Thursday, September 10, 2009
Kilmeny of the Orchard
Montgomery, L.M. 1910. Kilmeny of the Orchard. 144 pages.
At least it was short. Of course, I can think of other things to say about this one. It is a bit unusual in that it is romance from a male perspective. A Montgomery book narrated by a man--Eric Marshall. (I'm so used to Montgomery's heroines: Anne, Emily, etc.)
Did I love Eric as a narrator? He was okay. But he wasn't an Anne or an Emily. Eric wasn't the most thrilling of narrators--he was just a good guy with a good heart. Slightly on the boring side. (A flaw or two might have helped here. Made him seem more human, more vulnerable.)
Of course, this is one of Montgomery's earlier novels--her third to be exact if Wikipedia is to be believed.) So I think it comes across as a bit more amateurish perhaps? It felt that way to me.
What is it about? Well, Eric has just graduated from college. He receives a letter from a friend asking a favor. His friend wants him to take his place as school teacher in the small PE island community of Lindsay. Eric, being the good guy he is even though he never wanted to be a teacher, agrees. He moves into the boarding house--which is of course run by some lovable characters that just happen to me more interesting than Eric himself. One evening, he is out walking in an orchard and he hears some lovely violin music. He sees a beautiful woman playing soulful music. It amazes him. He's struck speechless almost. This mystery woman is named Kilmeny. She's "dumb" (that's how they refer to her muteness, her inability to speak) but he comes to love her truly, madly, deeply.
Kilmeny's family history is a sad one. And her upbringing is very strange. But she's got a heart of gold. So pure, so innocent, so lovely. (Is it wrong for me to find her goodness and purity a bit too much? She's too perfect. But, of course, she doesn't realize she's perfect. I know it sounds horrible. But both Eric and Kilmeny seem too good to be true.)
One thing that did bother me about this one was the characterization (or lack thereof) of the "villain" Neil. Here we have a character that is slandered almost from the first chapter simply because he's Italian. He was a baby taken in by the Gordon family. (Kilmeny is a Gordon as well.) Neil's mother and father, I believe, were peddlers. His mother died soon after he was born, and the father moved on without him. The Gordons--the family the peddlers just happened to stop at the day he was born--are left with a newborn on their steps. They seem happy enough to take him in. Feel it would be "better" for them to raise him than to send him to an orphanage. But apparently, the community is anything but welcoming. The way he's treated in the community--by children and adults alike--made me squirm. I found it very distasteful. The message being somewhat in favor of nature versus nurture. He'll never amount to anything because he's got "bad blood." He'll never be one of us. Anyway, when Montgomery made him the villain, she lost me.
I don't like unnecessary villains. Characters that supposedly are part of the story to add friction and conflict. Characters that are more plot devices than, you know, actual characters. You know the character Jud from Oklahoma. What authors should realize--at least from my perspective--is that some stories simply don't need those one dimensional villains. Oklahoma didn't need Jud. Laurie and Curly don't need Jud to fall in love. They're head over heels in love with each other before the show even starts. And Kilmeny of the Orchard doesn't *need* Neil to be the villain. If she wanted him to be a 'real' villain, we needed to know more.
Other reviews: Once Upon A Bookshelf, A Fair Substitute for Heaven, Reading to Know.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews