For anyone who loves Anne of Green Gables, finding the short story collection The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery will be a joy. Some of these stories were previously published and according to the cover blurb, seriously abridged in The Road to Yesterday, but this collection tells the stories in their entirety.
The stories from the first half of the book are from prior to World War 1 and the second half, after World War I. The stories throughout are of happenings around Glen St. Mary and the surrounding districts, and concern characters other than Anne, Gilbert and their immediate family, although all of the stories refer to the Blythe family in some way or other.
Between each story are poems, written either Anne or her son Walter. Anne reads them aloud to Gilbert and the children at night by their fireside at Ingleside, after which some of their conversation or private thoughts are reported. Susan Baker listens with a practical ear and doesn’t think the children should listen to poetry about witches or goblins lest their imaginations get the better of them and they find themselves unable to sleep, Walter as a small child listens to his mother’s poems and dreams of writing poetry too, but Gilbert listens to Anne’s poetry as a diagnostic tool to her emotional health, particularly after the war and Walter’s death.
While I don’t particularly care for poetry, I found that the conversation that followed each recital added to the poem itself. The poems after the war are sad and dark, unlike the more carefree poems from before the war.
The stories are a delight. Some are romances, some are mysteries and some are stories of malice. Generally the themes are darker than previous books in the ‘Anne’ series, with characters who are criminals and stories of adultery, ghosts and death.
The first story is Some Fools and a Saint, and tells of a young Methodist minister who boards at Long Alec’s home in Mowbray Narrows. The congregation disapproves of the Minister’s choice of home because of the household ghost…
In Retribution, an old maid tells a dying man exactly what she thinks of him. I remembered this story from The Road to Yesterday, but would have to re-read the story to know if it had been abridged in that collection.
My favourite story was The Cheated Child, in which an unwanted orphan is forced to find a home amongst his greedy relatives (which has inspired me to name my home ‘Sometyme’, if ever I’m lucky enough to retire to a lovely old house in a charming fishing village somewhere in Victoria’s western district).
My next favourite story was The Twins Pretend, where young Jill and PG are able to give full rein to their imagination. I didn’t realise until I’d finished the book that my favourite stories in the collection had children as their main characters, but considering how well L.M. Montgomery wrote for children, perhaps this isn’t surprising.
A Dream Come True is an amusing look at what might happen if a person is lucky (or unlucky) enough to be granted a lifelong wish. Sixty-year old Anthony Fingold has carried a torch for Caroline Wilkes for more than forty years, but when he finally gets the chance to kiss her, is it what he really wants? Read this story for yourself to see what his wife thinks of these events…
The Pot and the Kettle is a romance, and while I just knew how things would turn out for the delightful heroine and her poor lover, I still hung on every word to make sure that things ended happily.
Some of the links to the Blythes are so slight that it felt as if the references were added in a way reminiscent of Diana adding the line about the heroine saying she would never use anything but Rollings Reliable Baking Powder in Anne’s prize-winning short story in Anne of the Island, although this didn’t detract from the actual stories.
In the foreword to The Blythes are Quoted, Elizabeth Rollins Epperly says that L.M. Montgomery’s original manuscript was delivered ready for publication to the author’s publishers the day before her death, but was not published until 1974 as The Road to Yesterday, without the poetry and Ingleside evenings. I’m grateful that this collection has finally been published in full.