Sarah Melse has a wonderful article in the Los Angeles Review of Books on the “Ten Things I Learned From Loving Anne of Green Gables.” In the article, Melse details the key component of L.M. Montgomery’s writing that makes it so appealing and so well-loved for over a century–love. Indeed, readers who love L.M. Montgomery’s worlds do have a kind of short hand. I can tell my aunt I’m having a Jonah day, and she instantly knows what that means. I adore Anne’s optimism; “isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” As an adult, I know that mistakes are often not contained to one day, but in my most optimistic, pie in the sky moments, I like to think we can throw a switch and have a scrubbed clean morrow because we are loved. Love lights up Montgomery’s written world as orphans, war veterans, old maids, and old fools unfold under love’s illumination. I re-read many of Montgomery’s novels every summer, especially Jane of Lantern Hill, The Blue Castle, and of course, Anne of Green Gables. Nothing much happens in these novels as Melse is quick to point out. No one goes on grand adventures. In fact, successful cooking seems to be the height of activity. Montgomery’s worlds are ordinary, recognizable ones. School, awkward family reunions, recitals of Tennyson, church, and daily farm life are the bread and butter of her plots. Yet, such a background is the place where amazing dreaming happens. And isn’t that so much our real lives? We dream among ordinary things and ordinary lives.
But mostly, we love. I’ve been thinking a lot about the connections that bind us lately, in large part because of a quote from Anne Lamont’s most recent book that my friend Walter put up as a commonplace: “They say–or maybe I said–that a good marriage is one in which each spouse secretly thinks he or she got the better deal, and this is true also of our bosom friendships. You could almost flush with appreciation. What a great scam, to have gotten people of such extreme quality and loyalty to think you are stuck with them.” Lamont is only partially right in calling it a scam. Perhaps a better word would be serendipitous. Anyone acquainted with L.M. Montgomery knows that the serendipity of bosom friendships, kindred spirits, and the ability to “smack your lips over life” are key to the well-lived existence. Pleasure in the mundane is what fuels friendship for Montgomery; love binds ordinary lives together. It’s the glue that creates the extended networks of family and friends that make life extraordinary. Even more so, Montgomery shows how even a little bit of courageous love changes worlds. Jane stands up to her unloving grandmother, Anne finds kindred spirits reflected in her own loving glow, and Valancy’s compassion gives her courage. Love for Montgomery is almost contagious; once her heroines figure out the knack, they can’t help but loving as many people in as many ways as possible. Romance is there–these are after all late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century texts–but romantic love isn’t the only type of love in the world. I like to think that love radiates out into the world, and that those we love feel it even when they are many miles away. Silly, absolutely, but then again, love is perhaps both the silliest and the most profound of our connections.