Monday, March 1, 2021

"Chronicles of Avonlea" by L.M. Montgomery

Having read & thoroughly discussed "Rilla of Ingleside," "Jane of Lantern Hill" and "The Blue Castle" together as a pleasant diversion over this past pandemic year, my L.M. Montgomery Readathon Facebook group will be tackling "Chronicles of Avonlea" as our next read.   

"Chronicles," originally published in 1912, is Montgomery's fifth published book and her third Anne/Avonlea-related book, following "Anne of Green Gables" and "Anne of Avonlea," sequentially. It's 183 pages long (in the edition I read, anyway) and includes 12 short stories, all set in or around the mythical Prince Edward Island community of Avonlea. While some consider it part of the "Anne of Green Gables" series, Anne Shirley appears only briefly or is merely mentioned in passing in some of the stories. (Under pressure from her publishers to come up with more Anne stories, Montgomery produced this collection by editing some of her previously published short stories to include references to Anne and Avonlea.)  Some of the stories in this book and its sequel volume, "Further Chronicles of Avonlea," were used as source material for the "Road to Avonlea" TV series in the 1990s (which was primarily based on "The Story Girl" and "The Golden Road").  

I'd always thought I'd read just about all of Montgomery's works, with the exception of "A Tangled Web," which I tried to read as a pre-teen and gave up on, and "The Watchman," a collection of her poetry, which I was not able to find as a kid.  I've always preferred novels to short stories, though, and if I'd read this collection before as a pre-teen, I had absolutely no memory of any of the stories in it. (I suspect the same would be true for "Further Chronicles of Avonlea," which was published in 1920.)  

Generally, I prefer complete books to short stories (although I have enjoyed some non-fiction essay collections). That said, short stories and essay collections have their merits, and I've come to appreciate them more as an adult, I think.  They can be great to dip in & out of when time is an issue and attention spans are short, and in this case, it was fun to read a Montgomery book that was as good as new to me.  At the same time, though, there were a lot of themes/plotlines here that were pretty familiar/predictable to anyone who is familiar with other Montgomery works.  Many of the stories here are ultra-sentimental, populated with "old maids," cantankerous bachelors and orphans -- but they also display Montgomery's usual gifts for vivid characterization and beautiful descriptions. 

I can't say I have any favourites among the 12 stories in this volume, although "The Quarantine at Abraham Alexander's"  was both humorous and timely in its theme (and I suspect is one reason why the organizers chose this book to read while we're living under COVID-19 restrictions...!).  I will add a caveat that many of these stories are definitely of their time, and contain themes/elements that those of us who have been through infertility or childlessness might find uncomfortable or even offensive. "Pa Sloane's Purchase" (involving an orphan baby), while meant to be humorous, definitely gave me pause! 

We are only just beginning our discussion of this book (and you are welcome to join us, at the link above!) -- and when we're done, I'll be counting & re-reviewing this book again as a re-read, as I have previously. 

I initially decided on a Goodreads rating of 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4, but after some reflection while writing this review, I decided to round down to 3 stars on Goodreads. 

This was Book #12 read to date in 2021 (and Book #7 finished in February), bringing me to 33% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books. I am (for the moment, anyway...!) 7 books ahead of schedule. :)  You can find reviews of all my books read to date in 2021 tagged as "2021 books." 

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