LM Montgomery’s Tales of Time
The famed author of Anne of Green Gables was also a prolific and skilled short story writer
Around the Hearth
Eighty years after her passing in 1942, LM Montgomery continues to delight readers with her words. A prolific writer best known for her beloved Anne of Green Gables, she wrote more than 500 short stories, as well as the novels that brought her fame.
Around the Hearth: Tales of Home and Family, edited by Joanne Lebold is a collection of 17 of those tales. Lebold is well respected as a Montgomery scholar and collector of her work. Around the Hearth is a continuation of a series of short story collections previously published by McClelland & Stewart, edited by the late Rea Wilmshurst.
When asked, why publish stories written over 125 years ago, Whitney Moran, managing editor at Nimbus Publishing and Vagrant Press, doesn’t hesitate. “Honestly, it wasn’t a difficult decision—we published a collection of forgotten Montgomery stories a few years ago, After Many Years, and it’s been incredibly popular and a very good seller. So when this manuscript came in, it felt very similar,” she says.
The publisher has many Montgomery related books in its catalogue, fiction and nonfiction. “As far as we see it, Montgomery books are a sweet spot: they’re important to the culture of Atlantic Canada, which suits our mandate, but they’re also perennial sellers. We are thrilled to be able to publish this work, and Montgomery fans are insatiable, so we’re always on the lookout for more of her work to share.”
Within the heartfelt pages of Around the Hearth are moments of deep passion for nature, a sense of adventure, love of family and kindred spirits, all reminiscent of Anne Shirley and her creator.
“Montgomery incorporated personal life experiences into her stories and books,” says Lebold. “In Around the Hearth, the most notable example of this is when a wrong ingredient is used while baking. It was while Montgomery was a teacher in Bideford, PEI from 1894 to 95, and boarding at the Bideford manse, that this funny incident actually occurred. The mistress of the manse accidentally flavoured a cake with anodyne liniment and served it to a visiting minister for tea. In her autobiography, Montgomery says ‘never shall I forget the taste of that cake’ but also notes that the minister ate every crumb without comment!”
Such humour is sprinkled throughout Around the Hearth. Sisters hide burnt gingersnaps in a hollow tree stump, homesick cows mend relationships and an engagement is called off because of the bride’s dislike of red hair.
Over years or decades, published books change as people and cultures evolve.
But the warmth and charisma of Montgomery’s stories have staying power. Although much has changed in the world, the core values of friendship, family and basic human goodness endure, ensuring the continued popularity of her work.
“Times change, but human behaviour does not and LM Montgomery had a wonderful understanding of human behaviour,” says Lebold. “Although most of these stories were written well over one hundred years ago, today’s readers can identify with the characters as people still think, feel and act in many of the same ways.
“Take stubbornness for example. In ‘Why Faith Spoke First’ and ‘The Goose Feud,’ we find two sets of friends who have had falling-outs. The main characters in both these stories want to forgive and forget but no one wants to be the first to give in.”
There are also examples of homesickness and financial troubles, which can occur at any point in history.
“And then there are love stories. They never go out of style,” says Lebold.
In 2022, more than two years into a pandemic and with revelations of many social injustices being brought to the forefront, Montgomery’s stories of the 1900s are pertinent. As fitting as it was in 1908, when the author wrote “By Way of a Brick Oven,” her character, Dorrie Woodburn’s words are worth repeating now:
“Oh, it’s a good old world,” said Dorrie with a happy sigh, “and the people in it are good. I’m glad that I’m alive in it.”
Perhaps a sentiment from Montgomery herself reminding us to look beyond our current circumstance.