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Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery (thoughts)

October 15, 2012


Although I might not have been blogging, I have been reading! And since my trip is quickly coming up, I thought I’d dedicate this week to some of the wonderful Canadian books I’ve been exploring.

I know Montgomery is an obvious choice, but I’ve adored her since childhood, so when several bloggers mentioned that Jane of Lantern Hill is set partly in Toronto, I knew I’d be picking it up. And I found all of the usual Montgomery magic inside! I find it fascinating when authors explore certain themes/types of characters/settings over and over again in different books but still manage to keep it feeling fresh. In this one, Jane is a young girl who’s a bit of a misfit, kept off kilter by an emotionally cruel grandmother who daily reminds her that she’s of no real use or value. Poor girl. Fortunately, she’s in a Montgomery novel, and so when she’s twelve, her father (who she’s never known) sends for her to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. He puts her in charge of keeping the house, and the combination of practical tasks that she has a natural gift for and his unconditional love allows her to really blossom, and the novel can take off.

While I loved all sorts of things in the book, what most caught my attention was the loving depiction of domesticity. Now, I know that many, many women in history have felt oppressed by the daily drudgery of keeping house (either their own or someone else’s) and longed to work outside of it. And I am dearly grateful for the strong women who have fought to change our society, so that Western women have more opportunities in the workforce than ever before. I’m well aware that Montgomery’s plotlines, and her heroines, tend to be fall into patriarchy-approved patterns. That being said, as someone who loves to cook, and whose health currently confines her to home much of the time, it was lovely to see Jane blossoming in such a context. It made me smile and feel a bit more blessed about my own life, as well as making me wonder where I could put in a garden. ;)

Oh dear; I’m afraid I’m terribly out of the habit of writing about books in a semicoherent manner. Let’s just say that every page of Jane of Lantern Hill was pure comfort reading delight, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone in need of a gentle book, old-fashioned without being preachy, and with the most wonderfully evocative descriptions of place. Both Toronto and P.E.I. come to life through Montgomery’s pen.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. debbierodgers permalink
    October 15, 2012 11:16 am

    Eva, I just finished reading Montgomery’s Kilmeny of the Orchard and, unfortunately, it wasn’t as successful at making me feel good as other LMM books. Jane sounds more like what I’d like. True, domesticity has trapped and frustrated many women but it has been a source of creative expression and deep satisfaction for many others.

  2. October 15, 2012 12:58 pm

    This was one of my favourite LMM novels when I was a girl; I loved the sense of Jane creating a space that she felt was truly her own, and it was a great comfort read over the years. (I enjoyed the film too, which was faithful to the spirit of the story.) Glad you’re enjoying your Toronto reading!

  3. October 15, 2012 2:58 pm

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with a good comfort read and Montgomery usually fits the bill. I haven’t read this one, but I’m off to look for it right away.

  4. October 15, 2012 5:59 pm

    That’s very interesting about Jane’s love of domesticity. I used to be sad as a kid that all the really cool old-fashioned heroines (including Anne Shirley) seemed to hate sewing and embroidery. It makes sense that if you were a girl of a somewhat rebellious nature (which the best old-fashioned heroines are) that being forced to sew would make you hate it, but I was always hoping for someone who was both awesome and enjoyed handicraft.

  5. October 15, 2012 6:40 pm

    This is one of the (few) Montgomery I haven’t read, although it sounds as lovely as her rest. And different in the Toronto setting. I really need to remember to look it up!

  6. October 15, 2012 6:42 pm

    I loved about this book that Jane desperately wanted to be useful to someone. I found that really touching and true — that she wasn’t of use to anyone in her world until she went to PE Island and was able to make a home with her father. Ah, this book. Nearly my favorite of LMM’s oeuvre (except that The Blue Castle exists).

    Hi!

    • October 15, 2012 10:30 pm

      (Hi back!)

      Yes, that’s what I meant and didn’t say! Ah well. Anyway, that touched me deeply as well. And I can never give up Anne, but this and The Blue Castle are definitely my favourite of her non-Anne books. :)

  7. October 15, 2012 9:46 pm

    Gosh, I’d almost completely forgotten about this one and I used to love it so much! The problem with L.M.M. is that she wrote so many books and stories that my mind clearly does not have the capacity to keep them all straight. I like your note about it being “old-fashioned without being preachy” because that, to me, captures one of the very best things about LMM and is part of what has made her books age so well.

  8. aartichapati permalink
    October 15, 2012 10:06 pm

    Um, where was her dad for the first 12 years of her life? Why does he only come back in with unconditional love at that age?

    Other than that grumpy gills comment I had to make, this does sound lovely. I like your comments about enjoying domesticity and Jenny’s comment about being USEFUL. I think that’s a lot of what makes people today feel semi-unfulfilled. You can put in 12 hours at work and get home at night and not know exactly what you’ve accomplished. But if you whip up a meal or knit a scarf or mend a pair of pants, then it’s a lot easier to know that you’ve done something with your time.

    • October 15, 2012 10:29 pm

      *spoiler-ish* Her mom left her dad when she was three & took Jane w her to go live w maternal grandmother. They told Jane her dad was dead, and I guess it took him that long to decide he had a ‘right’ to intrude.

      I agree re: usefulness completely! It was v much part of the novel, and I wish I’d made that clearer. Yay for Jenny to do it for me. :D

  9. October 16, 2012 9:14 am

    I love your point about domesticity. Yes, it has confined many women throughout the centuries, but it’s important to portray it complexly and acknowledge that this hasn’t been the experience of EVERY single woman (and still isn’t now). Also, yay! It’s nice to see you posting and commenting again :D

  10. October 20, 2012 10:09 pm

    I can’t remember the last time I read Montgomery. I really need to spend some time with her!

  11. October 23, 2012 7:54 pm

    I can’t remember if I’ve read this one or not but Montgomery is always a good choice, obvious or not.

Thank you for commenting! For a long while, my health precluded me replying to everyone. Yet I missed the conversation, so I'm now making an effort to reply again. It might take a few days though, and there will be times when I simply can't. Regardless, I always read and value what you say.

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