Updated: Jun 4, 2019
I finished reading House of Dreams by Liz Rosenberg this week, and suffice it to say it broadened my perspective on an author I already felt a deep connection to. I've always been wary about reading biographies. To me they ring true the phrase "never meet your hero." Often you read books about individuals you look up to, and find you've learned things about them you didn't necessarily want to know. However when I read this biography, I didn't come away from it with any negative feeling towards Maud Montgomery. On the contrary, I walked away with even more respect for her than I previously had.
The author covers Maud's life from her early childhood to the end of her life. In that time Maud went through extremely life changing events that did everything from making her life better to making it unbearable. The timeline is accurate and thoroughly researched, making for an increased enjoyment in your reading. In fact, knowing the timeline and at just what point in her life Maud wrote Anne of Green Gables, makes me look at the Anne books in a very different light.
It's no secret that Maud grew to detest writing about Anne Shirley. After Anne of the Island, she felt that Anne's story had been sufficiently told. However pressure from her publisher and from public appeal forced her to compose six more novels about our red headed heroine. And while readers today greatly value those works and their unique story lines, many readers acknowledge that Maud's writing lacked a certain spark. Her devotion to Anne had faded over time, making writing about her a more difficult task than it once was.
It's an unpopular opinion of mine that Anne of Avonlea is far better than it's predecessor. I personally feel we see more of Anne's inner self in that novel, and the message that "one cannot get over the habit of being a little girl all at once" holds a special place in my heart. Nevertheless, Maud always felt that her sequels were weaker than her originals. She felt this way with Anne, Emily Climbs and Mistress Pat. Yet many regard those works as being some of her superior writings.
For me this goes to show that an author is never in full control of how their books will be viewed or interpreted by their readers. In my personal situation, there are lines of dialogue and parts of my book that I felt were weaker than the rest of the story. However whenever someone tells me how they liked my novel, those are the parts that they love the most. When we create a work and put in the public eye, we forfeit our right to interpret the story one way. It's the readers that make a novel come alive. And some tastes differ from others. So even if Maud disliked her own books, it wasn't up to her to decide whether they would become classics or not.
Despite Maud's protests, her works couldn't help but be beloved by children and adults everywhere. She was and still is a true beacon of inspiration for those who choose to dream. And despite the negativity she eventually felt towards our Anne-girl, I don't believe she ever stopped loving her, and the life that character created for her authoress. If it wasn't for Anne, my life would certainly be very different. And I like to believe that Maud knew how much of an impact these novels would have on her readers, long after they were able to touch her own heart and soul.
Have you read House of Dreams? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below!