Read lately - and stuff

meparks at mtholyoke.edu meparks at mtholyoke.edu
Wed Oct 29 16:10:41 EST 2003


*some spoilers for Montgomery's 'Blue Castle' and 'Rilla of Ingleside'*

Quoting "Rowland, Jennifer A B" <jennifer.rowland at imperial.ac.uk>:

> I've been reading Noel Streatfield and L.M. Montgomery from the library-
> pleasantly nostalgic, but interesting. Montgomery, to me, seems a lot
> better
> when she's being funny/anecdotal about village life than when she's writing
> things she thinks are Important- a lot of the stuff about the beautiful
> imaginations of young poets, and a good half of Anne's House of Dreams, is
> sickly sweet and unbelievable. 
> 

I completely agree--I think that it's sort of funny that she makes a point of 
having Anne learn to write about real stuff, rather than overromanticised 
flights of fancy when Montgomery herself was prone to ramble on about her 
ideals of poetry and love. . . I read several biographies of her some time ago, 
and I have this mental image of her as a woman afraid to get too honest.  I 
realize that she was writing for children, which certainly affected her themes, 
but I also feel like there was a place she decided to never pass, and that 
place was full of heroic ideals of poetry.  I feel like those places in her 
books that rhapsodize about such things were there for her, not for the reader.

Of her novels, my two favorites are 'The Blue Castle' and 'Rilla of 
Ingleside.'  I think that 'The Blue Castle' is probably her best work, in part 
because the romance of it is balanced by aspects that incorporate not only bad 
things in life but normal things as well: Montgomery includes the death of an 
unwed mother (who admittedly dies in a rather sappy sort of way) and a family 
that is not abusive, but rather inattentive, unremarkable, and unconcerned with 
the main character.  'The Blue Castle' is a modern fairy tale, and while it has 
fairy tale elements (though no magic, per se) and a gorgeously happy ending, it 
also has these honest notes of sadness and this honest despair that comes not 
from bad events, but from a lack of events--from a life that does not live up 
to the perceived ideal.

'Rilla of Ingleside' is set in Canada during the first World War, which 
automatically helps it a bit, I think, as it gives it a sharper feel than other 
books in the series (like 'Rainbow Valley,' which strikes me as idealized 
stories about idealized, vaguely Victorian children (but with that North 
American aspect of newer places and bigger gardens) who do things ideally).  It 
isn't just the character death that grounds this novel--it's that throughout 
the novel you know that the world isn't safe, that you're not in some fairy 
bubble, that life can hurt--but it's not the proof that comes when someone dies 
that makes it good--it's the little things that happen despite the looming 
terror of war that do that.  It's the stories about Rilla and her baby, and 
Anne wearing the green dress, and Rilla's war efforts. . . I liked most of the 
Anne books, but this is the only one I read a dozen times.

always ready to do my part in leading the discussion a little more off topic ;)

lizzie

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