Kilmenny of the Orchard

by L.M. Montgomery

Hoo boy. I agree with other reviewers that this one came across as something Anne Shirley would have written when she was 11 years old. Or perhaps not unlike Jo March’s precious story that Amy threw in the fire. Some have speculated that this was probably L.M. Montgomery’s first attempt at prose as a young teen. I can well believe it.

I’m not going to re-iterate the unconscious bigotry towards foreigners, the whiffs of pedophilia, the emphasis on a girl’s beauty, purity, and sweetness as the source of mature love, etc. etc. which jars a reader in 2018. It was another time. I’ll just let the book speak for itself.

Her face was oval, marked in every cameo-like line and feature with that expression of absolute, flawless purity, found in the angels and Madonnas of old paintings, a purity that held in it no faintest strain of earthliness…Her eyes were of such blue as Eric had never seen before, the tint of the sea in the still, calm light that follows after a fine sunset; they were as luminous as the stars that came out…in the afterglow, and were fringed about with long, soot-black lashes…and so on and so forth.

Eh. Somehow I just cant relate to this girl. She can’t even have short eyelashes?

Poor Eric watches her lithe graceful motions with delight; every movement seemed poetry itself. She looked like a very incarnation of Spring—as if all the shimmer of young leaves and glow of young mornings and evanescent sweetness of young blossoms in a thousand springs had been embodied in her.

Clearly, He doesn’t stand a chance. It’s fortunate for him that Kilmenny is “divinely beautiful” to borrow a phrase from the beloved Anne of Greengables, because Eric “could never love an ugly girl.” Yes, that came right out of his mouth. One doesn’t wonder for a second that if Kilmenny’s “sad defect” were, say, crossed eyes or, a spotty complexion he would give her the time of day. Even if she could play the violin as if it sounded like “the laughter of daisies.”

The final conflict in the story is our Eric’s father’s understandable skepticism over the low-born illegitimate, isolated girl’s suitability as a life partner for his beloved son. Even if she can now speak. She’s never left her property even to go to church.
I hope your young lady hasn’t got her aunt’s mouth.” “Kilmeny’s mouth is like a love-song made incarnate in sweet flesh,” said Eric enthusiastically. “Humph!” said Mr. Marshall. Indeed, sir!
Unfortunately, Mr. Marshall buckles upon his first look at her angelic visage.

Kilmeny held out her hand with a shyly murmured greeting. Mr. Marshall took it and held it in his, looking so steadily and piercingly into her face that even her frank gaze wavered before the intensity of his keen old eyes. Then he drew her to him and kissed her gravely and gently on her white forehead. “My dear,” he said, “I am glad and proud that you have consented to be my son’s wife—and my very dear and honoured daughter.”

3 more lines concerning the glorious vista of Eric’s future and then THE END.

If I were a young aspiring writer, I would be very inspired reading this little novella. To think that the writer of this sentimental flowery prose would go on to craft so many beloved characters and novels is a revelation. As such, 2 stars. It is written with such innocence and sincerity that I can’t be too mean. **2 stars out of 5**

June 14, 2018

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