Those who have already seen the exhaustive and enticing biography of L.M. Montgomery that Mary Rubio published last year might wonder whether readers need another biography of this 20thC writer, but these two are very different.

Urquhart’s will appeal to those who admired Carol Shield’s slim biography of Jane Austen, which similarly condensed the writer’s life experience and explored themes and ideas more than biographical details.

Her LMM biography begins with a vivid sketch (of course Urquhart is an accomplished novelist herself) of the way that she imagines the author may have approached her death.

It’s quite a beginning and indicates her willingness to broach the recent controversy surrounding the author’s death without hesitation (some family members having recently revealed that they believe LMM committed suicide). It’s an unsettling beginning but it pulls the reader into the biography.

Urquhart’s way with words makes this biography an accessible read and, for those who aren’t familiar with LMM already, I think they will be intrigued and furnished with a useful overview, whereas those who are more familiar with L.M. Montgomery will find it interesting to consider the way that Urquhart has arranged and connected events in the author’s life.

In Urquhart’s opinion, a “truly great artist should be remembered for her influence on that which follows as much as she is remembered for her work”. And, as such, she believes that Montgomery’s influence is only now beginning to be understood. She writes: “Essentially, she gave permission to succeeding generations of Canadian writers to mythologize their dusty small towns and marginal farms, their daily lives and those of their seemingly unexceptional neighbours.”

LMM has been one of my favourite writers since I was a girl, so I don’t need any convincing on whether her storytelling has had an impact, but I’d say Urquhart makes her case persuasively.

Anyone else consider either L.M. Montgomery or Jane Urquhart a favourite writer of theirs?