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Monday, March 21, 2016

LUCY MAUD, REVISITED

Lucy Maud Montgomery
I TEND TO READ A NUMBER OF BOOKS AT THE SAME TIME, setting down some when I want a change and fully intending to finish them eventually. I just got back from a trip to Vail, and on the plane, I decided to read from the Lucy Maud Montgomery collection I have on my Kindle. I've read all of the Anne books, but I haven't ventured much farther than those. Montgomery was prolific during her lifetime, penning over twenty novels and numerous short stories. I decided to start in on The Story Girl, mostly because I suspected the character of the title might be a reflection of Lucy Maud herself, and because I'm a bit of a 'story girl' myself. Having finished the book (and nearly finished its sequel The Golden Road) the books bring to mind how much the style of prose has changed, and how much I still enjoy the older, slower way of relaying things.

Both books deal with the later childhoods of her several characters, including the Story Girl, who turns out to be more of a talented story-teller and actress (than a writer). As I read them, I found myself questioning the plot, 'where is this going?' only to realize I was running into a slower style than what I pen, what most of my peers write, and what is popular in the present-day. Even my agent used to tell me, 'Action, action, action!' which I took to mean as more drastic occurrences. Which is not to say 'action' does not occur in Lucy Maud's work - it does, but it reflects a slower, simpler time.

And that's part of the beauty of Montgomery's books.

She reflects what life was like one hundred years ago, what morals were like back then, and how my own grandparents lived - the courtesies offered, the standards of polite society expected, the kindnesses and consideration given as a matter of course, the simple ways children entertained themselves. Montgomery's books reflect a much more compassionate time than in what we live today.

She also takes the time to pen really beautiful descriptive prose, something with which I struggle. She gets it right every time. For example (from The Story Girl):
" In the west was a field of crocus sky over which pale cloud blossoms were scattered."
"Around us were solitudes of snow, arcades picked out in pearl and silver, long avenues of untrodden marble whence sprang the cathedral columns of firs."
And finally, one of my favourite quotes, which is heavy on theme and about those things which slip beyond us unless we take the time to read a good book or to remember times and loved ones, past:
"There is such a place as fairyland - but only children can find the way to it. And they do not know that it is fairyland until they have grown so old that they forget the way. One bitter day, when they seek it and cannot find it, they realize what they have lost; and that is the tragedy of life. On that day, the gates of Eden are shut behind them and the age of gold is over. Henceforth, they must dwell in the common light of common day. Only a few, who remain children at heart, can ever find that fair, lost past again; and blessed are they above mortals. They, and only they, can bring us tidings from that dear country where we once sojourned and from which we must evermore be exiles. The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and story-tellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland."
Thank you for your gift, Lucy Maud. You've made the world a richer place.

- Susan.


2 comments:

  1. I find it interesting that we celebrate the works of writers like Lucy Maud Montgomery and then we are told by our editors and publishers not to the write like them. I'm in the process of preparing "Planet Song" for publication. It is slower in pace than most science fiction and I have been roundly criticized for this. Yet when I sent it out to 14 beta readers last year, only one had a problem with the pace and even that person said she couldn't wait for the next novel. I think the current crop of editors are far too "pace" obsessed. What's sadder is that I suspect these folks are training new readers to expect the space ship to blow up on page one.

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  2. It's a stylistic bias. I think we have been so influenced by popular tv and film where things happen quickly (and dramatically - car chases, explosions, or what have you), that most editors prefer a faster pace. It's kind of sad, really. A lot gets left behind, including beautiful description.

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