It seems odd to me that I haven’t already written this post–but I haven’t! And since I have Montgomery on the brain right now (more than usual) due to my rereading of the Emily trilogy, it seems like an appropriate time…
The Blue Castle (novel): This is one of my top three favorite books of all time. It’s the story of Valancy Stirling, meek and mild and dominated by her family, who has never really lived–until the belief that she’s going to die gives her the courage to transform herself and her life. I love Valancy’s growth, and her subsequent adventures (and romance!) It’s full of Montgomery’s best qualities, of wit and beautiful nature and vivid characters, with a powerful message about overcoming fear and seizing life.
The Anne books (eight-book series): Anne of Green Gables, of course, is Montgomery’s most famous work, and the Anne books really are among her best. I like to read all eight in a row, as if they were one 2,400 page novel, but some do stand out. The first, of course, introduces us to charming, imaginative, impulsive Anne Shirley and her world. Book Six, Anne of Ingleside, was the last book Montgomery ever wrote, and I believe she was using it as a refuge from her own tumultuous life–and it feels like a charming, lovely, welcoming refuge. Book Eight, Rilla of Ingleside, is a powerful portrait of the Canadian World War I homefront, and brings it all to life better than any book I’ve read.
The Emily books (trilogy): Emily is dreamy and imaginative and quite different from harum-scarum Anne. She gets into her fair share of scrapes, but she’s driven always by her desire to be an author, and she delves into deeper and darker parts of the human consciousness than Anne ever touches. If Anne is sunlight, Emily is moonlight. Equally beautiful, but a different flavor.
The Road to Yesterday (short story collection): I have twelve collections of Montgomery short stories, I’ve read 200 stories total (I counted) and I have lots of favorites–but this volume seems to collect favorites better than any other. Although it wasn’t published during her lifetime, Montgomery did make the selections (that’s a long, complicated story) so perhaps that’s why. Some of the characters and stories here feel as vivid to me as the ones from the novels, despite our much briefer acquaintance with them.
The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery, Volume I (journal): I’ve read every volume of Montgomery’s selected journals, but the first one, covering age 14 to 35, is my favorite. Montgomery’s novels are, to large extent, set in the world of her girlhood, which is brought clearly to life in these early years of her journal. Her journal writing is as vivid and descriptive as her fiction, and the more you read the more you feel you know the people in her life–and, of course, Montgomery herself. Whether you really do, well, that’s a mystery, and one that grows more complex in later volumes. But this first one gives me the woman behind the fiction that I think I’d always been looking for. And then I got so attached to her that I went on a mad spree through the rest of the journals too!
Some Montgomery novels are better than others, and some short stories are mere pot-boilers (and she knew it), but I will still happily read anything she wrote. Her world is so alive and so beautiful and I feel like I know every one of her characters–not the least Montgomery herself, who died 65 years before I was born, but still feels like a very dear friend!