Try to spin it out as I might (and did) I finally finished reading The Blythes are Quoted earlier this week. As I think I said before, I had read most of the stories in The Road to Yesterday but then they had been edited (quite severely it turns out); only one of the poems remained, a poem I can still quote chunks of having read it as a teenager; and all of the scene setting and conversations were wiped. In fact, it was a collection of unrelated short stories like any other. Now, as The Blythes are Quoted, it is a cohesive work, building to a climax.
In today’s world, the stories would raise no eyebrows but, in the context of what most people know about LM Montgomery, many of the subjects dealt with are shocking: adultery, bitter revenge, suicide. This is not really a children’s book or even a teenage one. Not because of anything actually written but because of the depth of understanding and life experience needed. In terms of chronology, The Blythes are Quoted follows on from Anne of Ingleside, which was written retrospectively, not Rilla of Ingleside, the last of the Anne books. And considered like that, this is not such a departure. Many of the same themes are to be found in Montgomery’s last two books.
For me the truly shocking comment came in Benjamin Lefebvre’s (the editor) afterword. I had known that LM Montgomery suffered from depression and that her life was far from that depicted in most of her novels (although there are darker undertones in many of them). But I hadn’t heard last year, when it was first made public, that she had died of a drug overdose that might have been deliberate. The suggestion of suicide is apparently given more credence because the manuscript of The Blythes are Quoted was handed to her publisher on the day she died.
I am glad that it was and I am delighted that Penguin Canada has finally published it as LM Montgomery wrote it. Reading it as a fan, I was happy to meet Anne once more. But as one who studies literature for young people, I found this a fascinating book with depths that I can plumb for years to come.