I’m just going to go ahead and say it: re-reading these journals is going to be a part of my life for the rest of my life. I cannot tell you how much I’ve enjoyed picking them up again. Part of it is the living I’ve done since my first time through — I’m a bonafide author now, I’m no longer the mother of babies but two growing boys, I’ve been a pastor’s wife in four different churches. In other words, I’ve grown since my first Maud encounter, and I’ve been able to meet her at a different place this time through.
Before we get started, here are a few other posts with great insight into / reflection on Volume IV:
The Sheila Variations: Volume IV
Serenity Now: Pursuing Happy
So much of this volume revolves around relationships — good ones, renewed ones, eroding ones, ones that should have been set aside.
Chester and Stuart
Though Maud has hinted at disappointment in Chester before, this is the first volume where she airs her worries and frustrations with both her boys. Chester fails his first year in college, has two bad working experiences (first with a summer mining job and later in a law office), and secretly marries a hometown girl. Further complicating things, Chester and his wife, Louella, don’t tell Maud and her husband, Ewan, of the marriage until Louella discovers she’s pregnant (and to complicate things even further, the young MacDonalds* tell their parents they’d married a full year before. I assume this is to claim the baby is legitimate).
Stuart’s problems are smaller in comparison (failing an exam, making friends his mother isn’t comfortable with), though they’re still enough to distress Maud.
It was surprising that both boys got involved with gambling their first year in school and both were able to successfully keep this from their mother. Reading that Chester had $28 stolen and Stuart lost his overcoat made me wonder: were these things true or coverups from gambling losses?
Oh, Ewan. I really feel for you. And Maud, who had to step in and try to keep the status quo when his mental illness flared. Outside of her life-long friend, Nora, Maud never had anyone she trusted with Ewan’s true illness. Not even his current doctor. So when he was unable to preach and spent time in a sanatorium, he was simply resting his “nerves.” All those scenes where Maud is hosting the pulpit supply pastor for Sunday dinner, holding a meeting in her parlor, or entertaining houseguests, we know that in the background Ewan is tucked away, fighting his demons, while Maud grits her teeth, hoping no one will hear.
Isobel, an obsessed fan, declares her love, calls, writes, and begs for visits with Maud. I have to confess having a hard time understanding why Maud let this relationship continue. I wish Maud could have comfortably told her no — just as I wish she could have said no to half of her church obligations or the friends, family and acquaintances who asked for money. Imagine if she let herself sleep-in every once in a while, as a taste of the month in bed she always longed for! I can’t help but think she would have been a little happier if she stepped away from some of the tasks and social niceties she felt she must hold to.
Journaling In General
It is fascinating to me that Maud was so distraught by life’s circumstances that she didn’t journal for three years…but kept detailed records of those days in a notebook, which she later transcribed into her journal. I can only guess she was waiting for a change in events, the sort that would nullify the negative ones in the notebooks. When no change came, she finally decided to “write up” the missing years.
Maud journaled as a storyteller. As a reader, I’m curious about her recording of dreams she felt pertained to good or bad events in her life. Did she shape what dreams she included, keeping record in these later years of only dreams that lined up with her joys and dreads?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on Volume IV. Remember to come back in October, when we’ll finish our readings with Volume V.
*MacDonald is LMM’s married name
Ooh, I adore the picture on The Sheila Variations post! It’s the china dogs!! One of the many things I relate to in Montgomery is her love for pretty things and how dear to her things like the dogs could be, mostly because she had longed for them for so long and eventually earned them herself. And then they make such a great addition to the Anne books.
This is a great review of the volume. I had not even made the connection between gambling and the boys’ “stolen” things, but I bet you are right about that. Her worry over her boys is so heartbreaking. I wish I could step into Montgomery’s journals and redeem so many things for her. I feel like she gave me such a gift with her writing, and I wish I could have given her something in return. I so wanted the house in Toronto to be the place where she will finally find peace and happiness. I wish so many things for her. I do have a little dream about my own writing and a book that could give something to her legacy. This reading has definitely renewed my motivation for that.
Also, I noticed one of your other commenters (on a previous volume) was having trouble finding Volume 5 (as was I) for less than $45 or so. (Amazon only has used versions, and the sellers are terribly proud of them!) 😉 BUT, I found it on Amazon-Canada brand new and only paid 25 USD total (including shipping). YAY! I can’t promise I’ll wait until October to read it. I’m so, so grateful you did this, Caroline. It was such a “someday” thing for me – ordering and reading her journals. And you made it actually happen. This is the favorite reading year of my life. Hands down.
Faith E. Hough says
Yep, I was that reader–thanks for remembering my comment! I’m off to check Amazon Canada now!
Caroline Starr Rose says
Yes! Gog and Magog. Though I could have done without green-spotted dogs (those were the ones LMM wanted but wasn’t able to get, right? Or was that Anne? I’m merging the two now!).
Serenity, I love all you’ve said here. You are such a generous, compassionate fan. I remember you starting on something in the spirit of Anne a few years ago. Is that the project you’re talking about?
So glad you found volume v. I’ll have to check back to see who was missing it and let her know what you’ve shared here. As for waiting, I emailed Marissa Burt a few weeks ago, and she told me she’d finished all volumes by May! It’s hard to stop once you’ve started.
THANK YOU for reading along, Serenity. I knew when I stumbled onto your blog we had this special Anne connection. It has been so special to read with you. Courage and strength for the last volume, friend. xo
Jessica Lawson says
A lovely post! Oh Lucy, the burdens and blessings that go along with being a wife and mother…reading about Chester and Stuart makes me think about my eldest stepchild, who headed off to college a week ago and is now making her own choices (hopefully gambling won’t be one of them, as it would be a shame for her to “lose” her own overcoat~ just got that thing as a special going-to-college gift :)). I have a blogging friend who is a big Anne fan~ off to email her about this post!
Caroline Starr Rose says
Even if you’re not an LMM fan, these journals are fascinating glimpses into life from the 1880s to the 1940s. As an author, you’ll especially appreciate them. Maud is such a storyteller. She even makes things like cleaning the chimney interesting!
Best of luck to your stepdaughter and that overcoat of hers. 😉
Please send your friend our way!
Faith E. Hough says
Oh, I wasn’t able to get Volume IV yet… I’ll have to come back to this post to leave a more insightful comment after I’ve read it! Of course now I’m practically itching to read it RIGHT NOW.
As with the other volumes, reading about Maud’s life (even just in your summary here) makes me wish so much that I could travel through time just to give her a hug. It’s sad (though understandable) that she felt unable to reach out to anyone in her acquaintance for help… Here we are, almost a century later, all more understanding than she thought her own friends could be. I know as an introvert myself, I find it very difficult to reach out and ask for help or prayers–it always has to be a conscious decision with me, and I don’t *like* to let other know that I am struggling with something. But hearing stories like Maud’s reminds me of how important it is.
Caroline Starr Rose says
“Here we are, almost a century later, all more understanding than she thought her own friends could be. “
Yes! Part of this has to do with our era, I think, but I have to believe if she’d given her close friends a chance, she would have had more support. In this volume, she re-connects with her girlhood friend, Laura Pritchard. I’m sure she would have been a compassionate support. If Frede had still been around, she could have loved on Maud. Even Mr. and Mrs. B of the Union church I would suspect would have supported Maud and Ewan.
As hard as these last few years in Norval were, at least she had a few friends. After Frede died, Maud had no one in Leakesdale. Those were dark days.
I’m grateful, Faith, that we’ve gotten to know each other and that you’ve honored me by sharing bits of your life with me. Thank you, friend!