Evening, Miss Osborne’s apartment. A dinner of pigeon pie, forcemeat balls, and sherry syllabub sits demolished on the dining room table; Miss Osborne, Miss Ball, and Mrs. Fitzpatrick lounge around the living room, each trying not to be the one to have to make tea for the group.
Miss Ball: . . . so it’s like that time in Book X when Character Z says—
Miss Osborne: Wait, don’t spoil it for me!
Mrs. Fitzpatrick: What?!
Miss O: I-I haven’t read it yet.
Miss B: How is that possible?
Mrs. F: It’s the best book ever written!
Miss B: I read it in first grade.
Mrs. F: I read it in the womb.
Miss B: That book saved my life.
Mrs. F: You can’t be President unless you’ve read it, you know. It’s in the Constitution.
Miss B: . . . I was in a dark place.
Mrs. F: They say it was the inspiration for “Raindrops and roses and whiskers on kittens.”
Miss B: I heard it’s what makes Superman fly!
Mrs. F: Don’t your parents like you?
Miss B: Or is this some kind of cruel joke?
Miss O: I . . . I don’t think so? I mean, I think they like me.
Mrs. F: Well, it doesn’t matter. They’re cruel.
Readers, it’s true. My parents were cruel, but only because they made me wear my brothers’ hand-me-down Toughskins jeans. They were and are avid readers, and they indulged my reading habits. Still, I managed to miss out on a few classics. To right these terrible wrongs, I’m slowly catching up on the books that apparently failed to shape my young psyche. Last summer, Mrs. F loaned me her tattered and well-loved (and fabulous) Little House books; this summer, I bought myself the entire Anne of Green Gables series. (In my defense, I had seen the movies. I’m up to the fifth book, and squeee! I do love Anne-with-an-E.)
I’ve stayed up late many nights enjoying the world of Anne Shirley, and was also pleased to find that the movie was faithful to the first novel. But I have to admit that I was surprised by the short bio about Lucy Maud Montgomery at the end of the book: apparently, during her college and post-college years, there was a tumultuous time when she was engaged to a cousin she did not love, and was in love with a farmer she thought was not a good match. She ended both relationships and eventually married a minister named Ewan MacDonald. Per the bio, “she did not love MacDonald with any passion, but she respected him, and he was a more suitable match for her than any of her previous suitors.”
I recognize it’s not uncommon to marry without passion, but I was surprised that Montgomery would do so when her heroine also made her way through a series of potential suitors (and ruminated on others’ good and bad relationships)—and then happily entered into a relationship of respect and passion with Gilbert Blythe. My mind keeps going back to Jane Austen, who is often quoted as saying, “Anything is to be preferred or endured rather than marrying without affection.” Is that why Jane never married? I assume that when she wrote about the marriage prospects of Lizzy Bennet, Elinor Dashwood, and her other heroines, she gave the reader her ideal vision of a good marriage—one of passion, tenderness, and mutual respect—because that’s what she desired for herself. Without any hard facts to back up my assumptions, I have always felt that Austen was true to her words and chose to remain unmarried because she couldn’t find a husband that could provide her ideal marriage. Who knows? Maybe Austen secretly wished she had married for the sake of being married, and maybe Montgomery was perfectly satisfied in a passionless marriage. But I can’t help but believe that both put their innermost desires into the lives of their heroines. In the meantime, I shall keep myself out of the depths of despair over the lack of my ideal mate by entertaining myself with more stories of Anne-with-an-E, outings with kindred spirits, and tantalizing visions of men with muttonchops.