Wednesday, September 19, 2012

The Gift of Wings

Friends who know me have heard me speak of my love for Lucy Maud Montgomery. The heroine of my youth, the woman I chose to pattern my life by, the author of the greatest selling novel of all time, has kept me enthralled for most of my life. It all began when my mother first read Anne of Green Gables to a group of rapt sixth grade girls; it was my first book club. Wisely choosing to read to us at exactly the right time in our life and in the month of June where the story is set, my mother created a fan for life in me.

Having read L.M. Montgomery's entire body of work, as well as the complete journals, I thought I had exhausted the supply of information regarding this amazing woman. This summer, I decided to take a look at Mary Henley Rubio's highly acclaimed biography, The Gift of Wings.

Thinking there was nothing left to learn about my beloved author, I was, of course, wrong. A good biography will furnish tidbits and details drawn not just from the body of work, but from family members and friends as well. This beautifully written biography of one of Canada's most celebrated writers looks far beyond Montgomery's own published journals, and draws on a wealth of previously undiscovered material.

These words can be found on the back of the book jacket.

"The writings of Lucy Maud Montgomery are so familiar and captivating that it is easy to feel we know her. But the complex woman behind the sparkling story of Anne of Green Gables experienced the dark side of life, as well as the intense joy of creativity." 

It all started one Sunday evening when sitting alone in front of the tube, flipping the channels to find something entertaining, I happened upon an excellent production of Anne of Green Gables. While I cannot count the number of times I have read the book and seen the show, I always find something new. In the much loved story, there is a point of departure in the deep friendship Anne shares with her neighbor, Dianna Barry. Anne goes off to college to study to be a teacher, while Dianna is told that educating women is a waste of money and that she must begin her duties as a wife and mother. Watching Dianna walk away, in this film production, I felt the most terrible sadness imaginable. Was I thinking of my own mother and grandmother who were told the same awful story? Were the legions of women who were the first in their respective families to obtain a  degree on my mind? I can attest to the fact that when my mother attended my graduation from Mills College,  in Oakland California,  she did feel proud, and even though I knew it was difficult for her to tell me this, I truly appreciated it when she did. Married with a five year old son, and another baby on the way, I was anything but a traditional student, and getting to the point of actually acquiring my diploma had been a quest in and of itself.

Perhaps the success of Anne of Green Gables has to do with her depiction of the world of girls and women at the turn of the last century, devoid of argument, but full of hope and possibility.  Lucy Maud Montgomery saw her novel rejected. It was a female friend who worked in the editorial department for Lewis Page who championed the cause and convinced  the publisher to accept it.

As an advocate of education for women, the beneficiary of an excellent high school single sex education, as well as a graduate of a woman's college, I am painfully aware of the sad fact that much of the world still refuses to allow girls to attend school. We must never forget where we come from, all we have accomplished and how much work still needs to be done.

As for those who were the vanguard of the new age, I can only remain deeply grateful and forever in their debt. Thank you, Lucy Maud Montgomery.


Send Gifts to Pakistan said...

I would hesitate to use the word 'success' in the way many people do. I don't know that I would apply it to what I've done as though I have now reached the ultimate goal. To me success is a continuing thing. It is growth and development. It is achieving one thing and using that as a stepping stone to achieve something else. Success comes as you have confidence in yourself. Self-confidence is built by succeeding, even if the success is small. It is the believing that makes it possible.

elizabethbrinton said...

What a lovely sentiment. Thank you.

Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

Interesting! Currently I'm reading "Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic" by Irene Gammel. I'd like to read "The Gift of Wings," too. I'm far from having read LMM's entire body of work, but every book I pick up is a new treasure.