conversation and the literary allusions that the characters strew about with merry abandon. And some intriguing characters, especially Mr. Crawford of Lymond himself. If you love Scotland and its history, if you love language, if you’re fond of old-style romantic adventures like The Three Musketeers or The Scarlet Pimpernel, if you like dashing young rakish heroes, medieval conspiracy and intrigue, and literary and philosophical allusions galore, you might very well relish The Game of Kings.

By the way, I wondered throughout the book if the words themselves were actually historically accurate: in other words, could a man living just after the death of Henry VIII in Scotland use all of the words that Crawford of Lymond uses? It would be difficult for a writer of historical fiction to be completely, historically accurate in terms of language, and sadly I figured out that Ms. Dunnett is not. At one point Master Crawford sarcastically tells his brother who is handling his poor, wounded body rather roughly, “I enjoy sadism, too.” Unfortunately, in a strike against historically accurate language, Donatien Alphonse François, Marquis de Sade, from whose name the word “sadism” is taken, didn’t live until the latter half of the eighteenth century. And several of the words that are defined above were dated in the online dictionary as coming into the language after 1600. Oh, well, you can enjoy the inundation of words and story in this novel anyway, without worrying about whether each word or phrase that Francis Crawford of Lymond uses would have actually been available to him. Lymond is a regular Shakespeare: he makes up his own appellations when the common tongue of the time period fails him.

I’m planning to proceed to the reading of the second book in the series, Queen’s Play, just as soon as I can get a copy from the library. It’s about the child, Mary, Queen of Scots, in France, as Lymond of Crawford works to guard Mary’s and Scotland’s interests in the court of French King Henri II and his queen Catherine de’Medici.

The 15th Gift of Christmas in South Africa, 1969-?

From Long Walk to Freedom: The Autobiography of Nelson Mandela:

“What Sundays were to the rest of the week, Christmas was to the rest of the year. It was the one day when the authorities showed any goodwill toward men. We did not have to go to the quarry on Christmas Day, and we were permitted to purchase a small quantity of sweets. We did not have a traditional Christmas meal, but we were given an extra mug of coffee for supper.
The authorities permitted us to organize a concert, hold competitions, and put on a play. The concert was the centerpiece. . . . The concert took place on Christmas morning in the courtyard. We would mix in traditional English Christmas songs with African ones, and include a few protest songs—the authorities did not seem to mind or perhaps know the difference. The warders were our audience, and they enjoyed our singing much as we did.”

Today’s Gifts from Semicolon:
A song: Soweto Gospel Choir sings Amen.

A birthday: Ann Nolan Clark, b.1896, author of Secret of the Andes, a story about a South American Incan boy which won the 1953 Newbery Medal.
Betty Smith, author of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

The 8th Gift of Christmas on Prince Edward Island, c.1877

Christmas morning broke on a beautiful white world. It had been a very mild December and people had looked forward to a green Christmas; but just enough snow fell softly in the night to transfigure Avonlea. Anne peeped out from her frosted gable window with delighted eyes. The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the plowed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious. Anne ran downstairs singing until her voice reechoed through Green Gables.
“Merry Christmas, Marilla! Merry Christmas, Matthew! Isn’t it a lovely Christmas? I’m so glad it’s white. Any other kind of Christmas doesn’t seem real, does it? I don’t like green Christmases. They’re not green– they’re just nasty faded browns and grays. What makes people call them green? Why–why–Matthew, is that for me? Oh, Matthew!”
Matthew had sheepishly unfolded the dress from its paper swathings and held it out with a deprecatory glance at Marilla, who feigned to be contemptuously filling the teapot, but nevertheless watched the scene out of the corner of her eye with a rather interested air.
Anne took the dress and looked at it in reverent silence. Oh, how pretty it was–a lovely soft brown gloria with all the gloss of silk; a skirt with dainty frills and shirrings; a waist elaborately pintucked in the most fashionable way, with a little ruffle of filmy lace at the neck. But the sleeves–they were the crowning glory! Long elbow cuffs, and above them two beautiful puffs divided by rows of shirring and bows of brown-silk ribbon.
“That’s a Christmas present for you, Anne,” said Matthew shyly. “Why–why–Anne, don’t you like it? Well now–well now.”
For Anne’s eyes had suddenly filled with tears.
~Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Today’s Gifts from Semicolon:
A song: Be Still My Soul, music by Jean Sibelius.

A booklist: Feels Like Home: 101 Chapter Books to Read Before You Grow Up.

A birthday: Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, b.1865.

A poem: Jest ‘Fore Christmas by Eugene Field.