My most vivid memories of L.M. Montgomery’s stories are of reading them aloud, or having them read to me, although I discovered them as a silent reader when I was about eight. Once, ill in bed in my elementary-school years, my mother read the first four Anne books aloud before I was well enough to return to school. And I remember reading to her in turn, on other occasions, always skipping any talk of love between Anne and Gilbert as the series progressed, needless distractions from the “real story”.
My girlhood best friend, my Diana Barry, and I combed the shelves of our favourite bookstores for the brightly-coloured McClelland & Stewart editions of her other novels; some books we were content to borrow from the library, but these books were unequivocably “keepers”, and more than one copy of a Montgomery novel could only be a good thing. It was my first foray into collecting, which proved to be even more addictive than the stories themselves.
But it was while I was in university that I discovered the first volume of her journals and they spoke to me more directly than any of her fiction. I felt as though passages from her notebooks could have been lifted from my own and I copied them out excitedly, fervently thinking “kindred spirit”. And years later, on re-reading, I find that I have noted many of the same passages, so that I believe I will regularly return to these chronicles as an adult just as I returned to her stories as a girl.
Standing there beneath that endless blue dome, deep with the breathing of universal space, I felt as if all the world had a claim on my love – as if there were nothing of good I could not assimilate – no noble thought I could not re-echo. I put my arm around a lichened old spruce and laid my cheek against its rough side – it seemed like an old friend.
Wednesday March 16, 1892 (Journals I)