Friday, February 1, 2013

L. M. Mongomery Challenge Completed!

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

This year, I actually read what I had planned, finishing both Christmas with Anne and The Story Girl in the month of January, and, wonder of wonders, I'm posting it before the end of February!

Christmas with Anne is a delightful collection of short stories which mostly focus on the Christmas season (obviously) though there are three New Year's stories at the end to round out the holiday spirit. I justified reading this in January because we didn't put up any Christmas decorations until a few days before Christmas, and they were still up into the first week of January. So at least it still looked like Christmas at my house when I started reading this!

In typical Mongomery fashion, every story has a heartwarming message, ranging from discovering happiness in giving to others, forgiveness of long-estranged family members (often through humorous mishaps), or just good, old-fashioned family values and traditions. This is one I wouldn't mind re-reading every few years, and I'm sure my daughter will enjoy it soon, too, as she loves stories about "real" people! For additional thoughts, including the interesting account of how the editor, Rea Wilmshurst, happened upon these and many other short stories of Montgomery's, see Carrie's posts on this title here and here.

I must confess that The Story Girl was a bit of a disappointment, but I suppose my expectations were pretty high. For some reason, it just didn't quite have the charm or appeal of the Anne or Emily books, I still have a long way to go before I've read all of Montgomery's novels, but I was struck at first by the fact that the narrator is a boy, simply because I hadn't encountered that in her writing before (aside from a few short stories). Granted, he's simply relating the adventures of eight children during one summer and fall, so there's really nothing gender specific about it. But while Mongomery's picturesque descriptions and quaint turns of phrase seem natural coming from Anne or Emily, it struck me a little odd that even a 19th or early 20th century teenage boy, or even a man retrospectively describing the best summer of his childhood, would describe the change of seasons in such terms as "though summer was not yet gone, her face was turned westering. The asters lettered her retreating footsteps in a purple script, and over the hills and valleys hung a faint blue smoke, as if Nature were worshipping at her woodland altar."

I also found this narrative a bit disjointed, as if it were more a collection of short stories involving the same characters without some overarching plot. Perhaps that is what Montgomery intended - just snippets of life on a Prince Edward Island farm from the perspective of young cousins and friends. Of course, by the end, I had developed a certain affection for those characters, and I do plan to read the sequel, The Golden Road, soon. I also enjoyed the fact that I was able to recall a few scenes the Road to Avonlea series that I watched a few years ago, which reminds me that I need to check that out from the library again!

Now, I must also share that I am very excited about next year's challenge due to some propitious finds through PaperBackSwap and our library's book sale (yes, we really love our library and make very good use of it!). Although many L. M. Montgomery books are free for the Kindle, and I do enjoy the portability and ease of marking favorite passages which my Kindle affords, there's still something so satisfying about opening a book, of remembering where a certain passage lies on the page, of flipping back and forth to clarify details, etc. So I'm thrilled to have found these books, and I have a feeling you'll be seeing at least a few of them on my line-up for next year.