~ The Reader is very pleased to welcome our newest blog writer to our team.
Welcome aboard Marlo ~
Last week, I had dinner with Jane Urquhart. She shared tales about when she lived in Halifax and her love of her cottage in Ireland. Jane was in Halifax to do a reading at the Keshen Goodman Library to promote her latest book, a slim biography about L.M. Montgomery. The book is part of Penguin’s Extraordinary Canadians series.
Like generations of Canadians, I too grew up reading and loving Anne of Green Gables. I still count it as a favourite book; some passages are so familiar that I can recite them. Even so, I had no interest in reading a biography about L.M. Montgomery. Ironically, Jane revealed that she had had no desire to write this book. But series editor John Ralston Saul was, well, persistent. Eventually, Jane found herself agreeing to write this biography, even as her latest novel (due out this fall) fought for her attention.
After hearing Jane Urquhart read from the biography, we should all be thankful that Mr. Saul was persistent and that she did complete this book. After the first couple of minutes of the reading, I found myself drawn into the bleak and lonely existence of L.M. Montgomery during the years she lived with her grandmother.
Montgomery’s life was far more interesting than I thought, and far more tragic. From her mentally ill husband to her own depression, there seemed to be very little joy in Maud’s life. In the face of this, I was particularly impressed by her determination to get published. Even after Anne of Green Gables was rejected numerous times and set aside for a year, Montgomery decided to send it out again. And the rest is history.
One of the comments that a number of people made after the reading was how amazing it was that Montgomery managed to write the type of books that she did in the face of the grim realities of her life. I wasn’t amazed at all—in fact, I would guess that those books served as an idealistic (and perhaps necessary) escape for Montgomery.
My childhood wouldn’t have been the same without Anne. I’m eternally grateful that Montgomery wrote it, but I can’t help feeling sad for the woman behind some of the most beloved books in all of CanLit. This weekend, I will sit down with Jane’s biography (simply entitled L.M. Montgomery) and then reread Anne of Green Gables. I wonder if knowing the dark truths about Montgomery will affect how I read Anne this time around?