Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Grown-Up Charm

L.M. Montgomery, of Anne of Green Gables fame, has written a LOT of other books, mostly about young, slightly disadvantaged people from Prince Edward Island making good in the world.  They are mostly charming, and note quite enough of them are out of copyright to satisfy me.  I want a free digital copy of The Blue Castle, desperately.

The Road to Yesterday (L.M. Montgomery Books)But I was lucky enough to get a recommendation for Kilmeny of the Orchard.  This was endlessly charming in the way that makes you swoon when you're 15, and remember swooning when you're 35.  Eric--a handsome, brilliant young man from a well-to-do family with a bright future ahead of him--receives word just after graduating from University that a good friend has fallen ill and needs someone to replace him at his rural teaching post on Prince Edward Island.  His father agrees to give him a few months off before he joins the family business and he heads off for a quaint and charming little village.

There, in his evening rambles, he stumbles on a twilit orchard and a beautiful, mysterious girl playing the violin.  She is Kilmeny, whose family has kept her hidden away from the village all her life.  She is mute (though she can hear) and sweet, and lovely.  They court, things stand between them--will they be together in the end?

I loved this book, and was charmed by the incredibly sincere, incredibly lovely, incredibly sweet descriptions of sunsets over the pine woods and gloaming rambles through shadowed orchards.  Just L.M. Montgomery to its core, and so wonderful.

My only complaint?  Well, when you look at some of these classic books with a modern eye, you find some tropes that might make you squirm a bit.  Kilmeny of the Orchard would have me believe that you can't trust an Italian, even if he was adopted at birth and raised by folks of good Scotch stock.  No, in fact, maybe they treated him too well, above his station (as an adopted kid?  Ugh!).  Also, people who have only ever met the four members of their immediate family are innately good, due to their purity and not being sullied by the outside world--which, as we all know, is the source of not only evil, but general crankiness.

Oh, and if you're beautiful, then anyone will know on meeting you how good and pure you are.  His skeptical businessman father, who isn't sure if you're good enough for the busy, pillar-of-the-community life that you'll be living, changes his mind when he sees your Bambi eyes.

See, there's stuff wrong with the book.  I know that.  But I can't help but love it.

Does anyone else have a favorite L.M. Montgomery book that's in the public domain?  I'll also accept Louisa May Alcott recommendations--those are all in the public domain, but there are so many I don't know where to start.  Some are saccharine (Jo's Boys, or so I've heard), some are delightfully melodramatic (A Long, Fatal Love Chase, whose title says it all), and some are just brilliant (Behind a Mask, one of my favorite books ever).  All melodrama, all the time--I'll take any recommendations the world might have to offer!

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