Review: Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane

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From Penguin Teen:

For the first time ever, a young novel about the teen years of L.M. Montgomery, the author who brought us ANNE OF GREEN GABLES.
Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery — Maud to her friends — has a dream: to go to college and become a writer, just like her idol, Louisa May Alcott. But living with her grandparents on Prince Edward Island, she worries that this dream will never come true. Her grandfather has strong opinions about a woman’s place in the world, and they do not include spending good money on college. Luckily, she has a teacher to believe in her, and good friends to support her, including Nate, the Baptist minister’s stepson and the smartest boy in the class. If only he weren’t a Baptist; her Presbyterian grandparents would never approve. Then again, Maud isn’t sure she wants to settle down with a boy — her dreams of being a writer are much more important.
But life changes for Maud when she goes out West to live with her father and his new wife and daughter. Her new home offers her another chance at love, as well as attending school, but tensions increase as Maud discovers her stepmother’s plans for her, which threaten Maud’s future — and her happiness forever.

Fourteen-year-old Maud Montgomery dreams of being a writer. But her grandfather doesn’t approve of women seeking higher education. So Maud nurtures her dreams in secret. But when her grandparents decide she must go live with her father in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan, she sees this as her chance to widen her horizons beyond her small community in Prince Edward Island and go to high school, then college. But Maud has an uphill struggle ahead of her and it’s going to take a lot of perseverance to make her dreams come true. Based on the teen years of Lucy Maud Montgomery,  this fictionalized novel follows the Anne of Green Gables author through friendships, first loves, and family trials.

I’m an Anne fan through and through, and Prince Edward Island is one of my favourite places, so Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane had my heart all atwitter. I adored revisiting this red-earthed landscape and all the places and people that inspired the books I love so much. Fishbane does a wonderful job of expressing an emotional attachment to place, similar to the style of L. M. Montgomery. Fishbane’s fondness of the author and her style comes through on every page, something I’m sure Anne fans will appreciate.

It’s easy to draw parallels between all of the secondary characters dotted throughout this novel with Montgomery’s own—you’ll find a Miss Stacy, some Pyes, and a bit of Gilbert. But Maud herself left a bit to be desired as a heroine. It’s difficult to be too hard on her because of the times and the author trying to be true to history, but I couldn’t help being frustrated by her passivity—especially with her relationship with her teacher Mr. Mustard. I just wanted to shout at her “Do something!” Anne would have done something. But in the end I think even Maud’s passivity sheds some insight into the development of Montgomery’s future heroine beloved the world over. Maud struggled with the confines of her times so she wrote a fiery heroine that couldn’t help but break through.

I’m curious to know what readers who haven’t read L.M. Montgomery’s books think of Maud because I definitely felt like I was reading with rose-coloured glasses. Does it hold up when not bolstered by a love of Anne and the Island?

Perhaps my favourite thing about this book though was that it inspired me to want to learn more about one of my favourite authors. Were the real-life figures really like their fictionalized counter-parts? For those curious folks like myself, Fishbane includes a snapshot of what happened to the more prominent characters at the end of the book. A word of warning: you will need Kleenex for that last entry. It breaks my heart just thinking about it.

I recommend Maud for any fan of Montgomery’s works. Read it, fall in love with the Island and it’s eccentric inhabitants again…and then go pick up Anne of Green Gables. You’ll definitely want to.

♥ ♥ ♥ ½ (3.5/5)

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