L. M. Montgomery Read-Along Wrap-Up

Today is the last day of the L. M. Montgomery Read-Along here at Pages Unbound! If you missed any of our posts, you can check them out below! Also make sure to visit the first link to find a list of all those bloggers who participated and posted their own Montgomery reviews! We hope you had fun!

Pat of Silver Bush by L. M. Montgomery

Goodreads: Pat of Silver Bush
Series: Pat #1

Summary: Pat has always loved living at Silver Bush where nothing changes and everything good seems to lastHowever, 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.

Published: 1933

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Film Review: Road to Avonlea

Road to Avonlea is a television series produced by Sullivan Films that ran from 1990-1996. It ran for seven seasons and is adapted from L. M. Montgomery’s books Anne of Green Gables, The Story Girl, The Golden Road, Chronicles of Avonlea, and Further Chronicles of Avonlea.

This review is based on the first three episodes of Season 1: “The Journey Begins,” “The Story Girl Earns Her Name,” and “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s.”

Review: As a disclaimer, I love Kevin Sullivan’s Anne of Green Gables.  Megan Follows will always have a spot in my heart as Anne Shirley, and the interpretation of Avonlea was perfect.  Unfortunately, Road to Avonlea does not live up to its standards.

In the first place, I must admit I am somewhat discomfited by the thought of combining so many of Montgomery’s books into a single storyline.  I can be somewhat of a purist, particularly when it comes to authors I love, and sticking Anne of Green Gables into The Story Girl makes me want to start screaming about sacrilege.  (And it makes even less sense to me when I consider that Sullivan had, in fact, already done Anne.)  Mixing in Chronicles of Avonlea is lesser crime, since the book is really composed of short stories that I suppose could, in fact, have happened somewhere around Sara Stanley, and I am not really as invested in those characters as I am in Anne.

The main problem, however, is that Road to Avonlea does not calm many of my fears.  If the series were absolutely beautiful, I might be first in line to extol a show that managed to give life to some short stories that might not otherwise have had the chance.  But I don’t find it beautiful—at least not these first three episodes.  In fact, I found myself watching in a sort of fascinated horror at the poor acting, stuck somewhere between laughing and wanting to cry. This is not what I want to feel when watching Montgomery’s tales.

The essence of the show is still endearing (It would be extremely difficult to deprive Montgomery’s work of all its heart.)  “The Story Girl Earns Her Name” gives forth a particularly warm and fuzzy feeling as viewers watch Sara draw the awkwardly shy Jaspar Dale out of his shell and into the Avonlea community.  Here, Sara truly displays her magic.

It is also a pleasant surprise to see Colleen Dewhurst reprise her role as Marillia Cuthbert.  Even if I find her grumpiness a bit out of character (Anne is supposed to have mellowed her by this point!), it is always good to see a friend in an unexpected place. Mrs. Rachel Lynde, played by Patricia Hamilton, is also back for some uncharacteristic escapades.

I do not believe Road to Avonlea would be a fantastic introduction to Avonlea due to the quality of the actors, but it can still be pure fun for those already in love with the town and its inhabitants.  I will be watching more episodes, which is always a good sign!

Guest Review: Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Today’s guest review is by Kathy! Kathy enjoys reading and is currently studying elementary and special education.

Goodreads: Before Green Gables

Review:  Written as a prequel to the much beloved Anne of Green Gables series, Before Green Gables tells the untold story of Anne Shirley prior to her arrival at her beloved home on Prince Edward Island.  Beginning with Anne’s newlywed parents and following her life through her residences with both the Thomases and the Hammonds, this novel reveals to readers the numerous details about Anne’s early days.  Fans of Anne of Green Gables will be enchanted when reading about the various circumstances Anne talked about in her books, such as chatting with her dear friend, Katie Maurice, gaining her desire for “bosom friends,” caring for three sets of twins, and saving one of the Thomas boys from the croup.  Readers learn the origins of her rich, amusing vocabulary, such as “the depths of despair”.  Even details such as her mother’s love of poetry and her father’s ironic love of geometry will entertain fans as they come to know their beloved character on a much deeper level.

While the Anne of Green Gables series is geared towards children, Before Green Gables is written as an adult novel.  Budge Wilson does not sugarcoat the extent of Anne’s hardships, including encounters with death, poverty, sickness, alcoholism, and the lack of freedom to be a child.  However, what continues to be so inspiring about the character of Anne Shirley is her ability to employ her keen imagination, which allows her spirit to remain innocent while escaping her crumbling world.  Anne is no stranger to heartache, as this novel clearly portrays; nevertheless, Anne never succumbs to “the depths of despair” and continues to find hope and joy in the simplest of things.

I recommend this book to all who wish to gain a greater understanding of one of the most beloved heroines of all time, as well as to all who need a bit of inspiration in their lives.  Read Before Green Gables, and you will be sure to have gained a “bosom friend.”

Published: 2008

The Alpine Path by L. M. Montgomery

Goodreads: The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career

Summary:  The story of the first half of Montgomery’s career, first serialized for a women’s magazine in 1917.

ReviewThe Alpine Path, though autobiographical, is just as charming a story as Montgomery’s novels.  She writes in a confidential tone, sharing her secrets, struggles, and dreams with her readers as though they are her friends.  Peeping through her words is a little of Anne Shirley, clear in the way Montgomery thinks and enjoys life.  She admits that she loved to name places as much as her most-famous character, such as the “Lake of Shining Waters.”

Montgomery reveals that many of events in her books were inspired by real events.  A liniment-flavored cake was real, though she was not the one who baked it!  She makes sure to specify whether the events made it into Anne, Emily, The Story Girl, or another one of her works, so readers can find them and laugh all over again if they would like.  Her own life is just as interesting as her fiction and would have made its own delightful novel!

Also evident in her personality are sparks of Emily, in the determined way she approached and pursued her career as a writer.  But she looks beyond her own success and offers encouraging words and advice for other potential writers in describing her failures, joys, and methods.  Montgomery is clearly a writer who loved writing for the sake of art.  She admits that at one point it had never occurred to her she would be paid for her work; she wanted only to see it in print and have others see it, as well.  That spirit, even halfway through her career, seems not to have died, which is probably why all her books, including this one, are so charming and full of life.

Published: 1984

Kilmeny of the Orchard by L. M. Montgomery

Goodreads: Kilmeny of the Orchard

Summary: When twenty-four-year-old Eric Marshall learns that his friend Larry West has fallen ill, he decides to spend his first few months after college filling in for him as a small-town schoolmaster on Prince Edward Island.  On the Island, his uneventful days filled with Greek, mathematics, and painfully well-behaved students suddenly become more interesting when he stumbles upon the lovely and mysterious Kilmeny Gordon, a mute girl with a shadowed past who spends her evenings playing the violin in an abandoned orchard.

Review: Kilmeny of the Orchard has the feeling of a gentle, drawn-out fairy tale.  Amidst the beautifully-described landscape of Prince Edward Island in spring, a handsome, intelligent young man has his one moment of romantic fancy when he finds the beautiful Kilmeny half-hidden in an orchard.  Kilmeny for her part plays the maiden quietly in distress, needing to be saved without even knowing it.  Innocent and childlike, her sheltered life makes her seem much younger than her eighteen years.  But her beauty, her musical talent, and the intelligence in her eyes hint at the woman she is becoming.  The romance that unfolds between the two is sweet and gentle – full of flowers, music, and hints of self-sacrifice.

Because Kilmeny is short – one version comes to 134 pages – the plot is relatively focused and straightforward. The fact that Eric teaches during the day provides little more than an excuse for him to be staying on the Island.  None of that experience is described in detail.  Likewise, the reader sees little of Kilmeny on her own or with her family when Eric is not around.  The cast of characters is relatively small, and while they are endearing enough, there is not room to describe them in much depth.  While Eric and Kilmeny have histories and distinct personalities, the development of their characters, especially how they change each other, seems a little more abrupt than this reader would have liked.

Kilmeny is a sweet, simple story with a dreamlike quality Montgomery emphasizes with her descriptions of the enchanting landscape and her reference to castles in the air.  It left this reader with the feeling that there was more to the story, but also the desire to hear the rest if that were truly the case.

Published: 1910

Magic for Marigold by L. M. Montgomery

Goodreads: Magic for Marigold

Summary: Marigold Lesley grew up at Cloud of Spruce painting the world with her imagination.  Though strong personalities pass into and out of her life—including a real princess—Marigold always returns to her imaginary friend Sylvia.  Together the two of them roam over the hill and through the orchard, reveling in the beauty all around them.  Marigold’s belief in magic sustains her through all the trials of childhood, including having to spend the night away from home, deal with mean-spirited girls at school, and accept the loss of loved ones.

Review: Magic for Marigold breathes with an enchantment all its own, inviting readers to enter again the realm of childhood where wonder and terror exist side-by-side and the world always seems startlingly new.  It celebrates the power of the imagination and challenges the audience to leave behind any cynicism they may have acquired in the belief that doing so constituted “growing up”.  Marigold’s innocent delight in life proves contagious and her joy shouts across the pages, searching for those kindred spirits ready to join her and embrace the present with open arms.

Much of the book’s power stems from its juxtaposition of the real with the fantastic.  Though Marigold lives in a magical world with a friend only she can see, she still must face the trials, joys, and occasional boredom of everyday life.  Like most children, she gets in trouble for misbehaving, suffers embarrassment before her peers, and faces unspeakable terrors such as the large dog that lives on the way to school.  These incidents, seemingly all too close to the readers’ own experiences, highlight the wonder and beauty Marigold perceives all around her. They remind readers that, though they may consider their lives mundane, they, too, are surrounded by such magic, if only they care to look.

Montgomery’s perceptive understanding of human nature and its desire for beauty shines through in this charming novel.  Though Marigold may not have passed into the literary imagination in the same way as Anne Shirley, she shares with that heroine a passionate love for life that she transmits through her own decision to live and love boldly, even when it hurts.  Reading her story simply makes the world feel right.

Published: 1929

Quiz: Which Montgomery Heroine Are You?

Keep track of how many times you answer each letter, then calculate the total to find out which of L. M. Montgomery’s characters matches your personality!  Feel free to comment below or to grab a button at the end to let others know your results!

1. You discover a staircase.  It
a. is an old winding stone staircase that goes down in the dark
b. is sheltered by plants and winds on through secret ways
c. is a grand, sweeping marble staircase
d. is made of glass and diamond, and leads up to the stars
e. is made of stone and a rivulet runs down it

2. You see a cat.  He/she
a. has nothing on a friendly, lovable dog!
b. is delightfully mysterious and uncanny
c. is so dear and fluffy!
d. is maddeningly unconcerned and superior
e. is a friend

3. You live next to water.  It is
a. a friendly rivulet.
b. the ocean, unendingly vast and blue
c. a brook, the home of naiads
d. a laughing stream
e. a beautiful lake

4. You hear a call.  It is
a. a shout
b. a whistle
c. a clarion call
d. a motor horn
e. a bird call

5. Your window
a. gives character to your house
b. opens up to the stars
c. looks upon a beautiful landscape
d. has a window seat
e. is large and opens up to the sunrise

6. Your great quality is
a. your steadfast friendship
b. your perseverance
c. your ability to see the magic in everything
d. your ability to grow
e. your ability to see the good in others

7. You choose a book from a shelf.  It
a. has a lock that must be opened with a locket
b. has a cover intricately wrought in silver
c. is leather with a large silver clasp
d. has a cover with pressed flowers
e. is made of leather and leaves, and has vines twisting around it

8. What do you dream?
a. You are dancing beneath the stars.
b. You are travelling with the wind.
c. You are speaking with the trees.
d. The moonlight is raining down upon you.
e. You can converse with the animals.

9. You dream of going
a. nowhere–you love the comfort of home
b. to lands where ancient peoples walked
c. to lands of mystery, refinement, and grandeur
d. down an unending road, the wind in your hair, the sunset before you..
e. into nature

10. When you write letters, they tend to be
a. sweet and simple
b. descriptive
c. rambly and full of news
d. perky and full of gossip
e. precise

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Guest Post: The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery

Denise, today’s guest reviewer, is an avid reader and is currently studying library science.

Goodreads: The Story Girl
Series: The Story Girl #1

Summary: Beverley and Felix King have never been to the place that their father grew up, though they have visited time and time again through their father’s tales. Then one summer they are sent to live with their cousins and soon find themselves immersed in the stories in a way only the Story Girl could manage, stories of childhood, family and friendship – a bonding of past, present, and future remembered and retold with the unabashed delight of a child.

Review: Sara Stanley, or the Story Girl as she is known throughout the small town of Carlisle, has been described as “L.M. Montgomery’s most enchanting heroine since Anne of Green Gables,” high praise as any Montgomery devotee knows. And indeed, there is much in the character of the Story Girl that recalls Anne Shirley – from her love of romanticizing and telling stories to her stubborn temper and her preference for dramatic penance. Indeed, The Story Girl could very well be the story of Anne’s childhood had she a family to go to when her parents died, though the Story Girl’s father, at least, is alive and well despite his lack of physical presence in the novel.

In a similar stylistic choice to that of Anne of Green Gables, the story is told through a series of vignettes, held together by the simplicity of time passing as it is wont to do. Structuring the novel this way allows Montgomery to highlight the beauty and fascination that the everyday – the mundane to some – can hold if we but let it. The story is undoubtedly about the Story Girl, but it is told from neither her point of view nor that of an omniscient narrator. Instead, Montgomery chooses Beverely King to be her narrator, an adolescent boy captivated by the world he discovers in Carlisle. Undoubtedly this was a deliberate stylistic decision, perhaps to further differentiate Sara from Anne. At one point in the novel, though, Sara expresses a preference for using spoken word to tell stories for she is much more eloquent that way as opposed to her attempts at writing, so perhaps this decision was an attempt to stay consistent with the character of the Story Girl. Choosing Beverely as her voice also places the reader in the position of experiencing the story from a perspective lodged between the fascination of childhood and the acknowledgement of the adult, a perspective that would have been much more difficult, if not impossible, to have established through an omniscient viewpoint. This was the first Montgomery novel that I have read in which a boy is narrating, though to be quite honest, the story felt no different from others written from a feminine viewpoint.

All in all, The Story Girl is a brilliant work in its own right and brings to its reader an appreciation of the slowness and simplicity of a time past, easily overlooked in a society like ours today. It reminds readers to take time to enjoy the daily pleasures and laugh at the daily tragedies, to be present in a life only too willing to propel us forward at the risk of being left behind.

Published: 1911