Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Maud: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Harry Bruce

Maud: The Life of L.M. Montgomery, by Harry Bruce looks to be no longer in print but you can still find it through Amazon if you feel like reading a quick biography about Montgomery. Although it appears as if this is a biography written primarily for teenage girls, hungry for information about Montgomery, it is not. Although Bruce doesn't go into great detail about Montgomery's romantic relationships, he does, at times, seem a bit fixated on who she was kissing and "how far they went without crossing the line" that I didn't find altogether tasteful. Actually, I didn't find this book all together tasteful. I have to believe there is a better biography out there. (I'm on the prowl . . .)

In his Acknowledgements, Bruce says that he could not have written this book without the help and use of The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery. (BTW, I lied earlier when I said I had read everything ever written by Montgomery. I have not read her journals although they have been on my wish list for years! I am in the process of rectifying that situation this month!) It SOUNDS as if Bruce read a teenage girl's diary, was adamantly insistent that all of her perceptions of the world around her were absolutely correct, and he was going to die defending her. In other words, I'm not sure how much of this book I would like to camp on as being absolutely true. Again, I'm waiting to read through her journals myself before I make a judgement call. This particular biography just felt a little forced.

I think I might feel more comfortable with this book if Bruce had limited his use of adjectives. But everyone around Montgomery seemed to be cruel, unjust, cold, manipulative, uncaring, unkind, conceited, rude, pig headed, ignorant, simple, unimaginative, etc., etc., until you wondered whether or not Montgomery was the emotional lunatic or . . . ? He just doesn't leave you with the impression that this is a very balanced approach to Montgomery.

Now, maybe his perceptions into her life are absolutely true. I'm not ready to say that they are or they aren't. (The book was so slanted it's just too hard to say.) If he's true, then Montgomery and I would never have been friends because she was way too flighty and emotional for me. However, I'm ok with that because good artists seem prone to emotional mood swings. I don't think that being an artist of any sort gives you a good excuse to live by whim and fancy by any means but it does seem to be a struggle for artists to maintain self control and self respect. Montgomery did not struggle any less on this score. However, Bruce would suggest that Montgomery was generally unhappy with her situation in life (no matter where she was or who she was with- the grass was always greener on the other side). He would suggest that she was a flirt and cared more about her own comfort than the feelings and emotions of those around her. He would suggest that she was emotionally abused and neglected by her father and by the grandparents who raised her. He suggests that she had a problem with authority, couldn't abide religion and generally thought she was better than anyone else alive.

The thing about this book though was that Bruce doesn't' seem to realize that he is painting Montgomery out to be such a person. He believes he's writing about an angel who suffered unfortunate circumstances growing up and overcame difficulties to become the famous woman that she was (IS!). His style of writing expresses nothing but admiration for her and you almost get the feeling that he has fallen in love with her - a dead woman. (You just want to sit down and point out to him that she is dead and that no relationship with this beautiful vixen is remotely possible. But I digress.)

Now, I say that half joking. I confess to having adoring thoughts of my own but would suggest mine or more pure and lean towards love of literature and her creative works rather than her person. She wrote some amazing stories and how she managed to accomplish that is something I will never know. She was a determined woman who seemed to know her strengths as well as her weaknesses and she accomplished great things.

Hopefully during the month of January I'll be able to learn some facts about her which I can share more fully with you. From this book, the only thing I'm comfortable camping on is the fact that she didn't care for her first name (Lucy) and preferred her middle name instead (Maud). Her mother died when she was young and she ended up being raised by her mother's parents on Prince Edward Island. She went to college. She worked for a newspaper (The Echo. She took care of her dying grandmother. She eventually married and had two sons. That's about all I'm ready to claim at this present moment.

No doubt I'll be referencing this book from time to time during the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge but for now I have only this. So stay tuned!


~teachmom~ said...

Mmmm...interesting and I am sure frustrating too. Gats, it's hard sometimes reading other's interpretations of someone whom we admire.
I will indeed stay tuned! Thank you for the review!

Anonymous said...

I read this a long time ago when I did a research paper on LMM. I remember some of what you write about, but I think I was too full of teenage years angst to realize much of what you're pointing out. ; )

I hope you find a better bio of her. I've read the first volume of her journals (or skimmed and read), but again, it's been so long ago that I don't remember much.

I'm eager to read about what else you uncover!

Noël De Vries said...

Oh, Carrie, you have not read Montgomery until you've read her journals.

They're not easy. I read Vol. 1 when I was 16, and wrote in my own journal:

“There is something wholly depressing in reading Montgomery’s journals—her existence seemed so dark and bleak, one intermittently interrupted by golden days attempting a parley with life, when it should—could—have been the other way around … joyous days, weeks, months, brimming with content[ment] and ambition, with an expected “white night” slipping in between cracks, as is its custom with all lives. But not with the cruelness she so vividly portrays in her entries, her very aching soul laid bare in its misery and pain. And how horrible to have rejected the one hope offered her—the only true hope that could save her—and yet still search for reason and meaning in this weary world.”

Carrie said...

Noel - Yup, that's the impression I had from descriptions of the journals which is why I have yet to read them. (I do have the first volume on order though and am eagerly awaiting its arrival on my doorstep!) If I had the money to spend on something happy or sad I always went with the happy. That's still my inclination but I figured I really need to be true to Montgomery and read about her in her own words. But it's with a little bit of hesitation that I do so!

hopeinbrazil said...

Several years ago I read another bio of Montgomery (after I'd devoured all the "Anne" books.) I was disappointed with it because the author suggested that Montgomery wrote the sequels because the audience demanded it and not because she particularly wanted to. I think it was even implied that she hated Anne by the time it was all over. I hated to read about LMM in such a negative light.

Framed said...

Wow, it's hard to believe that the person described in the biography is the same one who wrote such wonderful books. Maybe I will just stick to reading her books and loving them.

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