Saturday, October 20, 2012

After Many Days

    The past school year I had the chance to read the last seven novels in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s eight-book set starring clumsy, lovable redhead Anne Shirley and her crop of very different children. Actually, I have read twelve of Montgomery’s novels, and when I found After Many Days, a collection of eighteen short stories investigating the topic of long passages of time, at our local library’s annual book sale (seventh heaven for lovers of the written word!), I snatched it up.
Being that there are eighteen stories, it is page-consuming to write, and time-consuming to read, to explain every main character and every secondary character. Thus, for this review, I will focus on only three of the stories—The Bride Roses, Robert Turner’s Revenge, and The Price. In the first of these, Miss Corona is the sad victim of a family quarrel and mourns that she cannot attend her second cousin’s wedding. In the second, Robert Turner is an old, vengeful, ugly businessman. And in the third story, Christine North is a vain, beautiful young woman who is a pure visionary. Short stories are short—there is little time to get to know the character, but Montgomery masterfully exhibits her characters’ personalities in those few pages.
The plots also are done well, and not merely in those three stories, but in all eighteen of them. The Bride Roses centers Miss Corona around her sadness of not attending—actually, she was never invited to it—her second cousin’s wedding, all because of a stupid family quarrel which happened thirty years ago. Robert Turner’s Revenge explains Turner’s return to the town of Chiswick to claim a farm on which the mortgage is foreclosed. The main reason he forecloses it so quickly, of course, is because it was owned by his dead nemesis Neil Jameson—and if he could not wreak revenge on his enemy, then why not to his children and his wife? The Price’s heroine, Christine North, is in love with Dr. Lennox, who is the doctor of her old cousin Agatha North. Christine is one of Agatha’s nurses, and so must give her medicine now and then; the night that Agatha dies, Christine believes that she has given her the wrong medicine—four tablets of a medicine of which three would be fatal. Her remorse and fear over the affair cause her to complete a penance almost inhumane—depriving herself of everything she enjoys.
Montgomery married a minister. That said, perhaps it is surprising to some people that she doesn’t mention God too often in her books. He is commonly referred to as “Providence,” when He is referred to at all. However, the sheer level of morality provides inevitable contentment for Christians. Especially in this book is the fact that revenge never gains the upper hand (I’ll leave you to find out exactly what that means). The Price illustrates “doing penance” for a wrong; though it is a Catholic maneuver, it at least shows that Christine cared (although, who wouldn’t?).
Overall, it is a very pleasing book, and I have nothing against it. Its characters are well-crafted. Its plots are fairly deep--as deep as one can expect those of a short story to be. Its morals are very good, albeit I wouldn’t say excellent. (Again, you do the searching, and you do the finding.) Moreover, Montgomery has the most amazing gift of words, dominated only in my remembrance and experience by J.R.R. Tolkien. Consider these sentences: He had come back to it, heartsick of his idols of the marketplace. For years they had satisfied him, the buying and selling and getting gain, the pitting of strength and craft against strength and craft, the tireless struggle, the exultation of victory. Then, suddenly, they had failed their worshipper; they ceased to satisfy; the sacrifices he had heaped on their altars availed him nothing in this new need and hunger of his being. Now see if you don’t want to ravage bookshelves, websites, libraries, and stores to find After Many Days. And if you haven’t already enjoyed any of Montgomery’s other novels, you’ve missed something huge in the literary world!

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