|My current Montgomery collection...although the Anne series is *mostly* my sister's, but I did contribute to its purchase so I probably own about a book and a half of them. ;)|
If you cannot tell, I am a diehard L.M. Montgomery fan. Thanks to Anne of Green Gables, she was one of the first classic authors that I was exposed to, and she’s one of the few with enough books to have kept me reading: now, roughly fifteen years after I was first introduced to Anne Shirley, I’m still making my way through all of her books. I’ve almost finished them all, and thanks to Kindle, I’ve read all six L.M. Montgomery Short Stories collections. While I’m sure that’s not all of Montgomery’s stories (I own both Chronicles of Avonlea books, which include tales not in any of the free books) I’ve certainly read a fair amount of them. As I’ve often said, my hatred of ebooks is only exceeded by my love of free books, and the public domain titles available for free on Amazon have become my weakness.
With this in mind, I’ve decided to put together a list of “the best of the best” of L.M. Montgomery’s short stories in honor of her 141st birthday and Eva’s Lucy Maude Montgomery Week. If you’ve ever watched Road to Avonlea you might notice that some of these plots sound familiar, as many of them were incorporated as episodes in the series.
These stories are sort of in a vague order of preference. The first half of the list contain my very favorites (although those are not in a strict order) while the ones in the second half, while still good, don’t have that extra spark in them that the others do. I’ve tried to include at least one from each collection.
1. “The Materializing of Cecil” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
To save face, an old maid invents a past beau…only to be shocked and dismayed when a man with the same name and occupation as her invention comes to town! One of my very favorites: I love the main character and the ridiculous situation she’s in makes me laugh even while I’m sympathizing with her plight.
2. “The Quarantine at Alexander Abraham’s.” (from Chronicles of Avonlea)
A man-hating woman and her cat are quarantined in the same house as a woman-hating man and his dog. Hilarity (and romance) ensue.
3. “The Brother Who Failed” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
Uh. This story actually makes me cry. Just go read it.
4. “Each in His Own Tongue” (from Chronicles of Avonlea)
A pastor disapproves of his grandson’s love of the violin, but he soon learns that the love of God can at times be better expressed through music than in words.
5. “The Education of Betty” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
A sweet romance about a man who decides to “take in hand” the wild daughter of his deceased friend. The story sounds deceptively simple and benign, but it’s one of the few that I re-read.
6. “The Genesis of the Doughnut Club” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
One of the few stories about an “old maid” that doesn’t end in marriage. It’s super-sweet and adorable nonetheless.
7. “The Unhappiness of Miss Farquar” (from Collection No. 2, 1902-1903)
A young woman jilted in love finds unexpected happiness in helping others.
8. “The Young Family Feud” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
Family feuds are a common theme in Montgomery’s work, but this is one of my favorite versions of the familiar plot.
9. “The Doctor’s Sweetheart” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
Another sweet romance, although the age difference is a little much, I’ll admit.
10. “By Grace of Julius Caesar” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
Two women are trapped on a rooftop to avoid a dog—will one of them be forced to marry the dog’s owner to get out of this mess?
11. “The Growing Up of Cornelia” (from Collection No. 5, 1907-1908)
I really liked this one, even if I wasn’t too fond of the ending, which seemed rushed and a tad bit unsatisfying, even if it did end happily.
12. “An Unconventional Confidence” (from Collection No. 2, 1902-1903)
A young girl unburdens her problems to a man while they seek shelter from the rain.
13. “Here Comes the Bride” (from The Road to Yesterday)
Including this one is a bit deceptive because it isn’t one of my favorites at all (too much Blythe name-dropping to please me) but I love the idea: it’s a variety of people’s inner thoughts during a wedding. What’s so interesting is the varied perspectives—guests, bride & groom, the wedding party—and how some people’s judgments/gossip about certain other people are revealed to be totally wrong once the reader sees their thoughts. It’s an interesting concept, and I’d love to one day try my own hand at using it.
14. “A Sandshore Wooing” (from Collection No. 2, 1902-1903)
To escape the eyes and ears of her man-hating aunt, a young woman can communicate with her suitor only by sign language.
15. “When Jack and Jill Took a Hand” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
Two ten-year-old’s decide to hurry up the courting between their beloved aunt and the local preacher. I love that it’s told from their first-person perspectives.
16. “The Conscience Case of David Bell” (from Further Chronicles of Avonlea)
It’s revival time in town, but David Bell, elder, hasn’t gone up to testify once! Judgements and speculations from the congregation abound, but Mr. Bell’s real reason for his silence and strange behavior shames them all.
17. “The Touch of Fate” (from Collection No. 1, 1896-1901)
A matchmaker’s meddling goes awry and separates a young couple.
18. “The Garden of Spices” (from Collection No. 6, 1909-1922)
A young boy escapes his aunt to visit the garden next door.
19. "The Wooing of Bessy” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
At first glance, this could be simply another of Montgomery’s romances, but the characters are a bit out of the norm. It’s not often that you see an age gap (even a small one) where the woman is older than the man- and it certainly causes a few eyebrows raised in disapproval in this story!
20. “The Dissipation of Miss Ponsonby" (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
A story very similar to one episode in a later Anne book, it’s nevertheless entertaining, about two girls who conspire to help an old maid out of the house and away from her tyrant father’s eagle eye in order to attend a party.
21. “The Redemption of John Churchill” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
A recently released jailbird is redeemed by the love of his son.
22. “The Unforgotten One” (from Collection No. 4, 1905-1906)
An old nanny is distraught that the family she works for seems completely unconcerned about their first Christmas without a beloved cousin, raised with them like a sibling. But when she visits the woman’s grave, she encounters just how much the family loved the deceased woman.
23. “The Softening of Miss Cynthia” (from Collection No. 3, 1904)
Strict Miss Cynthia has no desire to take in some boy, no thank you. Not even if he is a step-nephew. Nothing can soften her…can it?
24. “The Little Black Doll” (from Collection No. 6, 1909-1922)
A young girl tried to make the last days of a servant girl better, even if it means giving up her most prized possession. The ending with the grandmother still bothers me on this one, though.
25. “Kismet” (from Collection No. 1, 1896-1901)
An estranged husband and wife pin their future on a horse race.
If you’re interested, here are the links to all six short story collections available for free on Amazon. Sadly, many of my favorites are in the Avonlea collections, which to my knowledge are not available for free here, but these still include some good stories. I’ve also included links to my Goodreads reviews.
I shall end by saying a very happy birthday to Lucy Maude Montgomery, and I recommend you all check out the tag at Coffee, Classics, and Craziness to help celebrate the occasion.
*These stories were also published by Bantam books in paperback form under collection titles such as "Along the Shore," "At the Altar," and "Among the Shadows." However, only owning one of these, I don't know how the stories are distributed among those collections.