Book Review: House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg

House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery
Liz Rosenberg

Illustrated by Julie Morstad

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I read about House of Dreams over at Bookshelf Fantasies and was immediately interested in reading about Lucy Maud Montgomery, Canadian author of twenty novels, including Anne of Green Gables and hundreds of short stories and poems. Montgomery was Maud to family and friends and she used L.M. Montgomery as her professional name. I confess I have not read the children’s book Anne of Green Gables, but now I want to. I also knew nothing about Maud Montgomery and her life.

Maud was born in 1874 and grew up in a village called Cavendish on Prince Edward Island in Canada. Her mother died when she was two years old and her father soon moved to Saskatchewan. Maud went to live with her maternal grandparents, Lucy and Alexander Macneill. They were already in their fifties and although they provided Maud with all the material things she needed, they were not affectionate or supportive, leaving Maud to feel sad and alone. Her grandfather was particularly hard on Maud. Despite this upbringing, Maud felt a deep attachment to Cavendish.

Maud was destined to become a writer. From an early age, she kept a journal, made up stories and when she was older submitted them to newspapers and magazines for publication. “I cannot remember the time when I was not writing, or when I did not mean to be an author,” she wrote.

Maud was merry on the outside (merry was one of her favorite words), but inside she battled mood swings and seasonal depression: it was a lifelong struggle. Mental illness was not widely talked about, accepted or treated in Maud’s time and she and others suffering had to tough it out alone. She wrote happier stories to escape the gloom. “Thank God, I can keep the shadows of my life out of my work. I would not wish to darken any other life—I want instead to be a messenger of optimism and sunshine.”

Maud had many suitors, turned down several marriage proposals and broke one engagement after “a year of mad passion” with another man. That relationship was not meant to be, however, and she later married Ewan Macdonald, an aspiring minister. They had two sons, Chester and Stuart. Ewan, however, also struggled with mental illness and their marriage was not happy. To combat their depression and mood swings, they took sleeping pills, tranquilizers, bromides and other medicines. Maud died of an overdose in 1942 at age sixty-seven. In 2008, her granddaughter revealed that her death was a possible suicide.

I knew from the description that this book talked a lot about depression and mental health, but I had no idea that an author as beloved as Montgomery had suffered so much. She endured many losses and heartbreak, but hid these feelings from the public. This book is supposedly geared to readers ages 10-14, and the writing style is definitely simpler. It’s also illustrated, which makes it look like a middle-grade book. In my opinion, the content is more appropriate for an older reader, although I can see it being used as a way of talking with kids about mental health problems.

That said, I found it interesting and easy to read and it has sparked my interest in her books.

Thanks for visiting – come back soon!

23 thoughts on “Book Review: House of Dreams: The Life of L.M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg

    1. Hi Alethea – I was surprised to learn about her depression and all the sadness in her life. She was a driven writer and now I can see how that escape was a form of therapy. Thank you for the visit 🙂

    1. Hi Donna – I wish I had read her books when I was a girl, but I wasn’t much of a reader back then. Even knowing as little as I did about her and her books, I was shocked to learn she had such a difficult life. Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  1. I have the entire series of Anne of Green Gables, thanks to my father. He gave me one for Christmas when I was 12, and then every Christmas and birthday thereafter. BUT I’ve never thought too much about finding about Montgomery and her life. Thanks for pointing the arrow in that direction for me.

    1. Hi Sherrey – I missed out on these books when I was young, but I know how much others enjoyed her stories. There seems to be a lot of biographical information about her. I will definitely go back and read more. Thank you for reading and commenting 🙂

  2. If you’re interested in reading more about her, there are a couple of good biographies available and her journals have also been published. She had a very difficult life, but you would never know that from her published works.

    1. Hi Lynette – I knew how popular she was but I had no idea about her struggles. I think I’d like to read an adult biography too. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  3. LM Montgomery was my favorite childhood author. I have her series of Anne books and read them over and over. I will definitely take a look at this book about her life.

  4. I love the cover, Barb, though it doesn’t really speak to the darker elements of Montgomery’s struggles. How sad that such a talented woman who wrote those “merry” stories was so unhappy. Thanks for sharing your recommendation. ❤

  5. Thanks for your review, Barbara. I’d be interested in reading this and can understand your feelings about the topic being more appropriate for older readers, yet good for discussion among our youth. It is sad how so many talented and well-known celebrities, regardless of their industry, struggle with depression. 💕

  6. Well, that was depressing. I can hardly believe this is meant to be for kids. :/ I guess, like you said, it’s good for kids to be aware of depression and how to deal with it. Still, yikes. I’m so glad for her that she had her cheerful writing as an escape. Rough life!

  7. Anne of Green Gables is my all-time favourite book and I reread it from time to time. I was sad to hear of the author’s unhappy life. I’ll put this book on my TBR list. Thanks for the review.

  8. Creatives often suffer from emotional disorders, probably the well from which their creativity arises. Still, I’m sorry to learn of Maud Montgomery’s struggle. She has left behind such a legacy of charming nostalgia. Thanks, Barbara!

  9. I’m so glad you read this! I’m going to try to get to it this summer when I have a little more breathing space. It does sound like much more serious content than I’d expect for middle grade readers, and I had no idea that she died of an overdose. I do hope you’ll try some of her fiction! It’s so hard to imagine that a woman who creates such optimistic, dreamy characters could have so many sad struggles in her life. Thank you so much for sharing this review!

  10. I certainly know of her and of her classic Anne of Green Gables but I haven’t read her. How sad that her early-ish death was due to an overdose, possible suicide. She tried so hard to hide her depression wanting only to be a messenger of sunshine and optimism. Thanks Barbara, a lovely review

    1. Hi Susan. Before I read this book, I had no idea of the struggles she had. I haven’t read the Anne of Green Gables books, but I know how beloved they are. Thank you for reading and commenting.

  11. I had no idea, Barbara, and I love this author’s books. You’ve done the review proud, and I feel great sympathy for Montgomery’s internal struggles. Perhaps that’s why she writes with such empathy?

    1. I do too, Noelle. Depression and mental illness was not something anyone talked about during her lifetime. It must have been extremely painful for her, but she found release in writing. Thank you for reading.

  12. Hi Barbara, it is interesting to learn all of this about L.M. Montgomery. I had not idea she died of a drug overdoes or that she suffered from depression. I loved Anne of Green Gables and I read most of the rest of the series too. I don’t think the library had all of the books at the time. I also loved the Emily of New Moon series. I liked it more than Anne and it inspired me to try my hand at poetry.

    1. I didn’t know she suffered from depression either. I haven’t read the Anne of Green Gables books, but I’m going to try to get to the first one this summer. Thank you for reading and commenting, Robbie.

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