Pat of Silver Bush by L. M. Montgomery
Summary: Pat has always loved living at Silver Bush where nothing changes and everything good seems to last. However, from the birth of her baby sister to the wedding and departure of her aunt, things do change. Growing up, Pat comes to learn that no life can remain static or untouched either by tragedy or joy. Fortunately, she always has one constant on which she can rely: the love of her family and friends at Silver Bush. Followed by Mistress Pat.
Review: Montgomery possesses a rare gift for characterization. Pat, her friends, and her relatives spring to life on the page, gloriously three-dimensional in their habits and quirks. Readers will find themselves variously charmed, sympathetic, amused, and incredulous as they experience with Pat the range of personalities that pass through her life. Montgomery, however, never descends to caricature. Even the most annoying or simply outrageous characters seem worthy of understanding or sometimes pity. The book, is above all, a celebration of humanity and its diversity.
Pat herself exemplifies well Montgomery’s care to make each character multi-faceted. She, among all the author’s protagonists, seems the most obsessed and thus potentially the most annoying. Poor Pat loves her home to distraction, loves it so much that she cannot bear to have it changed in any way or to admit it has any flaws. In fact, insulting Silver Bush is the fastest way to ensure Pat will never speak to you again. She actually ends and forms relationships based on how others perceive her home. She seems to throw away happiness at times simply so she will not have to part from it. Readers understand that Pat has a heightened sensitivity to beauty, a passionate nature that loves, at times, too dearly. Even so, her behavior could come across as, at the least, ridiculous.
Montgomery, however, skillfully prevents Pat’s attachment from crossing the line into full-blown obsession, thus alienating readers who wish the girl would get a grip on herself. She shows readers Pat’s romantic side, her superstitious side, her loving side. She shows that Pat is capable of detaching herself at times when she finds it necessary, and gives Pat the humility to admit that she can be wrong, that other places besides her home can hold charm. The audience comes to understand the girl as a full character who is so much more than her love for Silver Bush, even when Pat seems to define herself by that love.
Much of the love readers come to bear for the protagonist stems from Pat’s unabashed love of beauty. She openly admires the world around her in a way that illustrates her true appreciation of it, rather than some attempt to appear deep or spiritual. She never overstates her case for beauty, but simply enjoys it, regardless of whether or not those around her possess the capacity to do the same. This love of beauty spills out into other areas of her life, shows itself in her trusting nature, her open friendship, and her quick ability to read others and thus give them the understanding and love they need most. Most tellingly, though Pat is eager to please and eager to make others feel comfortable, she never sacrifices her sense of self toward either objective.
The thread of superstition and the eerie folk tales sprinkled liberally throughout the book help readers enter Pat’s mind, and world, more fully. Pat begins the book very young, though she will end it old enough to have had her first romance. Thus, she still sees the world as a child, as a place where fantasy and reality meet and overlap, a place where anything can happen. Montgomery dexterously takes her readers into this mindset, makes them see the world as full of wonder and potential. The humorous escapades of Pat and her friends sometimes remind readers of the absurdity also found in childlike belief, but no cynicism mars the book. Rather, the magic (and sometimes pain) of childhood blends seamlessly with the perspective gained by growing up.
Pat of Silver Bush contains so much that makes Montgomery special: a cast of delightful characters, a beautiful P.E.I. setting, and just the right mixture of joy and sorrow. Her characters and stories feel real. Readers will not want to miss this opportunity to become friends with Pat and share with her all that makes life worth living.
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