1996. VOL. II, NUMBER 17

image Writing a Life: L.M. Montgomery.

Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston.
Toronto: ECW Press, 1995. 135 pp. paper, $14.95.
ISBN 1-55022-220-1.

Subject Headings:
Montgomery, L. M. (Lucy Maud), 1874-1942-Biography.
Novelists, Canadian (English)-20th century-Biography.

Grades 9 and up / Ages 14 and up.
Review by Deborah Mervold.


If her novels contain hidden rebellion, her journals pulse with open resistance, resentment, and depression at the structures of daily life that caught her ambition in cobwebs. She felt trapped in her marriage, confined by motherhood, and bound by the need to present a smiling face of domestic happiness in accord with the romantic novels she was producing. She was fettered by her own popularity and by the need to maintain her success in order to supplement her husband's income as a poorly paid country parson. And she was caught, perhaps unawares, in another trap; her own facility in creating narratives. To keep her secret journal going, she unconsciously adapted her life to her narrative skill. Gradually she began to make life-choices shaped to fit the kind of story she was prepared to tell in that journal.
So Montgomery's gift for storytelling both twisted and reinforced the tangled threads of her life. She never undervalued that gift; it helped her endure considerable trials, which she was then able to convert into amusing anecdotes and engaging plots. For her writing was a refuge, a solace, and a joy. . . . Her words have brought pleasure to many, for through them Montgomery created a circle of friends, a ring of laughter, and a sense of place.

 To an avid L.M. Montgomery fan, this biography provides an unusual glance into the popular writer and the private person. The contrast between the painful events recorded in her journal and her optimistic novels and characters give the reader an understanding of both Montgomery as she was, and as she wished to be. To anyone unfamiliar with Anne, Emily, Pat, and Montgomery's many other characters, this biography will encourage reading and study of this well-loved Canadian author.

The chronological summary that concludes the work is both interesting and helpful to the reader. It would be a useful reference when selecting the order in which to read, or re-read, the Montgomery novels. The extensive list of consulted works would also be helpful in further study. Photographs add authenticity to the research done by Rubio and Waterston.

Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston, professors at the University of Guelph, are co-editors of The Selected Journals of L.M.Montgomery, Volumes 1, 2, and 3, as well as many other works on Montgomery. They present a compelling life-story that neither embellishes nor hides the facts.

Rubio and Waterston have divided the biography into small sections with headings rather than chapters. The Introduction is the first section, "The Storyteller's Gift," which leads into "A Story Girl," "Western Trip and First Publication," and so on. The problems Montgomery encounters with her American publisher make for interesting reading, and the publishing and financial information make this biography more than merely a record of the events in Montgomery's life.

But the real pull of the work is the blend of Montgomery's personal and writing life, and the comparison of her journal to her fictional writing. The readable style and detailed research make this a most enjoyable study of a writer admired for the heroines she gave to Canadian literature.

Highly recommended.

Deborah Mervold is a Teacher/Librarian in Shellbrook, Saskatchewan.

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Copyright © 1996 the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364

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