Friday, November 21, 2008

Gift of Wings

As shown by my recent recommendation of this book in my gift guide suggestions for 2008, I loved the newest biography of Lucy Maud Montgomery, The Gift of Wings -- it was recently released, and this week I was lucky enough to meet the author, Mary Henley Rubio, who spoke at my library! It was a wonderful talk. She was full of extra tidbits in answer to people's questions, and in her slideshow she had images of some of the men in LMM's life; Ewen (of course) but also L.C. Page, her American publisher with whom she was involved in a long court case - and won - as well as Edwin Smith, a friend and dashing kind of fellow, and William Deacon, long time book critic of the Globe & Mail who denigrated her both for her writing and personally.

The book is excellent, as it should be, with 30 years gone into the making. Mary Rubio co-edited all the Montgomery journals (at LMM's son Stuart's own request) and has been involved in LMM scholarship since the 70's, and her expertise is fully evident. This biography is a fully fleshed out tale of the social conditions and interpersonal entanglements that LMM lived among, and it is fascinating. There are things revealed here that are new to scholarship, particularly the controversy over a contested suicide note; was it or wasn't it? All the agonies Maud suffered (family troubles, gossipy maids and nosy neighbours, court cases, depression, the war) while writing lovely, uplifting books are here, and reveal a complicated woman who is hard to pin down. Mary Rubio herself stated that there were difficulties in the writing, as Maud was very good at presenting her life in the manner in which she wished it to be seen. For example, even those very personal diaries were all recopied into fresh books by LMM once she became famous; who knows what she excised? Certainly, the pages containing the beginnings of her relationship with her husband were sliced out of the journals altogether. It reaffirms the status of LMM as an extremely complex, endlessly fascinating woman and writer. If you like author bios, or are a big LMM fan, read this. It is fabulous! I have been waiting for it for quite some time, and am suitably impressed by the result of those years of preparation.

Some more good news from Mary Rubio:

The LM Montgomery Research Centre at the University of Guelph is digitizing many photos and items from their archives, and eventually the diaries as well! There is already quite a lot to look at, including a picture of LMM's house in my hometown of Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. Neat.

The University of Guelph also recently held a conference on LMM (how I wished I could have been there!) But for those of us who could not attend, they've posted one full lecture online, with a promise of more to follow... Can't wait!

Mary Rubio (left) and me, after the reading

Some other reviews:
Bookshipper (this is a friend of mine who is as LMM crazy as I am, and as she says, this is THE LMM biography)
Pickle Me This (who makes the great point that this book places LMM into her social context)
Nota Bene Books (some quick tips from Nigel Beale)


  1. After reading Tina's review and then yours, I want to read this book! I loved the Anne series when I was a kid (well, except for Anne of Avonlea, which suffered from Second Book Syndrome!). I don't actually know all that much about LMM. How exciting that you got to meet the author!

  2. Hi Melanie: I loved your review. How exciting that you met (and got a picture with) Mary Rubio. I met her a few years ago myself - I liked her alot.

    I am so sad that there are no other "new" journals to read!

    PS: You look great.

  3. avisannschild - I hope you will pick this up; Montgomery had a life totally unlike the ones she wrote about. Very interesting reading.

    Tina - it was nice meeting her, for sure. The online project is hoping to scan and make available the actual pages from the journals so there is stuff there we haven't seen (if you can decipher her handwriting, that is...)
    PS - thanks!

  4. Oh cool. thanks for the review. I just read 'Anne of green gables' for the first time and i loved it. I am waiting to read the sequels.
    It's sad to know LMM's life was really complicated. But the literary world will always be grateful to her fr her splendid contribution.

  5. I have only quite recently found out more about LMM as a person and find her very interesting. I might just try to find this book.

  6. I hadn't heard of this- it sounds teriffic. Thanks for the review.

  7. Does this bio involve any analysis of her work, or is it mostly a close analysis of her life? I enjoy literary biographies that look carefully at the work, too, and look at how it reflects the life (or not.)

  8. Jenny - it does discuss her work somewhat; however, there is another book out right now which Rubio called the companion piece to this bio. It's by the other editor of the journals, Elizabeth Waterston, entitled Magic Island. That one deals with each book specifically.

  9. Hey Melanie,

    I'm giving this book to my mom for Christmas. I'm just about to wrap it, so I'm printing off your post (with the picture!) to put in the front cover.

    Thanks for all the great reviews!

    Take care.

  10. Dixie - hilarious! thanks though, and pass on Christmas greetings to your mom & dad too. :)


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