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Sunday 11 October 2015

Looking back at a classic: Annie on My Mind

Posted in: Books
By Jacqui Stanford - 22nd July 2014

The death of American writer Nancy Garden came as I was nearing her landmark novel in the collection of ‘get me through winter’ reading I have on my Kindle. It’s been among the treats. The deliciously-worded tale of young lesbian love deserves every inch of the acclaim it’s received.

“I thought about their being two comfortable old shoes and wondered if Annie and I would ever be like that.”

Annie on My Mind was written a year before I was born, and yet its plot is seamlessly timeless – two teenage girls from different walks of life meet at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art on a rainy day.

"It was her eyes I noticed most. They were as black as her hair, and they looked as if there was more behind them than another person could possibly ever know."

There’s fire between Liza Winthrop and Annie Kenyon from the start … they become best friends … then fall in love. They have a lot to figure out in a world without the internet or Ellen – and the reader shares their rocky, sweet journey.

The book’s narrated by Liza, who takes readers back through their story while attempting to write Annie a letter. Evoking an authentically teenage voice, Garden gives the reader heroes and villains, in a novel packed with characters described so dynamically-described they jump out of the pages.

“Often when she was thinking up one of her sardonically icy things to say she’d flip her glasses down onto her bumpy bosom and pinch her nose as if her sinuses hurt her.”

Of course there’s drama, and while the hubbub over their relationship is set in the 80s, most of it could still happen in many places today, with the same mixture of reactions.

The book itself strangely stirred controversy for something which could be pretty much rated PG: ‘contains teenage love’. Yet it was removed from school library shelves – and even burned. In Kansas mind you. And yet, like the books’ young lovers, I’ll just never understand why people get so riled up about something as beautiful as love.


Nancy Garden died at her home in Massachusetts earlier this month. She was 76.

Annie on My Mind has sold more than 100,000 copies and has never been out of print.

Jacqui Stanford - 22nd July 2014

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