L.M. Montgomery or Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1952) was a Canadian author, best known for Anne of Green Gables, her 1908 book about a little red-headed orphan girl who arrives by mistake at the home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, siblings running a farm who had wanted to adopt a boy. But before long, she wins their hearts and stays, and both their and her lives change. But besides Anne of Green Gables and the seven others in that series that appeared after it (some of these are on my list), L.M. Montgomery wrote many more books. As Wikipedia (here) tells us, she wrote a total of 20 full-length novels, 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays–quite a prolific lady. I knew and read the first few Anne books in school but it was only some years ago that a book friend pointed me to her other books, which I ended up reading all of (the novels I mean, not all her others works, yet), and have quite a few favourites among them which I’m sharing in this list.
Most of her books are set in Prince Edward Island, and the Island’s beauty, nature–flowers, fruit trees–and general atmosphere has a magical role in many of the stories. She also explores the themes of young girls making their way in the world, Anne as a teacher (at least initially) and writer, and Emily Byrd Starr as a writer. Here are some of her books, other than Anne of Green Gables, that I really enjoyed (I liked them all by the way–all her books are very readable and enjoyable, only A Tangled Web, which is otherwise a lovely story, was spoiled for me by one little incident she put in there).
Jane of Lantern Hill: This is the story of a young girl Jane Stuart loving with her rather strict (and not very likeable) grandmother who doesn’t not like her, and mother in a dreary home in Toronto. But one summer she learns that she is to visit her father (her parents are separated) who lives on Prince Edward Island. She is naturally reluctant but once she gets there, PEI works its magic, and life as she knows it changes much more than she could have ever imagined.
The Emily Books: Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest form a trilogy of stories about Emily Byrd Starr, an orphan like Anne, but who is sent to live with relatives. We follow her life from that point as she grows up and tries to make a name for herself as a writer, especially living in a home where her writing is not only not encouraged but disapproved of by her aunt. These stories have a lot of Montgomery’s own experiences worked in, which I realised after reading The Alpine Path, where she writes of her career.
The Story Girl and the Golden Road: These are two connected novels tell of Sara Stanley (the ‘story girl’) who is sent to live on Prince Edward Island at a time when some cousins also come to live there while her father is away for work. Here she entertains them by telling them different stories she has heard and collected. Alongside, we also follow their lives on PEI, with its simple pleasures and also learn of what becomes of them when they grow up.
The Blue Castle: This is the story of Valency Stirling, a twenty-nine-year old unmarried woman living with her rather hard mother, her social life confined to her not particularly pleasant relatives, her only consolation being her favourite books and dreams of a Blue Castle where life will be perfect. For rest she must always listen to her fanily’s taunts and remarks and lead a rather dreary existence. But when she hears some shocking news from her doctor, her life changes, and she begins to try and finally ‘live’ finding not only escape and happiness, but also adventure and love. The end of this one was perhaps a tad over the top, and a bit melodramatic, but I love the book for the way she changes and handles her relatives.
Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island: Not strictly Anne of Green Gables, but yes, Anne books, but I couldn’t do without mentioning these in my list. Of the eight Anne books, the first three are my favourites (the last two hardly have Anne in them). In these two which immediately follow the first book, Anne is growing up and begins her career as a teacher, and later heads off to Redmond College. These may not be as funny as the first one, but they are still a great deal of fun with Anne own antics, as well as those of Davy and Dora, twins whom Marilla ends up adopting, and Anne receiving some expected and unexpected marriage proposals.
Montgomery’s other books are worth reading too, and I will do a post on some of the short stories later when I read more of them. But of her novels, these are certainly among my favourites. You can find most of her works in public domain at Project Gutenberg (here) and fadedpage (here)
Have you read any of the ones on my list? Or any not on my list? How did you like them and which are your favourites? Looking forward to your thoughts and recommendations!
Cover images are as always from Goodreads.