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Marilyn Lightstone on Anne of Green Gables, a forbidden book and author Daniel Silva

An avid reader, the Canadian actress and podcaster describes her long association with Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic tale / BY Athena McKenzie / January 15th, 2021


Artist, singer, writer, producer and Genie Award-winning actress Marilyn Lightstone is known for her work on the stage, television and the big screen, particularly for her role as Miss Stacey in the Anne of Green Gables miniseries. The host of The New Classical FM program Nocturne and Vision TV’s Your All Time Classic Hit Parade, the author of the 2001 novel Rogues and Vagabonds brings classic literature to life with dramatic readings in her new podcast, Marilyn Lightstone Reads.

What’s the best book you’ve read this year?

It’s been a rather unusual year for me in the book department. I found it impossible to stay completely away from some of my current favourites such as Lisa See, Kate Quinn, Daniel Silva, Louise Penny, and Karin Slaughter (to name but a few), but the bulk of this past year has been spent in search of the best material for Marilyn Lightstone Reads, my new podcast.

After a perfect blitz of reading, I settled happily on Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre (written in 1847) as my first selection, a book I first read when I was 14, determined as I was then to read ALL of the literary classics. Frankly, I have no memory what I thought of it then, or why, but I certainly do now! The PERFECT first selection for the series! Mystery, drama, intrigue, and – most of all – a fascinating, complex heroine who is also the narrator.

What book can’t you wait to dive into?

Occasionally a title pops up that intrigues me, but I’m really more interested in following the work of my favourite authors, whatever the title.

New authors? I read the book reviews in the weekend paper and if anything looks interesting I’ll check to see if it’s available on my iPad, where I can then actually read a sample. If that finds favour, all it takes is a click or two to make it mine. What’s more, the screen is bright for the older eye and the font size is adjustable so you needn’t wear your reading glasses.

Do I feel guilty about not frequenting bookstores? Yes, I did; terribly at first. But my three neighbourhood bookstores dwindled to one, and when I tried to buy the books whose favourable reviews I had clipped so excitedly, I would frequently be told that it would have to be “special ordered,” with no guarantee as to when it would be delivered. I finally came to the conclusion that it was more important to support the writer than the bookstore. At least, that’s my story…

What book completely changed your perspective?

My mother loved to read as much as I do, though I’m fairly sure that she never ever entered a bookstore. Book clubs were her thing, where you signed on for a certain number of books that were sent to you by mail. She kept them in a small bookcase, which lived in our dining room, so they were perfectly accessible to me. Otherwise, it would have been rather unlikely that a 12 year old would find herself reading Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street or Marcia Davenport’s Valley of Decision.

Still, there was one book that was off limits: Kathleen Winsor’s Forever Amber. It was all about the raunchy court of England’s Charles II, post Cromwell and the Puritans, and – of course – the fact that I was told NOT to read it was the perfect guarantee that I WOULD. We lived with my maternal grandmother, which meant that our household mores were somewhat Victorian. Twelve year olds were not supposed to be exposed to Seduction and Immorality and the illicit pleasures of the flesh (nor was I in real life), but suddenly the world was changed forever!

What’s your favourite book of all time?

To ask a book lover “What’s your favourite book of all time?” is somewhat akin to asking a Mom to name her favourite child. Let me, instead, talk about the book – Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery – that has played a fairly significant role in my life.

Lucy Maud Montgomery

First contact: when I was about 10 or 11. I remember taking the book out of the school library on Friday afternoon, but I still hadn’t finished it by bedtime on Sunday night. So what did I do? Shame on me, I pretended to have a sore throat so that I could stay home from school and finish the book.

Second contact: The Charlottetown Festival and the musical version of Anne in which I played Mrs. Blewitt, the nasty lady with WAY too many children.

Third Contact: The television miniseries in which I played Muriel Stacey, Anne’s beloved teacher.

Fourth Contact: Marilyn Lightstone Reads. What fun to get to play ALL the wonderful characters Lucy Maud Montgomery created!

If you could have dinner with any author, living or dead, who would it be?

Daniel Silva. I am SUCH a fan! Mr. Silva writes political thrillers of which each and every one is a knockout. He is of the genre that uses the same characters in each successive book, so that you are keenly aware not only of what is happening currently, but also what has led the character to that moment in time. (This is an attribute of many of my favourite writers, such as Ian Rankin’s Rebus and Ruth Rendell’s Inspector Wexford.)

His work encompasses and brings to life layers and layers of world politics and intrigues, all of which ring so true that you wonder where and how he gets his information. If you haven’t already discovered him you’re in for a treat, but do remember to read them in the order in which they were written!

 

Photography: Johnny Louis (Silva); Keystone/Getty Images (Winsor); Fine Art Images/Heritage Images/Getty (Lucy Maud Montgomery)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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