The Blythes Are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery - Kindle version
One of the nice things about the Anne of Green Gables series is that it grew up with me, especially the later books after Anne's marriage--and I would give a lot for more authors to cover the married lives of their heroines. My favorite by far is Anne of Ingleside this week (my favorite changes by the hour) because while first time true falling in love is great, keeping in love and living lives of adventure (no matter the scope of the adventure) is what I love most. Negotiations with in-laws--hilarious!--mischevious kids--awesome!--life lived like a novel where the romance may go but it comes back because you want it to is what I want to read about.
(This may also inform the fact my favorite novel of all time is Great Maria by Cecilia Holland, where getting married is only point A--falling in love and in hate and in mediocrity only to fall hotly in love again and uh, conquer Italy (I'm not actually kidding here, Married People Having Adventures and Falling In and Out of Love In Incendiary Ways With Each Other During Continental Conquest could be the title. It's politics and women's work and a very, very non-anachronistic view on feminism and racism and religious tolerance/intolerance and Maria running a keep and working on her sewing while waging psychological warfare on her enemies. She put in really long days, for the record.)
There's something vaguely unsatisfactory at the end when the fair man or maid is won and the story ends--this is why I ended up in fanfic, for the record, Tom and B'Elanna stressed me like a lot--because that's only the start.
This book is short stories about people in Glen St. Mary and over the harbour, interspersed with poetry by Walter but also by Anne, the poems cut with tiny slices of dialogue that show the continuing lives of our favorite characters--Rilla's son Gilbert Ford and Jem's son going to war in World War II, Jem's single line of blank horror at the Holocaust, and for me while reading, it hit me that LM wrote contemporary with a vengeance, and her characters grew with her. I think this is why her description of World War I is so devastating, and even though in retrospect we know World War II is even moreso, it was for them entirely, almost horrifically new, the idea of it, that an entire world could be swallowed in a war that there was no guarantee they would win or how much they'd have to stand to lose to get it.
There was something about knowing Jem's sons, Rilla's sons, maybe Shirley's sons and Nan's sons and Di's sons, who'd lost a brother, friends, family to the first horror saw their own history repeat itself like that which brought home to me how fast that happened, barely a full generation. I do wish LM had been able or willing to continue the series just for that progression of history, not just of modern warfare, but modern communication, assuring that if we aren't at war--which speaking as a citizen of the US has become as rare as a fucking unicorn--we know it's always happening somewhere. I've never lived in a time where there wasn't someone in my family, among my friends, who I went to school with, dated, went dancing with, who hadn't gone to war, wasn't involved in a war, or came back from one.
(I wanted to check something, because the end of Rilla of Ingleside hit me oddly, something I hadn't really thought of before, when they said they'd given the death blow to Prussianism but bits of it were still living and growing and had to be stopped. The book was published in 1921, well before the actuality of World War II was even glimmering on the horizon, and yet it hit me how predictive that was--in some ways--for the fact it wasn't over, only on delay.)
I also appreciate the reminder of how people were then, --Francophobia and racism and classism and religious intolerance in the concrete and its local form along with kindness to neighbors and care for the elderly, child abuse and murder and adultery and illegitimacy as well as adoption for love and families by choice and the ties of that people chose to bind themselves with to others, social pressure both in the negative and the positive. Human nature doesn't change, but life shapes it and twists it from what it should be, and seeing the good as well as the bad assures we keep what is best and know and root out what is worst and unworthy of what we can be.
Okay, now the reason I am getting philsophical on this--the very first story in The Blythes are Quoted is both awesome and maddening, and mild spoilers ahead for Some Fools and a Saint:
One of the secondary characters is pretty much the most destructively narcissistic person ever, and I thought she got off way too easily, and that pissed me off, not only because she got off easily--and I do mean easily--but because of the misery she caused, the mockery of those she cared for, her own lack of compassion for those she hurt, her celebration of what she'd done and basically got away with it. A lot of LM's books have a strong lack of justice for people who are dicks, for their cruelty and what I felt like was too easy forgiveness. And it was only later--and I mean, the end of the book and rereading The Blue Castle, did it hit me--and I do mean hit me--why forgiveness and compassion for the evildoer of note was such a factor. Most of those who did wrong were victims themselves--great and small ways, but I'm not sure any pain is small when it's your own--and couldn't let go of it, and it poisoned them and caused them to poison others.
So re-reading the particular story, it actually did work once I thought about it--not what it would do to her for her crimes to be exposed to the general population, but what it would do to the victims to have to continue to deal with it, with her, why simply letting her go for good was the best option. They didn't have to forgive her--and dude, I wouldn't--but her actions shouldn't poison them against others, against themselves and spoil their lives. It probably helped this one character actually listed out her reasons and while they're subjective to her, they did make a kind of sense and they poisoned her enough to hurt herself almost as much as she hurt those around her. I'll be honest, thinking about it--seriously, there's revenge for your pain, but dude, that's the most miserable way to go about it ever. A villain who has to go through that in the long term--for years--really should rethink their evil mastermind plan through.
The stories are in general a lot of fun and tackle some themes she hasn't before, not head-on anyway:
Some Fools and a Saint - a mystery that is, while you kind of guess where it's going, still satisfies very much in the how it was done.
Penelope Struts Her Theories - an old maid who writes papers about childcare is faced with an actual child. Make that two. It has to be admitted, she did not get a great specimen of a kid to work with here.
A Commonplace Woman - not happy, but an interesting departure in the indifferent family, the utter dick of a doctor (who is totally not getting Gilbert Blythe's patients, the dick), and the dying woman upstairs with an entire life no one knew about. It's not happy, but it's satisfactory in a way I didn't expect when I started it.
An Afternoon with Mr. Jenkins - not entirely happy or sad, but thoughtful in the sacrifices parents will make for their children.
I liked most the glimpses into Ingleside, of Susan and Anne and Gilbert, and hell yes Anne and Gilbert are still in love (thank you LM) and reading between the lines, Anne's recovery from the death of Walter in her poetry and the brief conversations.
The Blue Castle - I love Valancy second only to Anne. When she found her gumption, she really found it.
Magic for Marigold - I would have loved this as a young teenager much more. I liked it, but eh. I liked it much more before Old Grandmother died. She was awesome.
Anne of Green Gables, et al - I went through the entire series out of order, and cried yet again for Dog Monday--goddamn that dog's awesome--and Rilla bringing up Jims, and liked Rilla much, much more now than I did as a teenager. I always love Anne, because Anne is awesome. And I love Miss Cornelia so much I want one to move next door to me and bring me gossip every day.
Chronicles of Avonlea and Further Chronicles of Avonlea - I still love these like a lot. I have a soft spot for bizarre courtships--Ludovic Speed killed me dead, because okay, I know people like this, who literally require something along the lines of a concussion to jump their track, and Old Man Shaw's Girl that broke my heart and put it all together again, and The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham's that never stopped being hilarious, and The Miracle at Carmody which love surpasses all things, even the most powerful thing of all, your own mind.
I continue to skip Tannis of the Flats, which I still hate like burning, but a lot of it now is that I don't know how to read it or what I'm reading or even what I'm looking for.
The thing is, Tannis is probably one of the most interesting and complicated heroines she's ever written, and while Anne is of my soul and Valancy is amazing, Tannis is one of those characters that is hard to forget and I want more of her life after this, and yet, the story is a nightmare because Tannis is French-Indian and LM's views on both aren't exactly a mystery (as well as gypsies, though I have no idea if she's referring to Travelers or the Romani or random people who happen to move a lot that they call gypsies or what as far as that goes. I had a vague idea for a while she was using it as an umbrella term for anyone not white Canadian). The first person pov made it much, much worse than third or omniscience, because that level of hideous, blatant racism is like wading through a sewer, and honestly, it's frustrating as hell, because the picture of Tannis is of an extraordinary woman through a glass fuckedup.
As I get older, more and more I wonder what LM was trying to do with this one; as a teenager, I read it once and it took until I bought a Kindle to read it again, because I was curious if it was as bad as I remembered, which would be yes. LM was a woman of her time, so I can't excuse it as purely the narrator without endorsement, but the sheer overwhelming poisonous blatant racism makes what should be a simple tale of a girl whose heart was broken by a dick of a guy and she shows herself far better than the man who didn't think she was good enough for him a lot more complex than anything else she's written. It was also published in 1920, which is where I got curious, since at the same time I re-read Tannis, I read Kilmeny of the Orchard for the first time and nearly had a breakdown.
Kilmeny of the Orchard was written in 1910, which I so much anti-rec as to say pretend it doesn't exist, because it has no redeeming value whatsoever, with a heroine who has no agency nor any particular personality, a hero racist, snobby, and classist (it's unreal), and portrayed as the ideal, which makes the entire thing sickening. It also has the distinction of being racist and horrific in a natural setting--I don't know how to put this, textually-supported racism (and how!) that isn't so much subtle as just soaked into the entire concept and is the entire plotline. Kilemny pisses me off, and it's everything I hate--classism and racism and the entire bad blood orphan idea that makes no sense considering Anne, Katherine from Windy Populars, Jims from Rilla of Ingleside, Mary Vance, et al. I mean, reading it, it's like two different authors, and I still can't stand to even know it exists.
Tannis, on the other hand, was written ten years later, and it feels like someone making a very bad attempt at doing something very complicated to pull off: a contrast between how someone would view a guy flirting hardcore with a girl and then dropping her because she wasn't good enough because she was French-Indian and she showed herself the better person than if the girl had been socially acceptable (ie, white). Despite the condescendingly racist narrative--I cannot overstate how really painful it is--Tannis is everything LM's heroines usually are, intelligent and courageous and idealistic and for lack of a better word, transparent in their aspirations and goodness, and that much comes through perfectly well.
It's not that LM wasn't racist, but she spent a hell of a lot of time character building Tannis into a sympathetic heroine and spoils the entire damn thing by making us read about her through brutally semi-sympathetically racist glasses, but it wasn't nearly as organic as Kilemny. Which was honestly awful. There was nothing about it not awful.
Current and Upcoming
Jane of Lantern Hill - I'm at the part where she goes to her father!
Emily of New Moon, Emily's Climb, and Emily's Quest - I say this with love; I have to be in the right mood for Emily. Emily's classism and snobbery popping out drives me nuts, and while I get that is a thing that people do and everything, those are my default do-not-wants, but luckily, I can usually read around them. And I love Teddy and watching them all grow up.
For quick reference for anyone who wants them for download. Some may not be out of copyright in your country/principality/political dominion, legalcakes:
Anne of Green Gables - all formats
Anne of Avonlea - all formats
Anne of the Island - all formats
Anne of Windy Poplars - HTML
Anne's House of Dreams - all formats
Anne of Ingleside - HTML
Rainbow Valley - all formats
Rilla of Ingleside - all formats
Chronicles of Avonlea - all formats
Further Chronicles of Avonlea - all formats
The Story Girl - all formats
The Golden Road - all formats
Emily of New Moon - HTML
Emily Climbs - HTML
Emily's Quest - HTML
The Blue Castle - HTML
Jane of Lantern Hill - HTML
Magic for Marigold - HTML
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