March 5, 2021

Book Review - House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg


House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery

by Liz Rosenberg
illustrated by Julie Morstad

Genres: Biography, Nonfiction, Canadian History, Middle Grade
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Length: 339 pages
Published: June 12, 2018
Purchase Links: Amazon, Barnes & Noble

Official Book Summary:

"An affecting biography of the author of Anne of Green Gables is the first for young readers to include revelations about her last days and to encompass the complexity of a brilliant and sometimes troubled life.

Once upon a time, there was a girl named Maud who adored stories. When she was fourteen years old, Maud wrote in her journal, 'I love books. I hope when I grow up to be able to have lots of them.' Not only did Maud grow up to own lots of books, she wrote twenty-four of them herself as L. M. Montgomery, the world-renowned author of Anne of Green Gables. For many years, not a great deal was known about Maud’s personal life. Her childhood was spent with strict, undemonstrative grandparents, and her reflections on writing, her lifelong struggles with anxiety and depression, her 'year of mad passion,' and her difficult married life remained locked away, buried deep within her unpublished personal journals. Through this revealing and deeply moving biography, kindred spirits of all ages who, like Maud, never gave up 'the substance of things hoped for' will be captivated anew by the words of this remarkable woman."


"She had come to a bend in the road--though at that moment she could not see around it. It seemed merely the end of a vibrant June day. She had a new friend in town, and she had begun a new story. Maud had no way of knowing that absolutely everything in her life was about to change."


"On a late June afternoon in 1905, Maud Montgomery sad in her grandmother's kitchen, writing. She sat not at the kitchen table, but perched on top of it, her feet set neatly on a nearby sofa, her notebook propped against her knees. From here she could jump down if someone stopped by for their mail, as was likely to happen--for the kitchen doubled as the post office of Cavendish, a tiny seaside village on Prince Edward Island.
Maud was thirty, but she looked younger, barely out of her teens. She had large, sparkling gray-blue eyes with long eyelashes, and a small mouth she sometimes covered with her hand, since she thought her teeth were her worst feature. She was medium height, slight, trim, and erect. Maud believed her one beauty to be her lustrous hair, a feature she'd inherited from her late mother. When she let it down at night, her hair hung past her knees in masses of soft brown waves. But most of the time she wore it up, pinned under the most fanciful and elaborate hats she could find.

At this moment Maud was working on a new story. Though she had just begun, she felt immediately transported to another world--a Cavendish-like place she would call Avonlea." 

My Book Review:

I adored this young reader’s biography of the life of L.M. Montgomery.

Like many readers, I have been a fan of the Anne of Green Gables series since I was a child. As an adult, I read The Blue Castle and have increasingly found myself curious to not only read all of her books, but to get to know more about the author herself. Rosenberg's biography was just the ticket.

First off, I want to celebrate just how beautiful this book is. The hardback edition would make an excellent gift, which was how I received it. The illustrations by Julie Morstad are delightful. There were quite a few that I wanted as art prints as they would be beautiful displayed within a home or office.

As for Rosenberg's biography of L. M. Montgomery, I learned so much about her very complicated life that I didn’t know before; more importantly, I learned how she was different from her character, Anne. It's not uncommon for readers to imagine that the author is thinly veiling the truth with their fiction, but for Montgomery, writing Anne's story was a way of dealing with the pain in her own past as she rewrote a happier, safer, and more positive depiction of coming-of-age through the story of an orphan who finds love and acceptance from her family. Montgomery didn't experience the same.

The author doesn’t mince words when explaining Maud’s romantic relationships, romantic disappointments, depression, and dependence (and even addition) to medications, so this might shock some younger audiences and be better in the hands of older or more mature teen readers. As an adult reader, I loved her candor and honesty and appreciated Maud more knowing about the complexities of her life. However, though this is pitched as middle grade fiction, some younger readers might not be the ideal audience.

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