The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery

6616668The Blythes are Quoted, the last book in the Anne series, is a short story collection made up of stories about people who are the friends/neighbours/acquaintances of the Blythes. In every story the Blythes are mentioned or quoted, sometimes fondly, sometimes not-so-fondly.

I would like to write everything about this book. I would love to tell you about each story and write a whole post just of quotes. But, for now, I will exert some will power and keep it short(ish).

The stories are divided into two sections: before WWI and after WWI. The ones that take place after the war make mention of the grown Blythe children, and even take us beyond the time of Rilla of Ingleside. Alternating with the stories are poems written by Anne, and sometimes by her son Walter, followed by some discussion among the Ingleside folk.

8137The Blythes are Quoted first existed as The Road to Yesterday, but had been edited at the time because of more ‘adult content’ in some of the stories. But, of course, the ‘adult content’ is one of the things that make this volume such a delicious read. In the first story alone, there are ghosts, dead kittens, an illegitimate child, a drowned child, and a suicide. Some of the darker themes in this collection include adultery, illegitimacy, despair, mysogyny, murder, revenge, hatred, and death. It also includes more familiar themes and topics such as orphans longing for good homes, marriages culminating after years of delay, and resolutions of past grievances or misunderstandings.

Despite the darker edge, it is still undeniably L.M. Montgomery. You will find gossip, scandals, mysteries, romance, deceptions and coincidences galore. I love her haunting mysteries, her sense of romance, and her wonderful characters, but I think the best part of her writing is her wit and humour.  I won’t ever forget the hilarious story of Anthony Fingold and his refusal to wear the new style pajamas that his wife wants him to wear. He can’t imagine wearing pajamas instead of a nightshirt – how shocking! And you can even see who’s wearing them and who’s not by checking out the clotheslines on washing day. Dr. Gilbert Blythe, of course, has made the switch to pajamas. I wonder if the minister is wearing them? “Why did books never tell you the things you really wanted to know?” (Like whether or not William Tell wore pajamas.)

And, of course, along with the delightful, you will find bits and pieces that will make you uncomfortable; a reminder of the times in which Montgomery wrote her stories. Even Gilbert himself (the love of my life) is heard to say, “She is one of those strong-minded women no man really cares for.” Eek. However, I don’t believe that because she writes it, she believes it to be true. I just think she writes it the way she sees it.

Remarks on the way people look…

… is it better to be beautiful when you are young and have it to remember always, even though it must be hard to see your good looks fade, than to be always plain and so have nothing much to regret when you grow old?

… rosebud mouths were in fashion then. Who ever saw one now? … the sloping shoulders… they had gone out, too. The nurse had shoulders square as a man.

Gossiping ladies at a wedding (with more remarks on the way people look)…

Amy was simply heartbroken when the engagement to Elmer was broken off… It was really indelicate the way she snapped D’Arcy up the moment Elmer threw her over.

Look at that mosquito on Mortin Gray’s fat jowl! Doesn’t the man feel it? No, he’s probably too thick-skinned to feel anything. I wish I could give it a slap…

Evelyn’s looking well, but she shouldn’t have her dress cut that way… it gives her sway back away… lordosis is the name nowadays, I believe… Evelyn is positively triumphant…

D’Arcy isn’t much to look at… his face is too long… but poor Rhea looks quite as well as the other bridesmaids. That shade of blue is so trying… probably Evelyn selected it for that reason. Marnie looks like a gypsy as usual… only gypsies aren’t quite so plump, are they? Amy will find it even harder to get her settled than Evelyn. Diana Blythe looks rather well. There really is something about those Blythe girls… though I’d never admit it to their mother.

Susan’s one-liners…

Women should not put up with everything and that I will tie to.

If you don’t get married you wish you had… and if you do you wish you hadn’t.

Mysterious and romantic figures…

She seemed like the child of twilight. Grey things and starriness were of her. She moved gently and laughed seldom but her little air of sadness was beautiful and bewitching.

Houses and the elements are characters of their own…

The old house seemed listening to the cold poison of her words. At times the gust of wind died away, too, as if the whole world wanted to listen.

And quotes that are as relevant today as ever…

And don’t be too hard in your judgments of folks you don’t know much about.

From the Forward written by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, a theory as to what Montgomery intended when putting together this book…

Perhaps Montgomery intended this last story of Anne to be her farewell letter to a world she knew she was leaving soon. Perhaps this is why so many of the pieces are preoccupied with finding, feeling, speaking truth and why Montgomery is at pains to show there is seldom one truth only. Montgomery the artist triumphs in shaping this final book: there is no easy closure for Anne’s story, and we care how and why this is so.

Highly recommended for anyone who is a fan of L.M. Montgomery.

And, just a reminder, we’ll be starting the Emily Readalong (#ReadingEmily) in February with the first book – Emily of New Moon. Join us!


31 thoughts on “The Blythes are Quoted by L.M. Montgomery

  1. Jillian says:

    I’ve recently read this collection too. I thought it was daring and interesting — different from some of her more cheerful stories. I love the uncomfortable flip between the stories and the vignettes of the Blythe family as they are behind closed doors. My favorite story was “A Commonplace Woman”, and I loved the poem “The Aftermath,” especially when contrasted with the poem that opens the book. 🙂

    • Naomi says:

      ‘A Commonplace Woman’ was definitely one of my favourites, as well. And ‘Retribution’ made my skin tingle. And I loved the humour in ‘A Dream Come True’. I’m not good at choosing favourites, though – it always seems to be the story I just read! 🙂

  2. Rebecca Foster says:

    I had no idea this book existed! I thought the story stopped with “Rilla.” You’re right, it sounds like a must-read for a Montgomery fan. I’ll have to seek out a secondhand copy.

  3. The Paperback Princess says:

    I really should have re-read this when we did the Anne Readalong.

    I hadn’t thought much about when this was written in terms of Montgomery’s life. Makes sense that she had some last thoughts she wanted to share with her readers.

    I’m excited to finally get to read the Emily books!

    • Naomi says:

      I’m always curious to know what was going on her her life (and thoughts) at each stage of her writing. I bet it’s sometimes hard to let characters and stories be done with. (Even if you want to be done with them!)

      I’m excited for you to read Emily for the first time! Can’t wait!

      • The Paperback Princess says:

        Have you read a biography about her? If not, I recommend The Gift of Wings by Mary Henley Rubio. Gives a really great idea of where her head was at. Will probably be really illuminating right after reading her work.

      • Naomi says:

        I do have that book! I read the PEI years after our Green Gables readalong, but haven’t read anymore since. Maybe I’ll be ready to read more after Emily!

  4. FictionFan says:

    I’ve never heard of this – it sound delicious! I love those quotes. Haha – it’s funny that the phrase “adultery, illegitimacy, despair, mysogyny, murder, revenge, hatred, and death” really appeals to me, and yet I’m worried about the “drowned kittens”… 😉

    • Naomi says:

      I know! Anything but the kittens, right? You’ll get the drowned kittens overwith in the first story. But I wouldn’t advise skipping that one – it’s the most ‘mysterious’ of the stories!

      • buriedinprint says:

        The first story really stuck with me, too; I think they made a fine choice with which to begin the collection. Funny, I’m never very keen to pick up her stoies – they are often rather formulaid – but once I start reading them, I nearly always enjoy them. Here, I especially liked the imagined dialogue, which somehow felt like a peek into the author’s mind as much as Anne’s.

      • Naomi says:

        I also imagine I’m learning a lot about LMM’s views on things through her characters’ dialogue. And sometimes it seems as though she’s having such fun with it – even getting to say things she wouldn’t say in her own life.
        And I agree about her stories seeming to be formulaic at times, but there must be something about them, because I gobble them up!

    • Naomi says:

      This book didn’t get published until 2009. I remember when I was younger, it seemed as though they were always publishing new collections of her short stories. It would be nice to think it will go on forever… 🙂

  5. Lory @ Emerald City Book Review says:

    I’d heard of this book, but dismissed it as a sort of hodgepodge that didn’t seem really part of the Anne world. However, it sounds more interesting than I had thought. I like how you describe that Montgomery was trying to show there is never only one truth. That seems important to keep in mind right now.

  6. Benjamin Lefebvre says:

    Glad you enjoyed the book, Naomi! The edition from 2009 can be hard to find now, but a new edition is coming out this October from Penguin Canada Modern Classics.

    Best wishes,
    Benjamin Lefebvre

  7. Grab the Lapels says:

    It has to be terribly interesting to go into the homes of nearby neighbors and hear what they think of Anne’s family. Mostly, LMM has us follow the minister’s children or Anne’s children, and they’re never the type to say a bad thing about the Blythes. I shall have to read this book for sure, Naomi! I also like it when LMM gets a bit darker. I bought her two novels for adults and need to read them.

    • Naomi says:

      I think you’d like this one, Melanie. I thought it was so much fun to hear what others thought of the Blythes! And, the stories themselves, even without mention of Anne’s family, are wonderful.

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