Review: ‘Cottagecore’ – Books from the past to read this spring


Kalyani Rao

A classic collection of short stories written by L.M. Montgomery, “Along the Shore” was published after her death in 1990. This collection connects stories of characters whose first love is ultimately the ocean. In it, Montgomery captures the haunting beauty and drama of living on Prince Edward Island surrounded by the sea.

With March 20 marking the formal beginning of spring, the season of picnics, sundresses, beach trips and all things spring has started. All of these books from the past have in common beautifully described nature scenes, “cottagecore” style activities, baking, going on vacations and gloriously old-fashioned dialogue to inspire readers and spring-lovers.

“Anne of Green Gables” by L.M. Montgomery

A well-known novel from 1908, “Anne of Green Gables” is a book appropriate for both teenagers and adults.

“Anne of Green Gables” tells the story of the adventurous and romance-loving Anne, a neglected yet hopeful orphan with a dreary past. Middle-aged siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert live in a beautiful old house nicknamed “Green Gables” in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. Sending for an orphan boy to help with the household chores, the two are shocked when Matthew finds Anne waiting for him at the train station. Although initially firm in their decision to send her back, Anne’s curious nature and sweet personality win over Matthew, and, eventually, Marilla. “Anne of Green Gables” follows Anne’s adventures and mishaps as she adjusts to life at Green Gables, with her close friend Diana Barry and nemesis Gilbert Blythe determined to win over her heart.

Filled with refreshing and moving descriptions of Prince Edward Island, Canada, popular film adaptations have taken the story of Anne’s life and transformed it into movies and TV shows. Although I personally think that the 2017-2019 tv series “Anne with an E” did not do Montgomery’s storytelling justice, the 1985 film adaptation of “Anne of Green Gables” did a spectacular job of retaining the charm and wit Montgomery gave her classic characters, as well as the depictions of early 1900s fashion, hairstyles and attitudes.

“Northanger Abbey” by Jane Austen

Published in 1817, “Northanger Abbey” is a British coming-of-age novel written by Jane Austen, the author of the renowned classic “Pride and Prejudice.” It centers Catherine Morland, a naive and refreshing 17-year-old protagonist, and her adjusting views of the world around her as she leads herself into mishaps due to her excessive love of Gothic and mystery novels, in a time period where novels in general were regarded as a foolish pastime for women.

Catherine is invited by the Allens, neighbors of the Morland family, to spend time in Bath – the largest city in Somerset, England – with them. Populated by the fashionable and tasteful elite class of England, Bath holds in store many adventures for Catherine, as she meets the dashing and witty male protagonist, Henry Tilney, and ambitious Isabella Thorpe. Betrayals, a mysterious old Abbey and the wealthy socialites of Bath await Catherine, as her overactive imagination leads her into scrapes – although the novel does conclude with a happy ending.

Northanger Abbey, the Gothic monastery that the wealthy Tilney family occupies, is the source of both happiness and curiosity from Catherine. Descriptions of beautifully ornate furniture, gilded staircases, afternoon tea, painstakingly maintained gardens and outdoor walks take up a good portion of the book. This novel will leave you with a greater love for the opulence of the past.

“Envelope Poems” by Emily Dickinson

Emily Dickinson, female American poet (1830–1886), published less than 12 poems in her lifetime of the 1800 written works discovered after her lifetime. “Envelope Poems” is a compilation of the many pieces of her poetry that were discovered in letters to acquaintances, friends, lovers and family. Many of the poems were written directly inside of the envelopes, hence the name “Envelope Poems.” Although little-known during her lifetime, Dickinson is now regarded as one of the greatest American poets of all time.

She suffered from iritis, an inflammation of the fine muscles of the eye. For Dickinson, who feared blindness, prolongation of this illness was agonizing in ways beyond the physical. During the time of her confinement in dimly-lit rooms to heal her eyesight, Dickinson wrote letters by candlelight. She referred to this pastime, describing her situation with this metaphor: “I work in my prison, and make Guests [poems] for myself”. 

Isolated and naturally withdrawn, Dickinson’s poems reflect the fiery nature that she concealed from others. Her poems give readers an insight into the everyday life of a middle-class woman in the mid 19th century, along with the trials that came with being a woman.

“Along the Shore” by L.M. Montgomery

Along the Shore” by L.M. Montgomery takes a different approach to nature than her previous series centering around the town of Avonlea, with its thick, lush forests and essentially “cottagecore” small-town vibes.

A collection of short stories written by Montgomery, “Along the Shore” was published after her death in 1990. Instead of the focus on the beauty of an in-land town, this collection connects stories of characters whose first love is ultimately the ocean. L. M. Montgomery captures the haunting beauty and drama of living on Prince Edward Island surrounded by the sea. Growing up near the ocean herself, Montgomery’s life-long love of Prince Edward Island’s sea influences her heart-wrenching descriptions of characters irresistibly drawn to the same mysterious waters she was. Her illustrative and engaging story-telling abilities, equally present in “Anne of Green Gables,” draw readers in like no other.

“The Complete Brambly Hedge” by Jill Barklem

For a humorous, sweet, and simple read, look no further. A more recent book to conclude this list, “The Complete Brambly Hedge” is a classic collection of picture books written and illustrated by Jill Barklem. The much-loved “Brambly Hedge” mice, the main characters of this novel, first made their entrance in 1980 when four seasonal stories were published. Readers can explore the sweetly illustrated miniature hedgerow world and meet the families who make their homes there. Jill Barklem’s warm, traditionally styled illustrations are richly detailed, romantic and touching, and appeal to readers of any age.