One of the categories on the Book Fifty Reading Challenge this year is a “Book Published in 1917 or before.” When I did some research on books published in 1917, I found The Alpine Path, a very short memoir by Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of Anne of Green Gables and many other lovely books. The Anne books are some of my favorites, and I think every young girl should read these books. Anne Shirley is a smart, feisty heroine who doesn’t neglect the small treasures of her world. She has big dreams and a big vocabulary, but she’s kind and gracious, even when she gets into her hilarious scrapes.
As you can see, my collection of these books has been well-read and well-loved. I think I’ve read them all multiple times, but my favorites are Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars–who am I kidding? I could list them all as my favorites. Each is unique in its own way, and each adds more delightful characters to the world of Anne Shirley.
Now back to The Alpine Path. This memoir is very, very short indeed; it’s actually a collection of magazine articles Montgomery was asked to write about her career. She opens by questioning the very term career, saying
Was not–should not–a “career” be something splendid, wonderful, spectacular at the very least, something varied and exciting? Could my long, uphill struggle, through many quiet, uneventful years, be termed a “career?”
She also goes on to describe how she became a writer:
I cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author. To write has always been my central purpose around which every effort and hope and ambition of my life has grouped itself.
This summer I’m going to be working on my capstone project for my master’s degree, which will be the longest writing project I’ve ever undertaken. It was interesting to read about writing from one of my favorite authors. The Alpine Path is no Mystery and Manners or Bird by Bird, but it does have some valuable insights on writing.
More importantly, it has passages that show you how Montgomery was able to create the enchanting world of Prince Edward Island and all the characters who inhabit that world–most notably Anne Shirley.
It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, that, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond–only a glimpse–but those glimpses have always made life worth while.
And I was SO GLAD to see this sentence about Matthew Cuthbert–one of the kindest and most generous inhabitants of Avonlea:
If I had the book to write over again, I would spare Matthew for several years.
Also, funnily enough, I recognized a trait of Montgomery’s writing that I think I might have subconsciously picked up–dashes! Montgomery is often dash-happy in her work, which is something I’ve noticed in my own writing. I have to be careful not to overuse the dash! I love the insight that studying writers and their processes gives, and I’m soaking up every piece of writing advice I can get before the summer starts.
One of the downfalls of this memoir is that it glosses over a lot of the negative aspects of Montgomery’s life. Much of her life was unhappy, and her death was tragic. That being said, each chapter grows more delightful. The book is written in the style you would expect from Montgomery, so if you’re looking for a rather romanticized view of Montgomery’s career, I highly recommend this little book. I bought it on my Kindle, and it was less than one hundred pages long!
In other Anne news, Netflix has released a new show called Anne with an “E,” but I’ve heard and read such disappointing reviews of the show that I don’t think I’m going to watch it. For me, Anne Shirley lives in the books and in the Megan Follows film version. I know that version cuts out major plot points and aspects of Anne’s life, but in regards to theme and character, the Kevin Sullivan films are perfect. If you haven’t watched them, grab your bff, some tissues, and lots of snacks and settle in for a great day.
If you’ve watched the new Netflix film, let me know what you thought! Is it worth pursuing, or will it just make me unhappy?