Sunday, February 16, 2014
Chronicles of Avonlea
The title: Chronicles of Avonlea
The author: L.M. Montgomery
Publication: Bantam, 1987 (originally 1912)
Got it from: Library book sale, 1990's
Reading these stories I had to stop and remind myself they were written over 100 years ago. It's easy to forget just how unique a voice Montgomery had and how fresh her stories still feel. I understand them, and Montgomery herself, far more now than when I first read her works twenty years ago as a little girl. Compared to her moralizing contemporaries, Montgomery's characters are just so much more complex. No one is ever really a villain in Avonlea, just misunderstood or misinformed. And her "goodies" are never purely saints. They do give in to temptation now and again.
But what really made these stories a delightful surprise is the sheer number of older characters finding romance. People in their thirties, forties and even beyond find true love, whether for the first time or with old lovers. I can only imagine how subversive this must have seemed in rural early 20th century Canada. If women in their forties are described as being "past their bloom," it is always because of their unhappy personalities. The happy and lighthearted are described as beautiful, no matter what their age. And, most importantly, their romances are never mocked and always feel well-deserved. Even when the stories occasionally become hokey or old-fashioned, the overarching power of romance makes you root for the people in them. If I had to live in the past, Montgomery's fictional Avonlea wouldn't be a bad place to be.