It’s a shameless shtick, I know, to make a post about green on St. Patrick’s Day. However, I’ve thought about making posts about books with colours in their titles for a long time, so I might as well take advantage of the coincident events to start with books I’ve read with the colour “green” in the title.
How Green Was My Valley by Richard Llewellyn
A book probably most have heard of (or watched the classic 1941 film) and much fewer have read, I picked this up on a whim when I was about thirteen. It’s a beautifully written and atmospheric coming of age story, framed around the main character, Huw, thinking back on his growing up years as he is about to leave his home for good. Set in Wales during the height of its coal mining era, the story movingly portrays family, community, environment, and exploitation under the social and cultural pressures of English government. Huw is a somewhat voyeuristic character, the youngest of a large family watching his older siblings become adults and taking on political and marital responsibilities, before he is able to engage in them himself. The valley may have been green, as Huw thinks looking back, but it was also blackened at intervals with violence, political dissention, religious oppression, mine collapses, and madness.
Greenmantle by John Buchan
The second book in the Richard Hannay series, the Great War is in full tilt and there are rumblings in the east of a mysterious messianic figure called “der grün Mantel.” When British Intelligence intercepts a coded message that could have serious implications for the progress of the war in Eastern Europe, Hannay and several others are recruited to make their separate ways under disguise through Europe to Constantinople. The spy thriller at its best, Buchan delivers clever plots, close-calls, and daring confrontations featuring a variety of characters and backgrounds, with a complex mix of reality and mysticism woven in. I also talked about Greenmantle briefly in this post, and it remains my favourite of the Richard Hannay novels. For a fun fact, there are several characters in other books I’ve read who go by the moniker “Greenmantle”—Colin Greenmantle, trader of supernatural items and cheesy cartoon villain extraordinaire from the Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, and the mysterious and enchanting “lady of the greenmantle” in Redgauntlet by Sir Walter Scott.
Sir Gawain and the Green Knight by Unknown
I feel like I have talked about this at length, but really I mostly complained about the recent film adaptation, so I haven’t even gotten to say my say about the poem. I don’t pretend my longstanding bias in favour of Sir Gawain was first come by especially discerningly on my part, but it was come by honestly, and my subsequent readings about him continue to justify it. Despite unfavourable portrayals in Malory, or indifferent ones in Tennyson, the nephew of King Arthur is a true English hero and paragon of the round table as proven in this poem. When the Green Knight rides into King Arthur’s halls during the Christmas feast, Gawain steps up to defend his king, engaging the wild intruder in a deadly game. When Gawain embarks upon the journey to meet the Green Knight in a return engagement the next Christmas, he faces the doom of certain death awaiting him—if exposure in the wilds and the temptations of a strange castle don’t defeat him first. This trial of honour also tries his chivalric courtesy and his spiritual stature, both of which he prides himself on. There is subversion, trickery, and of course the rule of threes throughout Sir Gawain’s legendary faceoff with the uncanny Green Knight and the alluring inhabitants of an enchanted castle.
Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier
It’s been a while since I read this, the final book in the Precious Stone trilogy by Kerstin Gier. It is a time-travel narrative, with pairs of time-travellers emerging in certain generations from these two families. The main character, Gwen, turns out to be one of her generation’s time-travellers, when everyone thought it was going to be her cousin. Which would be fine, except that her cousin has been the one groomed for the role for years, including getting to know her male counterpart from the other family, Gideon. When it turns out to be Gwen, she is woefully unprepared, not to mention she kind of hates Gideon’s guts, who is suddenly interested in her now that she’s the “one.” Cue romantic tension. I talked about liking the time-travel paradigm set up in this series in another post; the concept was well-executed and the plot was one that kept me interested, making me think this series deserves to be more well known. There are ghosts, gargoyles, time-travelling duels, and a costumier that Karolina Żebrowska’s hilarious sketch, the time travel agency seamstress, reminded me of.
Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Is there anything quite as charming as this novel of childhood days in idyllic Avonlea? Is there any enemies to friends to lovers quite as satisfying as that of Gilbert Blythe and Anne Shirley? Is there any found family quite as heartwarming as that of Marilla and Matthew? Any fictional friend as supportive as Diana Barry? I don’t know how you feel about this iconic redhead, but I can’t think of Anne of Green Gables without a whelm of nostalgia, generously mixed with images from the classic 1985 Sullivan mini-series. The longer I think back on this book, the more I think I should re-read the whole series. Full of pithy wisdom, melodramatic scrapes, and the wholesome love of family, the invention of the orphan Anne and her coming to Green Gables is one that has delighted over a century’s worth of readers.
And that is it for my St. Paddy’s post of “green” books. Have you read any books with green in the title? Comment below.
3 thoughts on “5 Books With “Green” in Their Titles”
Relieved to learn I’m not the only person who hated the recent film adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight! My objections aren’t nearly so well researched – just that it was so relentlessly grey, not vigorous and green like the original Middle English poem. Simon Armitage’s modern verse rendition is superb, though, and I love Iris Murdoch’s novel The Green Knight.
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It was on the dreary side, now that you mention it. From what I’ve read everybody is crazy for the mustard yellow cloak thing, but one pop of colour does not a Sir Gawain and the Green Knight adaptation make—and it wasn’t even green!
While I have read a more modern language adaptation of the original poem, I don’t think I’ve read Simon Armitage’s—I will have to put it on my list along with the Tolkien one.
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