Anne of Windy Poplars by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Windy PoplarsINFORMATION

Goodreads: Anne of Windy Poplars
Series: Anne #4
Source: Library
Published: 1936

SUMMARY

While Gilbert goes to medical school Anne accepts an appointment as principal at Summerside High School.  Unfortunately, the Pringles determine the social status of all newcomers and they have a grudge against Anne.  At least she’s found herself a second home at Windy Poplars where she boards with two widows and their housekeeper Rebecca Dew.  Anne takes on life’s latest challenge with her trademark spirit and determination.

Review

When I think of L. M. Montgomery, I think of beautiful landscapes and quirky characters.  In this installment of the Anne series, the titular character finds herself in a new town–apparently peopled by some of the quirkiest individuals yet!   Though some readers may pine away for the absent Gilbert, I found the time passing pleasantly with all the new people and places Anne has to meet.

Each new chapter seems a study in human nature. Here we have the proud but lonely Miss Minerva, who delights in retelling family tragedies and reminding others of the family curse.  The annoying Aunt Mouser, determined to find something wrong with everything.  The dramatic Hazel, believing herself always in the heights of delight or the depths of despair.  Vivildly-drawn characters fill the pages as Anne proceeds through a series of amusing vignettes.  Only Anne knows how to find herself in such humorous predicaments!

The nicest thing about this book, however, is how good Anne is.  Everyone loves her.  She’s kind, refrains from malicious gossip, always tries to be honest, and is universally beloved.  And she’s not a bit dull, despite what some say about good characters!  On the contrary, Anne’s goodness makes me want to spend more time with her.  She makes life seem pleasant and beautiful, even though it has its dark moments.  And a book that makes life beautiful is a book worth reading.

5 starsKrysta 64

Personality Quiz: Which of Anne Shirley’s Friends Are You?

anne-personality-quiz-min

Directions

Count how many times you answer “a,” “b,” “c,” “d,” or “e” below to find out which of Anne Shirley’s friends has a personality that matches yours! Be sure to share your results with us in the comments!  If you like this quiz, you can also find out which L.M. Montgomery heroine you are most like or which L.M. Montgomery man should be yours.

The Quiz

1. What kind of flower are you?
a. golden narcissus
b. red rose
c. apple blossom
d. violet
e. tulip

2. What sounds most appealing for a weekend plan?
a. a ramble through the woods
b. sharing secrets with your friends
c. catching up on your work
d. sitting on the porch
e. attending a party

3. In the future you dream of
a. having a thrilling career
b. marrying your one true love
c. moving to a new location
d. making a small difference just where you are
e. being surrounded by friends and admirers

4. In your group of friends you are
a. the dreamer
b. the practical one
c. the organizer
d. the quiet one
e. the social butterfly

5. Which would you like most for a pet?
a. a horse
b. a cat
c. a dog
d. a rabbit
e. a bird

6. What is your favorite genre?
a. fantasy
b. drama
c. historical fiction
d. nonfiction
e. romance

7. Which word most appeals to you?
a. gossamer
b. buttercup
c. honor
d. lily
e. love

8. How would others describe you?
a. ambitious
b. supportive
c. hardworking
d. a good listener
e. friendly

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The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery (Mini Review)

Blue Castle


Blue CastleInformation

Goodreads: The Blue Castle
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1926

Summary

When Valancy Stirling learns she only has a year to live, she throws caution to the wind.  Instead of abiding by Stirling standards of decency and decorum, she’s going to do what she want and enjoy every moment she has left, even if that involves courting one of the most disreputable men in the neighborhood.

Review

I don’t think I’ve read The Blue Castle since I was a child, so revisiting it as an adult was interesting.  The book is considered to be one of two novels Montgomery wrote specifically for adults, along with A Tangled Web.  While I’m not sure what this would have meant to Montgomery–how she personally distinguished between writing for adults and writing for children–I do think The Blue Castle is more bittersweet than some of her other work.  As a child I mostly saw the happy points of the novel; now I see all the things Valancy doesn’t get, as well.

Put another way, I see all the complicated social ties Montgomery weaves together with her characteristic skill.  Valancy may want to eschew social expectations–and in many ways she does successfully.  I will always relate to her desire to wait to clean a room until it looks dirty, and cleaning will make a difference.  However, I can see now the things she’s giving up, though whether those things have value, I think, is nicely open to debate.  Montgomery is rather cynical about the Stirlings and their ways.  As a child, I mostly just found them ridiculous.  Now I find them sad.

However, the bulk of the book is, of course, beautiful Montgomery romance, and I loved every minute of that, as well.  It’s not Montgomery’s standard fare–childhood friends realize they have affection for each other–and I appreciate the uniqueness.  Unexpected things happen in The Blue Castle, and it’s wonderful.  I’ll definitely continue to reread this in years to come.

4 stars Briana

Kilmeny of the Orchard by L. M. Montgomery

Kilmeny of the OrchardInformation

Goodreads: Kilmeny of the Orchard
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1910

Official Summary

To the small village of Lindsay on Prince Edward Island comes Eric Marshall, a twenty-four-year-old substitute schoolmaster. Dark and handsome, the son of a wealthy merchant, Eric has a bright future in the family business and has taken the two-month teaching post only as a favor to a friend.

Then fate, which has been more than generous to Eric, throws in his path a beautiful, mysterious girl named Kilmeny Gordon. With jet-black hair and the face of a Renaissance Madonna, Kilmeny immediately captures the young man’s heart. But she is mute and cannot speak, and Eric is concerned for and bewitched by this shy, sensitive, blue-eyed girl.

For the first time in his life, Eric must work hard for something he wants badly. And there is nothing he wants more than for Kilmeny to return his love.

Review

Kilmeny of the Orchard is one of those charming stories by L. M. Montgomery that is often overlooked simply because Anne is more popular.  However, with protagonists who are fully adults and a male POV, Kilmeny has a lot to offer readers that Anne, Emily, and Pat cannot.

The story follows the quest of a young man with a bright future who suddenly finds himself captivated by a young woman who seems completely off-limits.  Practically no one in Lindsay has met her, and her guardians are not interested in having her wooed.  Complicating matters further, a foster brother seems to have laid claims on Kilmeny himself.  This book is really all about the romance, which is perfect for readers who love when Montgomery gets romantic but don’t want to wait for her protagonists to take three books to grow up before they can even start courting.

Kilmeny does show its age more than some of Montgomery’s other stories, something that didn’t strike me when I read this book as a child but which certainly stood out to me on this reading.  For one thing, there’s a character who’s inherently suspicious simply because he’s a foreigner, Italian.  It doesn’t matter he was raised on the Island since he was an infant by a Canadian and never even met his biological parents; nature over nurture counts at the turn of the nineteenth century.

The representation of Kilmeny and the relationship between her and Eric also reads as a little dated.  Eric is 24 and Kilmeny 18, and Eric is completely captivated by how charmingly innocent Kilmeny is (partially due to her isolated upbringing, not just her age).  Montgomery does make sure Kilmeny has a transformation where she goes from girl to woman before the romance gets too far, but I think the obsession with teaching the innocent young maiden the ways of love is a fantasy that read better for Montgomery’s audience than it might today.  That said, I think even modern readers who feel their lives are a little dull will love the other part of the fantasy–that love simply walked into Kilmeny’s life when she was least expecting it. Very sweet.

Mixing romance. history, and a touch of the Gothic, Kilmeny of the Orchard is an enchanting story sure to appeal to Montgomery fans and readers who adore old-fashioned love stories.

5 Stars Briana

Mistress Pat by L. M. Montgomery

Mistress PatInformation

Goodreads: Mistress Pat
Series: Pat of Silver Bush #2
Source: Borrowed
Publication Date: 1935

Summary

Pat Gardener wishes nothing would ever change, but life goes on even at Silver Bush, where Judy thinks of visiting her friends across the sea, a new family moves into Bets’ old house, and Cuddles suddenly blooms into a woman.  Pat writes about it all to her best friend Hilary Gordon—the tall tales of the new farmhand, the unexpected visit from nobility, and the new additions to her family.  But though she insists that Hilary is nothing more than a friend, she never can bear to tell him about the suitors who come calling for her.  The sequel to Pat of Silver Bush.

Review

Every time I reread a Montgomery book I marvel anew at her ability to depict such rich characters and to draw me into their lives.  Her stories contain no plots like the ones we might today expect–there are no mysteries to be solved, no quests to fulfill, not even a journey to take.  She simply chronicles the everyday happenings of a household and, in doing so, opens our eyes to the beauty and the wonder that surround us all.  Even when depicting sorrow and pain, her books seem to offer comfort and hope, reminding us of that great message “You are not alone.”  Her stories are like no others I know and they remain elusive when I attempt to pinpoint their unique quality.  There’s just something about them, like a warm home or a good friend.  They are simply right.

Mistress Pat, of course, is no exception, though is some ways I see it as darker or at least a little sadder than some of her other works.  Oh, of course, Montgomery is always darker and sadder than you seem to remember.  Anne falling off the roof or sinking in the river are images that have perhaps invaded our cultural consciousness, and Montgomery’s most famous heroine has thus connected the author with ideas of youthful innocence and idyllic childhoods.  But there are also the deaths, the partings, and the misunderstandings.  The wild, eerie tales about lost or vengeful souls and the petty gossip that reveals the cruel or hard side of certain neighbors.  All these things are just as unmistakably Montgomery as her optimistic heroines or her beautiful nature scenes.  Even so, there’s something about Pat that makes me mourn a little.

Anne and Emily make their mistakes, but Pat’s simply seem to go on and on, and perhaps the worst part is that she doesn’t even realize it.  Her story is interspersed with happy episodes.  Judy is back with all her fantastic tales and a new hired man, Tillytuck, joins her to add his own outrageous additions.  The two of them in the kitchen competing to tell the best yarn cannot help but entertain.  And, of course, there are the beaux who come around, not only for Pat but also for her suddenly grown-up sister Rachel.  As Tillytuck observes, they do add spice to life.   As if life weren’t exciting enough what with new friends down the road and a projected visit from nobility no less.  And yet…  And yet.  Something about Pat’s life isn’t right and we all know what it is.  There’s no Jingle.

Pat somehow deludes herself into thinking that her life is fine, but deep down she, like the readers, must know she’s settling because she thinks she has to.  There’s a gaping wound in her story begging to be filled by the friend who has stood by her side for so many years, loving her without ever asking anything in return.  One might think that the absence of Jingle (or Hilary, as we must now call him) would be a defect in the work–how can one have a Pat story without Hilary?  And yet it all seems to fit so perfectly.  Montgomery is describing the trajectory of a life with all its mistakes, its false starts, and its dead ends.  She could do no otherwise.  She isn’t creating this story.  She’s merely telling it.

At least such is the power of Montgomery’s pen that I believe this is so.  Everything about the story seems so right that I would never have Montgomery rewrite it, even to spare, if not Pat, at least me.  To do so would seem dishonest.  After all, real life is seldom all flowers and sunshine.  Sometimes the clouds come and sometimes they don’t lift.

Reading Montgomery is a rare experience and one I feel privileged to share.  She possessed a unique vision that she shared with the world and, in doing so, invited us all to see anew the mystery and majesty of life.  It is incredible that she does so by focusing on what so many others would overlook–ordinary people leading their ordinary lives.

*This post is part of the Year of Re-Reading Challenge being hosted  by Lianne at Caffeinated Life.

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!

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