Bullying is always bad, but I particularly dislike bullying within the home. Home should be safe. Strangers may be horrible to you, but not your ‘nearest and dearest.’
There is some quite ‘refined’ bullying happening at 60 Gay (yes, really) in L M Montgomery’s Jane of Lantern Hill. 11-year-old Jane is not loved by her fearsome grandmother. Presumably because her father was the wrong kind of father. Jane’s mother loves her, but is unable to stand up to her own mother, and is actually bullied herself, by this unpleasant, rich woman who rules over them all.
Having believed her father is dead, it is quite a shock to find he is not, and more so when her father sends for her to come and spend the summer on Prince Edward Island. Despite being so unhappy at home, Jane desperately wants to avoid going. But as soon as she arrives on PEI, the story turns into – more or less – Anne of Green Gables.
Her new Aunt Irene proves to be a meddlesome woman, second only to grandmother in being cruel while calling Jane ‘lovey’ and pretending she adores her. But the minute Jane meets her dad, she loves him and they are kindred spirits and everything is sweet, in that well known PEI way.
Set in the early 1930s, it’s more modern than Anne, with cars and phones, but still very rural and basic. After a wonderful three months, Jane has to return to Toronto and 60 Gay, where the people are as bad as they always were, but Jane herself has changed and can – almost – deal with it.
I find it difficult understanding Jane’s mother, while it’s easier to see where the grandmother is coming from. And reading this from the cynical 21st century, it’s a little hard to shake off another interpretation of Jane’s dad’s behaviour. You do know though, that being an L M Montgomery story it will be – mostly – fine.
This is a tale about home and love. It’s about the perfect house, and loving people, and how it is so much easier to love when you are not constantly put down, but surrounded by kind people who like you. People who believe in giving you snacks to ‘line your stomach’ with. In case you get hungry between meals.
And it was a treat to be introduced to another L M Montgomery, after all these years. Although I don’t suppose I can ask her about a detail that I wondered about…