(She could be Anne-with-an-e except she’s no orphan. She’s the cherished youngest.)
HOW did I make it through my youth without reading Anne of Green Gables? There is no explanation. I first met Anne Shirley after I was married. I gasped at the nonstop sentence of Anne talking to Matthew Cuthbert on the way from the train station. A while later I read Anne of Avonlea; I birthed sons, abandoned Anne, and started reading Henty.
Each year I pick an author and read as much of his/her work as possible. My default would be to hunt down every last novel, bibliography and online essay. But I’m trying to get over my compulsive tendencies. Last year, I read through Carol Ryrie Brink of Caddie Woodlawn fame.
So this is my summer of Lucy Maud, my summer of Anne, my summer of Rilla, my summer of Emily. [Yes, I’m holding on to summer until September 21!] I’ve read print books and Kindle; I’ve listened to dramatized versions and I’ve listened to the 147 short stories on Librivox. I could only listen to a few at a time in order to keep my nostalgic blood sugar from spiking.
There are recurring motifs in Montgomery’s work: the shape of noses; imaginations; emotionally isolated orphans; friendships; cold and impregnable aunts, a high view of education; music; words; books; flowers; the ocean. Lucy Maud’s characters share a palpable yearning, an intense desire to be wanted, to belong.
Reading through Montgomery’s work, one would think the mortality rate of birthing mothers to be 90%. Mothers aren’t the only thing missing in this fiction. Strong fathers—strong men— are on the endangered list. Fathers are either absent, dying, or overseas. I had hoped that Gilbert Blythe might be the exception in Rilla of Ingleside; alas, he is the absent father caring for distant patients.
What about Matthew Cuthbert? Matthew is sweet, Matthew is empathetic, but I wouldn’t call him strong in the masculine sense. In my mind I’ve been kicking around the matriarchal nature of most of the households in these stories. And wondering how that colors the narrative.
Who stood out in my mind?
I loved the harum-scarum Meredith family (in Rainbow Valley) headed by the absent-minded widower, the Rev. John Knox Meredith. The descriptions of a brood of lively siblings in a motherless house rang true to my experience in such a family. But it could not be denied that there was something very homelike and lovable about the Glen St. Mary manse in spite of its untidiness.
It goes without saying that I love Anne. I was drawn to Rilla, the youngest Blythe who discovers she has gumption and at fifteen raises a war-baby. Emily was endearing, an aspiring writer whose coping mechanism of thinking how she would write the scene got her through many tongue lashings.
The short stories are not Chekhov. I’ve come to the conclusion that the short story is the one of the most difficult genres. A few of her good ones make it word-for-word into one of her novels.
I have more thoughts. I will corral them and sort them into categories. And sift through the heaping pile of quotes I’ve highlighted. It has been a fun reading summer. And there are still more books to read!
I thought I’d read all of L. M. Montgomery, but your description of Rainbow Valley makes me think I might have missed that one. I enjoyed this post.
I, too, only found Anne after I was married with children. (Homeschooling opened up so many things to my deprived mind!) I remember back in the late 80s reading the first Anne book late into each night, often with teary eyes. Then I read all of the Annes, and Rilla. I think I may have missed Rainbow Valley though I remember we had the book. During our trip to PEI this month, I picked up the Emily books. (Wouldn’t it be the real deal for some of us to have a several-day-visit to PEI, stay in one of the waterfront cottages, and enjoy our friendship?)
So much of Lucy Maud’s real life comes out in her writings, so there’s reason for the lack of strong fathers and mothers.
Oh, and I’ve always referred to her as “Lucy Maud” too; glad to see that you fondly do that!
I required my 8th graders, boys and girls, to read the first book. Oh, they groaned and groaned. But, as I promised them, Anne would grow on them. And she did. Often I would introduce the book through the audio of the first chapter. And every. single. time. the students would say, “Does she EVER stop talking?!?”
I so enjoyed this post, and I’m looking forward to the next one! 🙂
Thanks, Janie! The writer in my loved the writer in Emily. She will delight you.
A very lovely look at this special author. I read the first two Anne books as a girl, then finished that series when my kiddos were young. My mother joined me at that time and we shared books back and forth. Anne was a brand new friend to her!
Eventually my parents took a holiday to PEI; mom was in her glory!
The Blue Castle is on my shelf at home – I think its high time that I picked it up and dived in 🙂 thanks for the nudge.
I haven’t read The Blue Castle yet. Part of me, the obsessive girl, wants to scout out every title and read until I can say I’ve read it all. But I’m ready for some nonfiction now.
Such an enticing idea—to take one author and read everything, everything! But I have and see so many enticing ideas: read all of the Newbery Award books, read biographies of all of the US presidents, read nonfiction for the Cybils awards, read through the picture book shelves at my local library, 1001 Books you must Read before you Die, etc. So many reading projects, so little time.
Sherry, we often think alike. My friend was once a librarian; she encountered a patron who was reading a biography of every president. I was intrigued. And between David McCullough and Stephen Ambrose, I’ve made a start.
But the side of me that is pulling for happy moderation (in all of my life) (instead of all-or-nothing) tells me that some of those presidents aren’t worthy of a book. Do we need to know more about Rutherford Hayes?
The time factor is crowding me a bit these days.
I’ve enjoyed the quote you’ve share don FB. I have actually never read her writing.
Thanks, Caroline. She surely writes quotable lines.
I enjoyed reading this! I did a long paper on LMM many years ago now for a graduate English class.
Your Anne look alike is a cutie!
Oh, and I love those Merediths, too, and Rilla!
My DH and I visited PEI on our honeymoon.
Amy, you have inspired me more than once to pick up L.M. Montgomery. I remember reading your posts about your honeymoon.
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