Friday, January 19, 2018

A Tangled Web, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

I mentioned that I wouldn't be delving into too many Montgomery books this month due to reading a good bit of her work last year. I did, however, want to re-read A Tangled Web, especially as I had apparently not read it since 2009! Suffice it to say, I had thoroughly forgotten the majority of the plot line, making this a delightful read all over again. (Sometimes it's good to have such a poor memory.)

If you haven't read A Tangled Web before, you should know that Montgomery wrote this book for adult readers. It's not really a children's book at all, but deals with adults, adult themes and adult trials of life. Originally published in 1931 the affairs of the day were tame by comparison with 2018 but, nevertheless, you experience some messes!

The plot of this book revolves around an old family heirloom. Aunt Becky is the owner and possessor of a cracked brown jug which has been passed down through a few generations and which everyone in the Dark and Penhallow clan wants to own upon Aunt Becky's death. The Darks and Penhallows have been intermarrying for 60 years and every single member of the clan feels that they have some claim to this brown jug. Aunt Bekcy however, known for being an obstinate and rather mean woman, doesn't seem in any hurry to name an inheritor. At the opening of the story, Aunt Becky calls a family conclave to announce who will receive the jug and the terms by which they will do so. The rest of the book is a mystery with the reader guessing at who might eventually own the jug. As it is a mystery, I won't spoil anything by telling you. You'll have to read it for yourself.

A Tangled Web is aptly titled as it investigates the lives, romances, deaths, and dramas of a variety of characters. Romances blossom and also die in these pages. Characters find both happy endings and mildly unsatisfying ones. It's a very different style and format from Montgomery's other stories which makes this book an intriguing read. She rather breaks away from her typical formulaic style of story telling, choosing to weave in and out of a family clan instead of focusing on one particular character. As a curious fact, there are 225 characters mentioned in this book! But don't let that fact stress you out or keep you away from it. It's a very interesting read and keeps you on your toes as you follow along. Further interesting to note, this book was not very well-received by the public when it was released. I would say that this title shows a bit of the darker side of Montgomery and perhaps that played a part in low sales. It was also published after the stock market crash and that could account for poor sales as well. Whatever the reason, I'm happy to say that it is once again in print and able to purchase. (Although seriously with the cover art - ! Ack!)

Some people consider this one of Montgomery's best works. You can definitely see how she challenged herself to write differently than her norm. Challenges are always fun (sometimes only in retrospect though) so I can't help but wonder if she didn't enjoy writing this one out. I highly recommend the read if you can land a copy. It's worth the time and energy!

Interesting facts:

  • A Tangled Web was published in between Magic for Marigold (1929) and Pat of Silver Bush (1933).
  • As mentioned, it was published after the stock market crash and Montgomery's finances were affected by this event.
  • She lived in Norval, Ontario at the time she wrote this book.

I also found this rather, ahem, interesting video on Youtube about Montgomery which touches on her life in Norval. Enjoy it or not, as you choose.


Bekahcubed said...

I don't think I've ever read this one. Based on your initial description of the large clan intermarrying, I was inclined to think this more of Montgomery's usual fare. When I got to where you said it WASN'T, I was intrigued. I'll have to keep my eyes open for this.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I do enjoy this one!

Susanna said...

One of my favs!

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