Although I like almost everything L.M. Montgomery ever wrote, I have to admit that the Pat books are not my favorites. Pat Gardiner lives with her fam...moreAlthough I like almost everything L.M. Montgomery ever wrote, I have to admit that the Pat books are not my favorites. Pat Gardiner lives with her family at Silver Bush, an old house and farm on Prince Edward Island. Unlike Montgomery's other heroines, Pat has no ambitions other than to stay at home forever, taking care of the home and family she loves.
There's a feeling of domesticity and hominess which pervades the books, and I appreciate that more than I used to, but Pat is so neurotically attached to her home that she becomes a little hard to take. Happily, there are other characters who are more engaging (the old servant Judy Plum and Pat's sister Rae are probably my favorites), and Montgomery's affectionate descriptions of Prince Edward Island do make up for a lot of Pat's (and Pat's) failings. (less)
Emily Byrd Starr is almost the prototypical L.M. Montgomery heroine; she's an orphan who goes to another home where she becomes beloved of her new fam...moreEmily Byrd Starr is almost the prototypical L.M. Montgomery heroine; she's an orphan who goes to another home where she becomes beloved of her new family, and she's a writer, who actually creates a successful career for herself. Emily is orphaned at the age of eight by the death of her beloved father (her mother died when Emily was much younger); as her father has no family, Emily is taken in by her mother's family, who have never forgiven her parents for eloping. Emily has allies from the start in her loving Aunt Laura and friendly Cousin Jimmy, but it's harder for her to win over her Aunt Elizabeth, a stern, dignified woman rather like Marilla in the Anne of Green Gables books.
This first book, Emily of New Moon, is very much taken up with how Emily settles herself in her new family, but the last line of the book betokens the direction the next two will take: Emily writes in a new journal, "I am going to write a diary, that it may be published when I die."
From here on, Emily Climbs and Emily's Quest are focused on Emily's creation of herself as a writer and of her career. There are, as must be expected, romantic and family issues as well, but it's the story of Emily the writer which makes these books particularly special to me. Montgomery's portrayal of the difficulties of the writing path is perceptive and often poignant, as Emily is torn between her writing and her family and love interest. These books are a little darker than the Anne books (at least than the early Anne books), as Emily herself is a more complex, less sunny character; there's even an element of Montgomery's interest in the supernatural, when Emily is shown to have a touch of the second sight.
I must admit to being less fond of the last book, because it's so focused on Emily's romantic travails, and the ending is dreadfully abrupt after the labyrinthine plot turns of most of the book. Still, although the Anne books are probably my favorites overall, the Emily books are easily my favorites of the rest of Montgomery's work (along with The Blue Castle). (less)
Oh, this was wonderful vacation reading (though I got some odd glances on the airplane when I started giggling helplessly several times). The three bo...moreOh, this was wonderful vacation reading (though I got some odd glances on the airplane when I started giggling helplessly several times). The three books (which I have in an omnibus) are set in the Canadian city of Salterton, home of two cathedrals, one university, and many fascinating people. As they share a setting and some characters, the books comprising the trilogy (Tempest-Tost, Leaven of Malice, A Mixture of Frailties) are interconnected to a large extent; they could certainly be read independently, but I prefer to have read them together to follow larger developments in the lives of the characters. All three books are very funny and warm, with a style reminiscent of Trollope; the third book is perhaps the best, with the most developed plotline, though I also really liked the behind-the-scenes comedy of the first book. (less)
The Deptford trilogy revolves around the mysterious death (was it murder or suicide?) of businessman Boy Staunton; along the way it tells the life sto...moreThe Deptford trilogy revolves around the mysterious death (was it murder or suicide?) of businessman Boy Staunton; along the way it tells the life stories of Staunton's boyhood friend, Dunstan Ramsay; of Staunton's son, David; and of enigmatic magician Magnus Eisengrim. Though the books are full of Davies' trademark wit and erudition, I found that they didn't work for me as well as the Cornish trilogy or the Salterton trilogy, and the second and third books didn't live up to Fifth Business. I thought too many of the characters downright unpleasant (and the lack of important female characters irritating), and though the magic and sleight-of-hand theme was interesting, I find I prefer the academic milieu of the other books to the small town and circus settings of these.(less)
What's Bred in the Bone is the second of a trilogy of books which are bound together by the life of one Francis Cornish, Canadian artist, critic, and...moreWhat's Bred in the Bone is the second of a trilogy of books which are bound together by the life of one Francis Cornish, Canadian artist, critic, and collector, and by a host of other characters who are tied to him in one way or another. This book tells Cornish's life story, starting from a conversation between his heirs and his biographer and featuring interjections from a pair of supernatural beings, the Lesser Zadkiel (the Angel of Biography) and Maimon, Francis's personal daimon. The daimons provide interesting analysis of Francis's life along the way, as well as inspiring thought about the nature of free will, whether one controls one's own life or whether it's truly shaped by outside forces and by "what's bred in the bone", a phrase that comes up often.
What's Bred in the Bone is sandwiched in between The Rebel Angels and The Lyre of Orpheus, which take place after Cornish has died, in the environs of a fictional Canadian university. In The Rebel Angels, his executors are trying to sort his immense collection, while graduate student Maria Theotoky, assistant to one of the executors, tries to deal with the obnoxious ex-monk Parlabane; academic mayhem ensues. In The Lyre of Orpheus, the Cornish Foundation for the arts has been established, and the board members decide to mount a production of an unfinished opera by E.T.A. Hoffmann; artistic mayhem ensues. They're both good (though The Lyre of Orpheus is a little scattered) and very much worth reading, but I definitely think What's Bred in the Bone is the standout of the three. All are full to the brim of drama and intrigue, vivid characters (though Maria is a little Maria-Sue-ish, really), and Davies' erudite, witty writing. (less)
I will admit that Magic for Marigold is not one of my favorite Montgomery novels. Marigold is a young girl growing up on Prince Edward Island, in a ho...moreI will admit that Magic for Marigold is not one of my favorite Montgomery novels. Marigold is a young girl growing up on Prince Edward Island, in a house with her widowed mother and her grandmother. Like all Montgomery heroines, Marigold is imaginative, making "magic" for herself from a variety of sources. The problem is that she's not much more than that -- she lacks the vitality of Anne, Emily, Valancy, or Jane of Lantern Hill. The book is episodic (based on a series of short stories Montgomery wrote about Marigold before deciding to make it a book), and so we only see Marigold at intervals throughout her childhood and can't follow her development. Also, she doesn't have the obstacles that Anne and the others do and lacking something major to struggle against, she seems to lack their spirit. I think perhaps Montgomery didn't put as much of herself into Marigold as into her other heroines.
Still, there's enough of Montgomery's charm to make me reread the book occasionally (though I always wish I'd skipped the last chapter, in which Marigold learns that she must share her boy friend Budge with other boys but that she'll "always be here for him to come back to" -- ew).(less)