- The Magic of L. M. Montgomery: Her Life and Works
In the wake of the 2008 centennial of the publication of L. M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables, critical and popular interest in the novel has never been greater. The two new books reviewed here, however, also look closely at Montgomery herself alongside her fiction, illuminating both her life and her works. These studies are significant additions to the newest development in Montgomery scholarship, which now focuses as much on Anne's creator as on Anne herself. Irene Gammel's Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic, for example, offers a dual biography of Anne and of the author behind her, while Elizabeth Epperly's Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L. M. Montgomery reproduces pages from Montgomery's turn-of-the-century scrapbooks, revealing the personal preoccupations that fueled her narratives. Rubio's and Waterston's volumes offer their own contributions to this literary-biographical trend and deserve a place beside Gammel's and Epperly's invaluable examinations of the woman and the writer behind Anne.
Lucy Maud Montgomery, which reflects Rubio's painstaking research since the 1970s, is the most comprehensive biography of Montgomery to date. Magic Island has somewhat different aims, emphasizing analysis of the imagination, wit, drive, and humor that gave Montgomery her creative genius. Revisiting the metaphor of the island, one that she first established in a classic essay on Montgomery in 1966, Waterston draws parallels between the island setting of the author's fiction (all but one of her novels take place on an island, and the majority are set on Prince Edward Island) and her internal island of imagination, exploring Montgomery's social relations, her professional career, and the sources for characters in her novels. In doing so, Waterston also reconsiders Montgomery's fiction in light of new information regarding her personal life. [End Page 254]
Lucy Maud Montgomery and Magic Island seem designed to be read alongside each other, which is only fitting, as Rubio and Waterston have been companion scholars for decades in the field of Montgomery studies. It was Waterston who, in the mid-1960s, first brought serious academic attention to Montgomery with her contribution to The Clear Spirit: Twenty Canadian Women and their Times. Since then, she and Rubio have written, edited, and co-edited countless books and articles on Montgomery (including the Norton Critical Edition of Anne of Green Gables); they have served as advisors to and members of the L. M. Montgomery Institute (founded in 1993); they have been instrumental in creating and sustaining a biannual Montgomery conference held on Prince Edward Island; and they have co-edited The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery. In fact, it was the release of five volumes of Montgomery's journals, the first appearing in 1985, that initially sparked critical interest in the author herself, as the journals gave scholars unprecedented access to Montgomery's personal life.
Rubio's Lucy Maud Montgomery is not the first biography of this author, but it is the most detailed and authoritative one to date. Montgomery penned her own brief memoir, The Alpine Path, which originated in 1917 as a series of articles for Everywoman's World. Mollie Gillen's The Wheel of Things (1975) broke ground as the first modern biography of Montgomery, but it has been superseded by more recent research. In 1995, Waterston and Rubio collaborated on a short biography titled Writing a Life: L. M. Montgomery; that study, too, has been supplanted by this latest work. The figure that emerges from Rubio's new biography is complex—ambitious and talented, but deeply troubled. In particular, Rubio does a fine job of detailing Montgomery's hardships, including fights with her publishers, marital troubles, reliance on prescription drugs, and despair over the decline in her prestige as with the rise of modernism, literary tastes shifted away from the fiction of local color and sentiment..