November 23, 2018
“Words were her salvation, her business, and her hope.”
House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg
Genre/Categories: Narrative Nonfiction, Biography, Middle Grade, Canada
House of Dreams is the biography of L.M. Montgomery. Told in narrative style with a few illustrations, the story reveals the complex and troubled life of the well-known author of Anne of Green Gables. As well as exploring her lifelong struggle with anxiety and depression, the biography also details her childhood years and her love for books and writing. Through L.M. Montgomery’s own words, we are struck by her talent, perseverance, and hope.
Amazon (Early) Rating (November): 4.3 Stars
Target Audience. This is tricky discussion. Although House of Dreams is categorized as Middle Grade, I think that because of mature themes that it’s more suitable for YA and adults than children. I’m not suggesting that children should be shielded from the harsh realities of real life or the actual life of L.M. Montgomery, but I think the book might not appeal to children. Even though there’s a great deal to admire about L.M. Montgomery, it seems that middle grade readers might be bored with or even disturbed by discussions of an unhappy marriage, mental illness, feelings of despair, drug dependencies, and law suits. In my opinion, there seems to be a great deal of adult talk about adult issues in a children’s book. It’s a sad story and may discourage children (8-12) from reading Montgomery’s work.
I need to inject here that I appreciate today’s trend of writing about difficult topics that children might face within the context of children’s or young adult literature. A few examples are: Far From the Tree (adoption, foster care), Crenshaw (homelessness), The Hate U Give (racism, black lives matter), Stella by Starlight (racism, prejudice), Louisana’s Way Home (found family), Wishtree (diversity and tolerance), El Deafo (hearing challenged), Inside Out and Back Again (immigrant experience, bullying), Wonder (disabilities, acceptance, bullying), etc. Do you have titles to add to this list?
Realism or Happiness? For mature readers, there’s a great deal of inspiration to gain from the life of L.M. Montgomery and the double life she led. One life was the harsh reality of losing her mom as a toddler and having a loving father abandon her as a young girl. Even though she was placed with grandparents, they were strict and stern. Her other life consisted of her passion for writing and her imagination, a happy place of escape and inspiration. Laura Ingalls Wilder also wrote happy stories for children which didn’t always reflect the reality of her life. Even Louisa May Alcott was pressured by publishers to write happy stories for children. It appears that this was the expectation of the time. Thus, the unhappiness of Montgomery’s actual life was treated with lightness and hope in her stories for children:
“Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work,” she wrote. “I would not wish to darken any other life–I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.”
Inspirational. The author often refers to Montgomery as “heart-hungry,” always searching for family, friendship, love, and belonging. The author notes: “Maud was honing her special genius–to make the most of any situation, and to find humor under the most trying circumstances. It was a gift she would pass along to her own young fictional heroines, and a resource that upheld her for years to come. She transformed her own history of abandonment into a story of love and rescue. Ann of Green Gables is a book about creating lasting family. It is a celebration of place, a story about belonging. No one but Maud Montgomery, with all her checkered history and heart-hungry longing, could have created it.”
Not only was her ability to rise above her childhood circumstances inspirational, her ability to navigate a man’s world is noteworthy. In dealing with her publisher, she stated, “They cannot bluff, bully, or cajole.” Even though she wasn’t given a fair contract, she ended up making quite a substantial amount of money for a woman at that time. This money gave her some power and resources to sue the publishing company and to support her family as her husband’s mental health declined. Despite suffering from depression herself, Montgomery was able to take charge of her family, make important decisions, and write prolifically until the very end. She rose above her suffering for a very long time and accomplished so much in the face of it.
In addition, I think her loyalty and unwavering commitment to her grandmother is noteworthy. Her grandmother made many sacrifices for L.M. Montgomery and took care of her the best she could. Montgomery, in turn, sacrificed some things to make sure her grandmother was taken care of at the end of her life. Even though Montgomery never received the love she craved as a child and was even abandoned by her own father, she didn’t use this as an excuse to abandon her grandmother. Her sense of duty and responsibility is admirable and inspiring. In the most difficult of circumstances, she always strived to do the right thing for her family.
Favorite Quote. “She kept a notebook and pen in her apron pocket for small literary ’emergencies.’ ”
I Wish. Throughout the story, I wished the author had included real life pictures of people and places. It would have enhanced the reading in my opinion.
Recommended. As indicated above, I recommend this well written biography for YA (14+) and Adult fans of L.M. Montgomery, for readers who appreciate narrative biographies, and for all who are looking for a story about a strong, independent woman facing difficult circumstances and creating her best life. I would recommend this for mature middle grade readers with some parent or teacher support.
Although well written, I’m giving this 3.5 stars because I feel like it missed its target audience.
Meet the Author, Liz Rosenberg
Her long-awaited first non-fiction book, HOUSE OF DREAMS, a biography of author L.M. Montgomery, (Anne of Green Gables) will be published June 2018. It is a Junior Library Guild Selection.
Her first novel for adults, HOME REPAIR was a Target Breakout book, a BookBub pick, and voted top ten for Book Clubs and Most Likely to be Next Oprah Pick on Goodreads. Her second, THE LAWS OF GRAVITY, has been a best-seller in the United States, Canada, Germany and the UK. and was a Jewish Book Network selection for 2013. The Boston Globe hailed it as “a thoughtful story about morality, personal responsibility, the law, and above all, the complicated, sometimes incomprehensible ties of family.”
THE MOONLIGHT PALACE was the #1 best-selling Kindle book on Amazon. It was chosen to be a Kindle First, and was a #1 best-seller in the US and UK. BEAUTY AND ATTENTION, published in fall, 2016, is an updated re-telling of Henry James’ classic, PORTRAIT OF A LADY.
Her newest novel is INDIGO HILL, due out in November, 2018. About INDIGO HILL, author John Dufresne writes, “Liz Rosenberg loves her characters and makes us love them, too. She knows what Faulkner knew, that the past isn’t dead; it isn’t even past. She knows, as well, that every story is many stories, and she handles the complex intersecting tales of unspeakable loss, astonishing secrets, familial chaos, and heartbreak, with intelligence, poise, and tenderness.”
She is a full professor at Binghamton University’s English Department and has guest taught all over the world, from Russia to Austria to Singapore, and throughout the United States. Ms. Rosenberg spends her time reading and writing. Her hobbies and passions are reading and writing.
Happy Reading Book Buddies!
“Ah, how good it is to be among people who are reading.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
“I love the world of words, where life and literature connect.”
~Denise J Hughes
“Reading good books ruins you for enjoying bad ones.”
~Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society
“I read because books are a form of transportation, of teaching, and of connection! Books take us to places we’ve never been, they teach us about our world, and they help us to understand human experience.”
~Madeleine Riley, Top Shelf Text
Links I Love
Have you voted in the 2018 Goodreads Awards? Final voting is Nov 13-26. To vote, follow this link. Honestly, I’m discouraged with this year’s voting because my favorites of the year didn’t make it to the final cut in most categories. Did yours?
Have you seen The Hate U Give movie? Here’s the THUG trailer.
I’ve read positive reviews with some saying it could be one of the best movies of the year. Of course, the movie is never as good as the book so don’t miss this important read.
Looking Ahead to December
Of course I’ll be reviewing Kingdom of the Blind by Louise Penny next Friday, and then I’m planning posts that will include a November Wrap Up, a bookish gift guide, a Winter TBR, and end of the year recap. After that, I’ll see what library holds come in and watch for kindle deals. I’m definitely looking for some lighter reads in December.
My Fall TBR
I’ll be updating my Fall TBR list as I complete each read, so check this link often! Only one more read after Kingdom of the Blind until I complete my Fall TBR. Did you make a fall reading list?
Sharing is Caring
Thank you for reading today! I’d be honored and thrilled if you choose to enjoy and follow along, promote, and/or share my blog. Every share helps us grow.
What do you think about including harsh realities in children’s literature? Do you have some examples of this being done well?
I’d love to hear updates on your November reading! What are you looking forward to reading in December?
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