by L.M. Montgomery
Publication Date: June 5, 1937
Genre: classic, YA
Jane and her mother live in a gloomy old mansion, where their lives are ruled by her ovebearing grandmother. For most of her life Jane has believed that her father is dead. Then, one dull April morning, a letter comes. Not only is her father alive and well, but he wants Jane to spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island.
For a blissful summer she lives at her father's cottage on Lantern Hill, making friends, having adventures and discovering that life can be wonderful after all. And she dares to dream that there could be such a house where she, Mother and Father could live together without Grandmother's disapproval - a house that could be called home.
I actually read this one during the October read-a-thon and never got around to writing up a post. I’ve read a lot of L.M. Montgomery: the entire Anne Shirley series (more than once) and the Emily Starr series (time for a reread, I think). I picked up Jane of Lantern Hill, at least in part, because of the cover. I like pretty things. It is just as pretty in person as it is on a computer screen, by the way. And, as a total aside, I am so impressed with the Virago Classics because they are clean and well-edited. No one grabbed an old public domain version and OCR’d it and then slapped a cover on it and hit publish.
Back to Jane.
I loved this book. Jane reminds me a lot of Little Elizabeth, from Anne of Windy Poplars, but all grown up. She is living in Toronto, with her rather weak-spirited, beaten down mother, and her deeply angry grandmother, who still hasn’t gotten over the fact that her daughter went off and abandoned her to, (ungrateful child), get married and have a daughter of her own. L.M. Montgomery’s method of dealing with the problem of separating father and mother is fairly convenient, and is quite similar to how she separated Miss Lavender and Paul’s father in the Anne series. They get into a fight, and instead of acting like reasonable adults, mother takes baby and flees home, where grandmother spends more than a decade interfering in reconciliation. This is all set up to explain Jane’s sterile and unloved life in Toronto. Grandmother is wealthy, so she wants for nothing material or physical, but spiritually and emotionally, she is completely bereft. And Montgomery makes a convincing case that true happiness is dependent much more on wealth of spirit and love than it is on having nice stuff.
The book really comes into its own when Jane goes off to spend a summer with her father in Lantern Hill. Her adventures are charming. Her father is a writer, and cannot provide Jane with the material comforts of home, but with him, she receives much greater gifts: freedom, self-sufficiency, love and true friendship. She does not have the imagination of the bewitching Anne Shirley, or the literary talent and ambition of Emily Starr, but she has a homelike sweetness that is endearing.
I don’t believe that Montgomery ever wrote a sequel to Jane of Lantern Hill, which is unfortunate, because it would have been worth reading!