Sunday, November 28, 2010

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery

Lucy Maud Montgomery ("Maud without an e if you please") has been one of my favorite authors since I was a child and discovered the wonderful world of her novels and stories. I was recently able to obtain and read copies of her published journals. She kept a journal for most of her life, but destroyed her earliest journals and carefully edited her later journals for eventual publication. These journals tell the story of the wonderfully creative author of Anne of Green Gables, The Story Girl, Emily of New Moon, Pat of Silver Bush, and more.

Volume I (1889-1910) deals with Maud's teen years and early adulthood. She writes of her life with her strict, Puritanical grandparents; a year spent out west living with her father and his second family; hopes and dreams of adolescence; desire for higher education; college years; romance and dream of becoming a writer. She also covers the writing process as she begins to craft her best-known work. The volume ends with her secret engagement to the Rev. Ewan Macdonald and the publication of Anne of Green Gables.

This volume is wonderful! These were Maud's happiest years and the reader can easily sympathize with her hopes and dreams and delight in learning more about the land that inspired Anne.

Volume II (1910-1921) covers the early years of Maud's marriage and move to rural Ontario where her husband took charge of a small congregation. She writes about the petty gossips and lack of "kindred spirits" and the difficulties of being a famous author. She also discusses childbirth and raising her two beloved sons, the horrors of World War I, difficulties with her publisher and her husband's mental illness. This volume is less light and fun than the first and there are many difficult moments, however there are sweet and lovely candid moments where Maud writes about her love for her sons and the excitement of publication.

Volume III (1921-1929) is a lot darker than the previous two. Maud and her husband were the victims of an extortion plot, she was obliged to leave her original publisher for a better deal only to become involved in a lawsuit with her lying, greedy, scheming former publisher. It culminates in their move to another community. There are lighter aspects of her life which she writes of as well and the beauty of the island home she always held in her heart. I couldn't put it down yet I felt sorry for Maud for all her troubles.

Volume IV (1929-1935) covers the years of the Great Depression and Maud's struggle to support her family and friends through the tough times. She also writes about her sons' adolescent troubles, her husband's nerves, her fears, her hopes and dreams and the loss of some of them. She was also stalked by an infatuated young woman and saw a decline in sales . She remained an ever-popular author though, especially on Prince Edward Island, where tourists flocked to see her old home and people scrambled to meet her. She describes her homes in great detail, with beautiful descriptions of nature both in Ontario and on PEI, By this time, Maud was using her journal as an outlet to vent her troubles and consequently this volume is very dark and sad. It was difficult to read my favorite author experiencing so many difficulties and wishing things could have been different, yet sometimes it was hard to sympathize with her when she was so very class conscious, complaining about her maids and lack of suitable companions for her now-young-adult boys. I had to keep reading though it was difficult.

Volume V (1935-1942) covers the last years of Maud's life dealing with retirement, a move to Toronto, her husband's mental illness and her own struggle with depression. Her sons also caused much anguish with their life decisions and the world was on the brink of war once again. Yet she also described her life and times and provides a good historical record. The final pages show how Maud's depression and poor health got the better of her at last. Her final nervous breakdown caused the once lively and vibrant woman to become bedridden and unable to work. This is definitely the saddest volume. I'm not sorry I read her journals, I feel like I know and understand her better than ever, yet I felt anguish for the pain and suffering she experienced and wish that life could have been different. I think her fiction writing was a way for her to escape her difficulties and rewrite aspects of her own life she wished to change.

I highly recommend these journals which provide an excellent and in-depth look at one of the most beloved authors of all times.

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