of the Center for Children's Books:
Gone But Not Forgotten
|Each month we offer a focus on a particular author or artist. Sometimes
we use this space to discuss a rising new talent or an established star, but we also like
to celebrate those who now live on only in the rich legacy of their books.. See the archive for focus pieces from previous months.
|L. M. Montgomery|
Anne of Green Gables had been around for a good 75 years when I first read it in my early teens, after watching the 1985 PBS Wonderworks television adaptation of the novel. This discovery couldn't have come at a better time in my life. I had recently moved to a new home and school and felt utterly lost and depressed. Anne managed to save me from "the depths of despair" as surely as Gilbert Blythe saved her from the leaky flat during her disastrous dramatization of Elaine's death scene from Tennyson's Idylls of the King. After devouring Anne of Green Gables and the other seven books about Anne and her family, I moved on to the "Emily of New Moon" trilogy and every other L. M. Montgomery work I could track down in my local public libraries. My very dear, similarly aged cousin also discovered Anne at the same time, and together we reveled in the idealized and old-fashioned settings. The school experiences and family life in those novels were very different from our own angst-filled adolescence, yet we identified strongly with Montgomery's heroines.
Indeed, it is Montgomery's expert handling of characterization that first comes to mind when I consider the strengths of her work. Her main characters are always reassuringly real. Adults are sometimes wrong and they admit it, children lose their tempers, misbehave, and make mistakes but they are loved anyway. Her young heroines, often orphans or underdogs, are passionate, dreamy, stubborn, smart, nature-loving, and not particularly beautiful by conventional standards. They stand up for themselves and boldly pursue their dreams, sometimes flying in the face of convention. Supporting characters are more often caricatures but are so artfully and humorously drawn, so recognizable (the boorish relatives who think they're clever, the beautiful classmate who's shallow and catty) that we don't care.
Montgomery was also a master storyteller. Though sometimes her plots are a bit contrived, they gracefully follow a clear, well-planned story arc, balancing tragedy and humor in a way that provides emotional satisfaction for the reader. As a young reader I sighed with contentment upon seeing all the loose ends neatly tied up: orphans found homes, quarreling lovers made up, once-separated family members were reunited, and the heroine's worth was finally recognized by those around her. The works of Lucy Maud Montgomery are "comfort literature" at its best (The Blue Castle is my personal favorite for romance and reassurance).
Fortunately, over the last twenty years it has become much easier to find Montgomery's classic stories. In the early 1980s, publishers McClelland & Stewart and Bantam began reprinting the entire Anne series as well as the Emily series and other of Montgomery's novels and short stories. Currently, most of Montgomery's novels are again in print as are several collections of her short stories; in addition you can read her diaries (four volumes), a handful of biographies, and various scholarly studies of her work. Clearly, Montgomery's writings are still striking a chord with contemporary readers, authors, and scholars. It's been fifteen years since I first met L. M. Montgomery and my love for her books has only grown since then. In fact, she and her works have become something of an obsession with me; hence the lengthy bibliography below, which should provide plenty of "scope for imagination" for Montgomery fans and newcomers alike.
--Jeannette Hulick, Editorial Assistant
Books by L. M. Montgomery:
Books about L. M. Montgomery:
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This page was last updated on September 1, 2001.