Today we are traveling to Prince Edward Island. Again.
I saw Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane from afar.
It’s pretty cover, flowers weaving across a smooth black, attracted me, despite the old adage. I was most certainly judging this book by it’s cover. But not because it was pretty, but because the name with the visual instantly told me what this book was about. I just knew it was going to be about Lucy Maud Montgomery, author of Anne of Green Gables, the rest of the Anne books, and various others, and it was.
I have been an Anne fan for most of my life. It was the first time in my youth that I realized book characters could be like me; an over-dramatic dreamer. And Anne has never really left my heart. [You can find my review of the newest incarnation of the Anne story here.]
I’d read a little about the life of L.M. Montgomery before but never really in depth. And while I can definitely appreciate a heavy biography, I have always been drawn to historical fiction. History, or a person’s life, is more than just facts. I like to weave a story together and imagine what it was like not just read about what happened. Historical fiction is perfect for this. And while sometimes the details blur fact and fiction (it is historical fiction after all, even if it’s based on things that actually happened) a well written piece of historical fiction fills in blanks between facts seamlessly. Maud was a good historical fiction book.
The life of Lucy Maud Montgomery, known as Maud, was not a particularly happy one. After her mother’s death when she was an infant the young girl was shuffled around between various aunts and lived the majority of her life with her maternal grandparents in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island. Which she would later immortalize as Avonlea.
Maud covers Maud’s late childhood moving into womanhood only. There are some memories and hints of regret at her early years, particularly the deep loneliness she has felt due to her father’s abandonment and her grandparents’ high demands and steely demeanors, as well as an incident the year before where she was deemed “too emotional” when treated unfairly by the local school teacher and sent to live with an aunt in another town, but the book opens in the midst of Maud’s bosom friendships and early romance. Soon, however, Maud is sent to live with her absent father and new stepmother in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. She hopes for a family, but finds herself, once again, disappointed. But it’s also in Prince Albert where she begins some of her most enduring friendships.
The most lovely thing about this book, of course, was seeing where some of her characters came from. At the end of the novel Ms. Fishbane includes paragraphs on Maud’s friends telling the reader how their lives progressed and who in the Anne books was inspired by whom. The information is nice but it’s not difficult to see snippets of Diana Berry and Gilbert Blythe in Maud’s friends and potential romances. There’s even an appearance by two porcelain dogs names Gog and Magog, straight out of Anne of the Island. Of course, it’s doubtless that Fishbane knows why people are reading her novel and likely threw in enough Anne references to satisfy even the most fervent fan.
Maud was a winning tale about an intelligent girl who is seldom appreciated, who’s every opportunity is hard won. But won they were. Not everything in Montgomery’s further life was pleasant and happy, but she did achieve her dream of becoming a self sufficient woman and accomplished writer. Reading Maud it’s not hard to understand why Anne Shirley was who she was. Both the author and character were ambitious women, dreamers who deeply appreciated the beauty around them, and both had unhappy childhoods. But to Anne, Maud gave eventual acceptance in a new home, appreciated and loved for who she is, despite, or perhaps because of, all her quirks. Something the authoress never quite found herself.
Maud by Melanie J Fishbane is available now from Penguin Teen.