Spoiler warning: the following review reveals a large amount
of plot detail. Proceed with caution.
"God gave all men all earth to love
But, since our hearts are small,
Ordained for each one spot should be
Beloved over all."
The novel Pat of Silver Bush is one of the later works by
L.M. Montgomery, the author of the famous Anne of Green
Gables series. It describes the growing pains of a girl named
Patricia Gardiner, who loved her home, Silver Bush, as dearly as if it were a
human being, and hated changes of any kind. In other things, she
also had a tendency of loving "too much", whether it was the old
servant Judy, her brother Sid, her bosom friend Bets, her first
boyfriends, or just a mere tree in her beloved home, or some clothes
she had outgrown.
Such a personality gave her many sweet days, but when changes did happen
to these beloved ones and things, she was afflicted the most. So the
story has a mostly bittersweet tone, full of youthful innocence,
which makes it a good read for both children and children-loving
"It wants to be lived in, Judy," she would say wistfully.
The story began when Pat was 7 years old, and the first major change
happened to her life --- her little sister Rachel, nicknamed Cuddles, was
born. Though young, Pat had already had a rather intense love for her
Silver Bush, especially the beautiful Secret Field whose presence
was a secret between her and her closest brother Sid. The old servant
Judy, a splendid tale-teller, understood her and cuddled her much, but
she also worried a little if life would be too hard on such a girl
that loved everything so much.
"Pat...when we grow up...with you be MY girl?"
Pat, not at all realising that at nine she had just had what was
practically her first proposal, went scarlet with anger.
"If you ever say anything like that to me again, Hilary Gordon,
I'll never speak to you as long as I live," she stormed.
A year later, when she got lost during an attempt to get home alone
after a visit, a boy named Hilary Gordon helped her home, and they thus
became good friends, and found some beautiful places for their own remembrance, just like
the Secret Field between her and Sid. Hilary was among the few people who
fully understood Pat's love for nature and for her home. He loved Pat
and had always wanted her for a wife, but Pat did not feel that way
for a long, long time, for there was not much room left for him in her
heart filled with love for Silver Bush, which Hilary could not beat.
Nevertheless, they had always been good friends,
who were able to help each other in times of trouble.
Now and then a white line came out for a moment on the
quivering black ash...Pat couldn't help seeing them..."My
own darling mother"..."perhaps you will come to see me soon,
dearest"..."I was head of my class all the week, mother
dearest. Aren't you glad?"... Pat ground her little white
teeth in a futile rage against fate.
Hilary had a sad childhood. His father died when he was very young,
and his mother remarried then, leaving him to the care of his uncle
who did not love him. Missing his mother much, Hilary wrote many
letters to her, but did not dare to send them. One day her mother was
really coming, but the result was a bitter disappointment
, for she
had almost forgotten her son, after spending years only trying to look
young so as not to lose her new husband's fancy. Understandably, this
was a heavy blow
for Hilary, when his love and
anticipation for years proved to be futile in a matter of hours, just like how
the letters were burnt up by him and Pat after this. Like a real man
Hilary recovered from the blow and matured in time, and since his mother provided
some financial support after all, he pursued a career of an architect
and achieving excellency, winning Pat's love and building a lovely
house for her, became his sole goal.
Bets blinked the last tears out of her eyes and thought she might
be glad, too. They sat there together and talked until there was a
hue and cry through the house for them and Bets was dragged away by
the aunt who had brought her to the party. But by this time she
and Pat knew all that was worth while knowing about each other's
When Pat was nine, she met another important person in her life, a girl named Elizabeth Wilcox, or Bets in short, born in
the same day as her, and now living in the Long House near Silver
Bush. Pat had not had any intimate girl friends before, but sweet,
beautiful and poetic Bets just suited her to a tee. Indeed in my opinion they are more of kindred spirits than even Anne and Diana in Anne of Green
Gables, for Diana lacked an imagination and seemed dull at times,
while Pat and Bets understood everything each other was interested
in. With her, Pat's early teenage years became the golden days of her life, though
changes still happened that saddened her from time to time.
anything more fascinating than a fire in the open after night? And
somewhere beyond those chilly skies was the real spring of blossom
and the summer of roses. They gazed out over the world with all
the old hill rapture no dweller in the valley ever knows. Oh, life
was sweet together!
Though Pat had long decided not to marry, for fear of having to leave
Silver Bush, at the age of fifteen she just fell in love in spite of
herself. However, although she was rather fascinated at the
beginning, sooner or later she found that none of these "beaux" shared
her interests, and they even dared to ridicule her beloved Silver
Bush, so the two love affairs Pat had were both rather short-lived,
after which she returned to Hilary and decided that, after all,
friendship is much more satisfactory than love. Meanwhile, Sid and
Bets were also getting to be lovers, so things were looking perfect enough
for Pat. Yes, it looked perfect, except that perfect things rarely
Pat still couldn't believe that her blue sky would ever come back...couldn't believe that there would come a time when she would
be happy again. Why, it would be terrible to be happy without Bets,
even if it were possible...disloyal to Bets...disloyal to
love. She despised herself when she had to admit that she felt
hungry once more!
When Pat was having a visit at her aunt's, Bets died from flu
pneumonia, leaving broken hearts and desolation behind. The Wilcox
family moved away after the funeral, so the Long House became the Long
Lonely House again, just like the time before Bets came, except that
Pat no longer wanted it to be inhabited by some stranger, who would destroy her beloved memory of Bets. The part of
the story with Bets in it was lively and cheerful; now that she was
gone, everything was tingled with sadness. But life had to and did go
on for poor Pat, who went to Queen's for a teacher's license, then she
went back to Silver Bush and became its mistress after her elder
sister Winnie's marriage. The novel ended here, when Pat was 18.
Hilary was thinking of the house he would build for Pat. He could
see it...he could almost see its lights gleaming through the
dusk of some land "beyond the hills and far away." More beautiful
than even Silver Bush. For a moment he almost hated Silver Bush.
It was the only rival he feared. Then he set his teeth.
"I'll have you yet, Pat."
Nowadays, in this volatile world, there are probably not many
people who would love a house as much as Pat, although children having
a similar experience as Hilary do exist. Anyway, even if you are not
of either type, the touching parts of the story will still make your
eyes blur at least. Besides these, the novel also contains many funny
parts such as Judy's ghostly yarns ("He was niver the same again"),
and who would not like a growing-up story of an innocent child, in this
increasingly sophisticated world?
The novel has a sequel, Mistress Pat, by the same author, which
describes the life of Pat in the next eleven years, during which
she had to deal with still more changes that kept falling upon her and
her beloved Silver Bush. The sequel has a rather different "feel"
from the original --- a large part of it is sad, almost a
tear-jerker, though it also has some funny parts and a happy ending.
Overall, both novels are enjoyable in their own way, so just go read
For non-USians, the full text of the two novels can be downloaded from
Project Gutenberg of Australia.