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The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery: Vol. IV: 1920-1935

by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterson, eds.

This latest volume of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s journals takes her from age 54 to 60. At that time, Montgomery was an internationally acclaimed author, mother of two maturing boys, and wife of Ewan Macdonald, Presbyterian minister to the Ontario towns of Norval and Union. But Montgomery was far from happy. As the Depression threatened her family’s precarious financial security, her oldest son, Chester, failed university. In those days, a minister’s wife was basically an unpaid employee of the church, and although Montgomery was conscientious, the role did not sit well with this deeply private woman. In 1933, Chester rushed into a secret marriage with his pregnant girlfriend, causing Montgomery such humiliation that she could only write about it much later. Montgomery’s husband’s mental health was always fragile, and in 1934, he suffered a breakdown and was briefly institutionalized. In the turbulent years following the formation of the United Church, Presbyterian congregations were even more fractious than usual. A misunderstanding over Macdonald’s salary caused the Norval congregation to reject him, forcing his early retirement. Perhaps the most sensational woe, though certainly not most important, was the unwanted romantic attention of a confused young woman who showered Montgomery with gifts and passionate letters.

It would be nice to report that the indomitable author rose above this sea of troubles like one of her heroines. She didn’t, partly because the romanticism that served her writing so well filled her own life with longing and regret. The Montgomery that emerges is not entirely sympathetic. She remains the main character of her story, even when the drama centres on others. Of her son’s hasty marriage she writes, “I haven’t deserved this.” She is often impatient with her husband’s psychiatric problems. This is not a happy book, but it creates a vivid, painfully honest portrait of the writer as a disappointed, aging woman. Rubio and Waterson have laboured over these volumes since 1975, and their work immeasurably enriches our understanding of this complex, talented woman.


Reviewer: Janet McNaughton

Publisher: Oxford University Press


Price: $34.95

Page Count: 464 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 0-19541-381-4

Released: Oct.

Issue Date: 1998-10

Categories: Memoir & Biography