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Jane of Lantern Hill

June 17, 2013

General consensus seemed to be that, after The Blue Castle, Jane of Lantern Hill was the best L.M. Montgomery book. So, when I detached myself from the internet yesterday and had a mini reading spree, it was the first thing I read. I mean, after I finished the Nero Wolfe book I was in the middle of.

I’m sorry I’m late to the L.M. Montgomery party, but I’m not sorry I’m getting to read these books for the first time now. There are children’s books that I’ve read as an adult and wished I had read as a kid, but Jane of Lantern Hill isn’t one of them. Yes, reading it at the appropriate age would have been a very different experience, but I don’t think it would have necessarily been a better one; I have so much more context for things now. This is just me trying to rationalize, though. Mostly I can’t imagine enjoying Jane of Lantern Hill more when I was a kid than I did yesterday.

The setup is strikingly similar to that of The Blue Castle — the unhappy girl living in a strict, female-dominated household whose only escape is via her imagination, the awful aunts and uncles and the privileged cousin, etc. But Jane is a kid, and her family includes some non-awful people: her mother and father, who are estranged. Jane and her mother live with Jane’s grandmother, who basically hates everyone but Jane’s mother, and takes active pleasure in making Jane’s life miserable.

This is abuse. Her grandmother uses everything Jane does to reinforce a narrative where Jane is useless and terrible at everything and has “low tastes.” Anything that Jane does well or likes to do is either ignored or food for further criticism. Every nice thing that her grandmother gives is is secretly meant to make her unhappy. And Jane responds, as people being abused often do, by becoming bad at all of the things she’s told she’s bad at. It’s pretty uncomfortable reading.

But this is a mostly cheerful children’s book, and so there’s something irrepressibly humorous and interested in Jane that her grandmother can’t kill, and she gets to exercise those faculties when she goes away to spend the summer with her father on Prince Edward Island.

Jane’s first summer with her father is almost too perfect. They instinctively get each other, in a way that was enough like an idealized version of my relationship with my father that it almost made me uncomfortable. But only almost. What’s great about this section, though, is Jane’s confidence. Free of her grandmother’s influence, she knows she’s capable of doing all sorts of things. It’s interesting that so many of those things are in the areas of cooking and housekeeping — things her grandmother never repeatedly told Jane was awful at because she never allowed her to try them in the first place.

Even better is the fact that Jane takes some of that confidence back home with her at the end of the summer. And yes, she stands up for herself a little more, but my favorite thing is that her knowledge that she’s a capable person sticks with her and allows her to continue to be a capable person, doing better in school and becoming less clumsy. It’s great.

So, yeah, this book was so good for me in so many ways. I didn’t love the ending as much as I loved the rest, but I also don’t see how else Montgomery could have sorted things out, so I don’t really want to complain.

When I was finished with Jane of Lantern Hill I went on reading people’s recommendations/things I’ve waited for too long to read. Next up: The Adventure of Princess Sylvia, because I got mixed up and didn’t remember I was supposed to read Princess Virginia instead.

ETA: I kep meaning and forgetting to say that the book Jane of Lantern Hill reminds me of most is Keineth, which is a recommendation in itself.

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8 comments

  1. LM Montgomery is one of my favorite authors. I read this when I was a kid and its one of the few I have not re-read and your review makes me think I need to remedy that! Have you read the Anne, Pat, and Emily books yet?


    • I read most of the Anne books as a kid, and liked at least parts of all of them, but I was ambivalent enough about them that I never started reading Montgomery’s other stuff until now. I’m glad I’m getting to read these as an adult, though.


  2. I’d never heard of Jane of Lantern Hill until I read this post. I LOVED the Blue Castle….should see if I can get a copy of the former…


    • It’s so much fun. I definitely recommend it.


  3. Jane of Lantern Hill is also on the Australian Project Gutenberg. So glad you liked it! Is a Tangled Web is the next LM Mongomery?
    Also, I’ve started reading both The Adventure of Princess Sylvia and Princess Virginia at the same time and they appear to be identical! Only one has an American princess (Virginia) the other is English (Sylvia). I haven’t finished either, yet but so far they seem to be typical Ruritainian romance (a genre I love, btw!)


    • A Tangled Web is the other one multiple people have recommended, so that will be up next, but I’ve enjoyed these two so much that I might want to save it for a while?

      I’m also now reading Princess Virginia, and yeah, they’re almost identical, although I agree with Jenn that the dialogue in Princess Virginia is better. THey’re both pretty fun, but I’m having trouble sympathizing with the goals of any of the characters.


  4. Oh, I can’t imagine my own childhood without Montgomery’s Anne. And I still enjoy the series as she grows up pretty convincingly. My love of Anne is up there with my love of Elizabeth Bennett and Peter Whimsey.. I read the Emily and Pat books for the first time as an adult and enjoyed them, though not as well. I’d love to find Jane of Lantern Hill; I remember searching for it years ago with no luck. I’ll try Gutenberg!


    • Jane of Lantern Hill was published far too late to be available on Project Gutenberg, but if you click the link in the post above, it will take you to a copy of the text on Project Gutenberg Australia.



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