Wednesday, August 31, 2016

10 Books by L.M. Montgomery You Should Read After Anne of Green Gables

If you're like most people I encounter (even most book people), you probably don't recognize the name L.M. Montgomery. At least until you hear that she wrote Anne of Green Gables and then a little light bulb goes off.

I have been a fan of Montgomery's works for basically my whole life. So much so that I wrote my Master's thesis on her Emily trilogy. And presented a paper at the academic conference held every other year on Prince Edward Island. And went to Green Gables TWO DAYS IN A ROW because I didn't get to see enough the first time.

And it always makes me sad that few people know this wonderful woman wrote so much more than just Anne. And, while I love Anne of Green Gables, it isn't even my favorite of her books.

So here you go. My list of the 10 Montgomery novels you might want to check out if you liked Anne... or even if you didn't! Montgomery has something for everyone!

1-3. The Emily trilogy.

After I just told you I wrote my thesis on this are you even a little surprised? And, yes. I know that it's three books, but Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily's Quest really form one narrative and, while you could read the first book alone, you can't get the full picture of Emily without reading the whole trilogy.
Emily has lived alone with her father after the death of her mother. He's encouraged her imagination and her desire to record her experiences in writing. When he dies, Emily goes to live with her two old maid aunts, where she finds a rich family history and inspiration in everything she does.  As she pursues her dream of becoming a writer she faces opposition from a family that doesn't understand her and finds encouragement in the unlikeliest of places. Emily is a writer, a dreamer, and a fierce and independent woman. While Montgomery fans are divided on their approval of the ending of the book, I have always been a fan of it. Emily is a heroine I can cheer for and I've always felt a kinship with her passion for houses and her love of reading and writing.

4. The Blue Castle

Talk to any Montgomery fan and it probably won't be long before this book comes up. And, if my recent experience at the conference is accurate, many would choose Barney as their favorite Montgomery man.
Valancy has spent her life under her mother's thumb. She's worn, eaten, said, worked, and practically even thought only what her mother approves of. But when she gets the news that she has a rare heart condition and will most likely die within a year, Valancy decides she's only going to do things that make her happy. She moves out of her mother's house and experiences joy for the first time. The most fairy-tale-esque of Montgomery's works, this romance makes me smile every time I read it.

5. Jane of Lantern Hill

This book will always hold a special place in my heart as I read it aloud to both of my sisters.
Jane lives with her sweet but sad mother and her domineering grandmother in an austere house in the middle of town. Everything Jane likes seems to be forbidden, from laughing to pets to her friendship with the housemaid next door. Then the letter arrives and Jane learns that her father isn't dead after all. He's alive and well and insisting that she come spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Jane is feisty, intelligent, and determined. She has a passion for life, but lacks much of the impulsive recklessness of Anne (for me, in a good way). She is loyal and loving and her story makes me laugh and cry.

6. Rilla of Ingleside

Technically this is the 8th book in the Anne series, but the narrative focuses on Anne's youngest daughter, Marilla "Rilla" Blythe. It stands alone quite well, so you don't have to read the rest of the Anne books to enjoy it.
Beginning just as the war does, the book follows Rilla and her brothers, sisters, and friends as they face the realities of war on the Canadian home front during World War I. The adults are by no means absent, (particularly Susan, the sarcastic housekeeper who keeps things running at Ingleside and is one of my favorite characters) but the focus is on the impact the war had on an entire generation of young people who went to war or watched their brothers and lovers go off to war and had to deal with the deprivations and uncertainty as they stayed behind. This book makes me tear up just by thinking of it. There are some truly beautiful story lines and some truly tragic ones. A lovely coming of age story juxtaposed against a horrific conflict.

7. A Tangled Web

I read this for the first time recently and absolutely fell in love with it.
When the matriarch of the Dark/Penhallow clan realizes she is dying she holds a grand clan meeting and announces that she has chosen someone to inherit the famous old Dark Jug. The only thing is that they all have to wait a full year after her death before they get to learn who that person is. Old and new rivalries, romances, and quarrels spin through the clan as they each try to be worthy of the jug. This novel, one of the only other ones Montgomery wrote for adults, weaves together so many threads of narrative that it would be easy for it to be overwhelming, but she handles them all with a deftness and a keen insight into human nature. A complex family saga with clever humor and not a little bit of biting realism, this book is one I will be returning to again and again.

8. The Story Girl

If you remember the tv show The Road to Avonlea, then you'll be familiar with some of the characters in this novel, as the series was based on this book. Unique in its execution - the only novel told not only in first person but also from a boy's perspective - the novel also has layers of narratives.
Beverley and Felix have come to stay with their uncle while their father travels on business. Part of the story is Beverley's memories of daily life with his cousins and friends as they work, play, and get into quite a bit of mischief. The rest of the story is made up of Sara Stanley's stories. The title character has a story for every occasion and a gift for telling those stories to their greatest potential. Beverley repeatedly notes that he can't capture the tone and expressions the Story Girl employs, but he is driven to try to capture them in print. Less a narrative than a collection of stories woven together in the lives of the group of children, there is a sweetness in the novel that always makes me smile.

9. Pat of Silver Bush

Pat feels different from many of Montgomery's novels for me. I have been trying to figure out why this is. I think it's partly because Pat has a whole, cohesive family unit - both parents still living and siblings. I think it's also partly because Pat lacks that imaginative streak and "book smart" intelligence that so defines many of Montgomery's heroines. Pat loves beauty and she loves Silver Bush and all it contains with a passion that rivals most romance novel plots.
The book has less of a plot than many Montgomery novels, but it captures the intense love and trials of a child who is so happy they can't bear change, even if the change might bring something good. There's a little bit of Pat inside me and I can't help but love her and her story. Also, Jingle may be my favorite boy out of the lot.

10. The Alpine Path

This was originally written as a series of autobiographical essays printed in a magazine. Montgomery reconstructed her life and career based on her journals and letters. Since Montgomery is known to have rewritten her journals and reconstructed her perspective on situations or events, this is an interesting look into Montgomery's perception of herself and the picture she wanted to present to the public. A short but interesting look into the author for anyone who likes autobiographies or is curious to learn a little bit more about Montgomery.

Did I miss one of your favorites? Decide to read one of these based on my review? I'd love to hear about it! Leave a comment!

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