Choosing what to read for this year’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge was not easy. I’ve read most of her stand-alone novels for the challenge in the past few years (all of my reviews are linked up in this post), and I didn’t feel ready to tackle a series. I started on Chronicles of Avonlea, but it fell by the wayside after I read one story because really, short stories just aren’t my thing. I happened to think of Magic for Marigold, though, and quickly located it at the tip-top of one of our many bookshelves in our family room. Ah ha! Just what I was looking for!
While reading Magic for Marigold, I began to admit to myself that there’s really not much new in Montgomery’s stories, especially her children’s stories. If you’ve read Anne or Pat or even Emily, you more or less know the story: an imaginative girl, often misunderstood by at least some of the adults in her life, gets into all sorts of scrapes and misadventures. In the end, though, there is some resolution–she makes a friend, or if the story is sustained long enough, she finds true love. Magic for Marigold follows the same pattern. I read it rather critically, instead of just getting lost in it. The whole time I was reading, I was thinking about how Montgomery just sort of recycled the same tale over and over. That isn’t to say I didn’t enjoy it. I must definitely did–Montgomery knew how to spin a yarn. However, in my estimation, Marigold doesn’t rank quite as high as Anne (of course not!) or Emily (a close second to Anne in my book) or even Pat, mainly because there are a few things lacking in this story that I find highly enjoyable. First, there is no “second mother” for Marigold. Usually this character is in the person of a housekeeper. A grown up Anne has Susan to help with her bevy of children; there’s the ever present Judy Plum at Silver Bush. Montgomery had a knack for creating diamonds in the rough in these characters, and they’re usually some of my favorites. Marigold does have her Old Grandmother, who lives to be almost one hundred years old. Old Grandmother is the most entertaining character in this book, but she dies in the first seventy-five pages or so. Although this book contains plenty of little vignettes, which is the other thing I love so much about Montgomery’s novels, none of them seem as memorable to me as ones in the other books. I think this has to do with the fact that there’s only one Marigold book, so we don’t have as long to get to know the neighbors and family members.
Another thing I noticed about Magic for Marigold is that Christianity doesn’t come off very well in this story. I don’t remember paying as much attention to it in the other books I’ve read (‘though it has been a while for all the ones I haven’t re-read for Carrie’s challenge). I do remember that this is a noticeable element (almost a “feeling” for me) in the Emily books, but otherwise, I can’t say that I have particularly noted it in her children’s books. In Marigold, There are examples of religious fanaticism carried out in hypocrisy, atheism, and the idea that children can’t (shouldn’t?) take matters of faith so seriously. (Some might quibble with that last bit, but that’s how it seems to me.)
It sounds like I didn’t like the book, when in fact, I enjoyed reading it again. This one doesn’t stand out enough from the others to qualify as a favorite or very noteworthy in any way, but it contains lots of Montgomery’s trademark philosophy of life. In the words of Old Grandmother:
If you don’t believe things you’ll never have any fun. The more things you can believe the more interesting life is, as you say yourself. Too much incredulity makes it a poor thing. (72)
Thanks to Carrie for once again hosting the L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge. This is a challenge I look forward to with eager anticipation each January. I hope to publish a wrap-up post for the challenge on Friday, so stay tuned!