Spoiler warning: If you have not read both The Story
Girl and The Golden Road, beware that the review below may
contain a substantial amount of spoilers.
Once upon a time we all walked on the golden road. It was a fair
highway, through the Land of Lost Delight; shadow and sunshine
were blessedly mingled, and every turn and dip revealed a fresh
charm and a new loveliness to eager hearts and unspoiled eyes.
The Story Girl and The Golden Road are the two books of
the Story Girl series, written by L.M. Montgomery. The two novels
will be considered together below, since they are intimately connected
in plot and share much of the same style. The story is about the life
and adventures of a few teenagers living in rural Prince Edward
Island, Canada, namely Dan, Felicity, Cecily, Beverley, Felix, the
Story Girl (whose real name was Sara Stanley), Peter, and Sara Ray.
Written as Bev's reminiscence of the long gone childhood, the novels
are not as lively as other children's books by LMM such as Anne of
Green Gables or Rainbow Valley; rather they are filled
with beautiful descriptions that fully describes the beauty and
innocence of youth, although impatient readers may get bored by them.
"I do like a road, because you can be always wondering what is at
the end of it."
The Story Girl begins as brothers Beverley and Felix arrived at their Uncle
Alec's, where cousins Dan, Felicity and Cecily lived, and they soon
became good playmates, together with their neighbors, the Story
Girl, Peter and Sara Ray. The Story Girl was a first-rate story teller, beginning with her most memorable quote "I know a story about it",
the children's hearts were frequently captured by
her brilliant rendering of various stories, both old and new, true and
fictional, the most memorable being The wedding veil of the proud
princess and How kissing was discovered. Some real
adventures of the children lay in between, such as the purchase of
some fraudulent "magic seeds" by almost everyone in the community,
the children getting bad scared by a ghostly-sounding clock, the
incident of some town prophet predicting the coming of the
Judgement Day, and Peter getting seriously ill once.
The Story Girl stood up and waved her chrysanthemums at us. We
waved wildly back until the buggy had driven around the curve.
Then we went slowly and silently back to the house. The Story
Girl was gone.
Golden Road, the children continued their adventures, and they
also got up a monthly magazine for their own amusement, just like the
Pickwick Club in Little Women, where everyone contributed
stories, fashion notes, funny paragraphs, etc. The adventures of the
children continued, notably a visit to the "witch" Peg Bowen when
caught in a snowstorm, 12-year-old Cecily's troubles with an ardent
admirer, and two weddings with their respective romantic stories. However, good days never last long, and
when the Story Girl's father came back from business and was to send
her to Paris, and Bev and Felix were also being brought back to Toronto,
and even Peter was leaving after his father's return, the little
community got teared up inevitably, which gives a rather sad conclusion
of this lovely series, showing that everyone has to leave the golden
road of youth, even though it is such a lovely place.
If voices had colour, hers would have been like a rainbow. It
made words LIVE. Whatever she said became a breathing entity,
not a mere verbal statement or utterance.
The most important character of the story is, undoubtedly, the Story Girl
herself. I have seen but few such good young story-tellers, so it is
a bit hard for me to fully grasp the magic quality of her voice ---
the closest one that comes to my mind is Sara Crewe (why so many
Saras?) in A Little Princess --- but the two are still quite
different despite some coincidental similarities. Being the eldest
one (15 years old?), she also was a kind of leader in the community,
playing "old sister" at times, but having her share in most mischiefs
"But I'd like to be told my fortune, even in fun," persisted
"Everybody you meet will love you as long as you live." said the
Story Girl. "There that's the very nicest fortune I can tell you,
and it will come true whether the others do or not, and now we
must go in."
Other members of the little community are equally lovely, while not
without their own respective faults. Cecily,
the youngest of Uncle Alec's family, was a classic "sweet and
shy" character for the most part, but she also displayed some "lack
of humor", or much seriousness and earnestness over moral and
religious matters, which somehow made her more endearing. I often
wonder why authors tend to give such persons not-so-great fortunes ---
think Una in Rilla of Ingleside and Bets in Pat of Silver
Bush --- this is a tendency I really dislike though I might fall
into this trap if I did the writing myself. Felicity was a beauty who
was a bit vain and snobbish, which made her less likable to
readers, but to be fair she was also a responsible person with a knack
on cooking and other housewifely skills, which the Story Girl lacked
(think sawdust pudding!). Peter was a hired boy in the Story Girl's
home who had a scanty education but a rather clever mind.
Despite his frequent grammatical errors, he was not viewed as an inferior member of the little
circle, except by snobbish Felicity; but oddly, Peter took much
fancy in Felicity in spite of (or maybe because of?) this, and even
though Felicity did not care to have a hired boy as an admirer, she
seemed to be attracted to him against her wishes, for instead of
nipping the love in the bud like Cecily, she just could not be hard to
Peter, and when the Story Girl predicted at the end that Peter would
be a minister and Felicity would marry a minister, poor Felicity could
only blush. Somehow love is a queer thing. Besides these,
you will also love mischievous Dan,
italics-loving crybaby Sara Ray with a strict mother, fat
Felix who hated to be fat, and Bev himself who had begun to display
some literary talents. LMM just has a wonderful gift of putting
faults in every children that make them closer to real-life ones,
without making them disagreeable.
"Well, I'm thankful to be home again" said Aunt Janet, beaming on
us. "We had a real nice time, and Edward's folks were as kind as
could be. But give me home for a steady thing. How has
everything gone? How did the children behave, Roger?"
"Like models," said Uncle Roger. "They were as good as gold most
of the days."
There were times when one couldn't help liking Uncle Roger.
Like many other children stories, adults and their attitudes toward
children play an important role in this story. Aunt Janet, the mother
of Dan and Felicity and Cecily, belonged to the type of plump,
hard-working women, who loved her children and disciplined them with
moderate strictness. Uncle Roger was a bachelor who was humorous
almost to the point of inconsideracy. Aunt Olivia, the guardian of
the Story Girl during her father's absence, was a young and lively
woman who gave her child her way in most things. The Story Girl's
father, Uncle Blair, was the romantic and artistic one, again
reminding me of Sara Crewe's father. Finally, as you already know,
Sara Ray's mother was so strict that her daughter could
hardly find any fun in adventures, constantly feeling that she had
been disobeying her mother, similar to Little Elizabeth in Anne of Windy Poplars. I guess these pretty
much sum up every kind of parents in existence. Besides the parent
folks, other adults in the story also have their peculiar
traits... Who can forget the eccentric, almost witch-like Peg Bowen?
What about the shy Awkward Man who had a love affair whose romance
escaped even the Story Girl's ability of description? And what about
the poor teacher who mistook a love letter to Cecily for something
ordinary and asked her to sit with the offender? Just imagine (or read
the book :).
GENERAL INFORMATION BUREAU
DAN:--Do porpoises grow on trees or vines?
Ans. Neither. They inhabit the deep sea.
In short, these two books are great for children and adults loving
children or children's stories, while action-loving ones may find the
flowery descriptions boring. I highly recommend them, and if you like
them, you may also like some of LMM's other children stories, such as
Rainbow Valley, the one book most resembling a children's
story in the Anne series, and Pat of Silver
Bush, a story about the growing up of a girl who loved everything
she was acquainted with with unusual intensity, especially the house
she grew up in. These stories are written in rather different styles,
but a certain quality in them makes them all endearing and worth
reading again and again.
These books are available in Project Gutenberg, #5342 and #316