August 02, 2010

Wicked Cool Overlooked Books: Beach Read

The first Monday of the month, seven days 'til my older sister's birthday, and time once again for book talking. It's Wicked Cool Overlooked Books!

Charlotte rounded up all manner of
SFF books for MG and older
which are descriptive of COLD and ICE in an attempt to placate her very hot children with reading. While I don't really have a cold book to add to all of that, I do have a beach read, of sorts. In all the time since I've been doing WCOB Mondays, I am shocked to see that I've never written up one of my quirkier L.M. Montgomery books. It's not one of the Avonlea books, actually, and it's not The Blue Castle, although I vow that is a splendid book, outshining even I Capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith, and if you haven't yet, you should read both, and make a whole cookies-and-tea afternoon of it. (And by tea, I mean Earl Grey, hot. It's pouring buckets here - warm buckets if you're in some parts of the country, but the buckets are fairly tepid here in Glasgow.)

This book is different -- by turns spooky and dark, by others, wistful and romantic. It's a collection of short stories from various women's magazines, and only one of them is written after 1908, which gives the stories sometimes gives the tales a bit of racist/sexist overtone, but also the same feel for time period, manners and dress that the Anne books give. The stories also give a hint of Montgomery's frame of mind -- the final one is written in 1930, and shows a totally different author who writes more cynically and confidently as well. The title of this short story collection is Along the Shore.

When L.M. Montgomery married, she left her home on Prince Edward Island for Ontario, which is why the main body of her work was set there, and why the sense of place you read in the Anne books comes through so clearly. Between 1895 and 1908, Montgomery wrote more than three hundred short stories, a good percentage of which were set in PEI, and at least twenty of which were set in a specific location, on the shore. Lucy Maud loved the sea, and commented to a pen-pal that she missed the sea "heartbreakingly" at times. She returned to it often, in her imagination, and on as many vacations as she could manage.

Those familiar with the inner worlds of L.M. Montgomery well know that not everything will go according to the wishes of the heroes or heroines in any given story. Like the mercurial temperament of the sea which surges and ebbs and trickles and roars on its own schedule, there are twists and turns in many of the stories -- just when you think the wrongdoer will be punished, or that true love will rule out in the end -- it doesn't, and you're left a little taken aback, and a bit thoughtful. The characters in these pieces are the rogues and the righteous, the rich and the poor, the rough-hewn and plain spoken - my favorite is narrated by a wily and resourceful twelve year old. So much of the magic of these tales is bound up in the beautiful - or dark -- descriptions, as place becomes a character in and of itself. I don't want to give anything away, but if you like spooky 19th century ghost stories, complete with Gothic fog and haunting winds -- she's even got a bit of that here.

Sixteen short stories for older MG/YA readers and anyone else who loves a good sea tale. Toss it in your book bag and escape the heat for mistier, cooler shores.

Grab a copy of Buy Along the Shore by L.M. Montgomery from an independent bookstore near you!


Charlotte said...

I enjoy this collection lots, and have wanted to collect seaweeds for years as a result of the first story. Strange that what was once so common a hobby (apparently) has fallen out of favor...

jama said...

I've never read Montgomery's short stories. Looks like I should dip my toes into this collection. Can't get enough "cool" over here . . .

tanita✿davis said...

Charlotte: Collecting seaweed was a great hobby - here people eat it, which I find to be even better. What I really wanted after reading this collection was a LIGHTHOUSE. I may need to move to Maine.

Jama: Look for these in libraries and used book stores - some of them were published in collection form in the late seventies and eighties, so they should still be available, but I haven't even been able to find them all -- still looking!
* Chronicles of Avonlea (1912)
* Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920)
* The Road to Yesterday (1974)
* The Doctor's Sweetheart, selected by Catherine McLay (1979)
* Akin to Anne: Tales of Other Orphans, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1988)
* Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1989)
* Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1990)
* After Many Days: Tales of Time Passed, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1991)
* Against the Odds: Tales of Achievement, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1993)
* At the Altar: Matrimonial Tales, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1994)
* Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1995)
* Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories, edited by Rea Wilmshurst (1995)

Sarah Stevenson said...

I'm always so freakin' amazed at how well and widely read you are! Thanks for telling us about this one (which I of course had no clue about).

Colleen said...

I completely never heard of this one - and love me some LM Montgomery. (Gothic fog and haunting winds!!!)YEA!

Jess said...

I haven't read this (or any of her short stories) since I devoured all her books as a kid - at least the ones that my library owned! I'm feeling the urge to reread.