Title: Jane of Lantern Hill
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Narrator: Lauren Sanders
Publisher: Sourcebooks (edition shown; many editions available)
Publication date: 1937
Print length: 261 pages
Audio length: 8 hours, 1 minutes
Genre: Classic children’s fiction (YA)
The story of a girl who must leave her home to discover who she is and reunite her family. A beloved classic from the author of Anne of Green Gables.
Jane Stuart always believed her father was dead–until she accidentally learned he was alive and well and living on Prince Edward Island. When Jane spends the summer at his cottage on Lantern Hill, doing all the wonderful things her grandmother deems completely unladylike, she dares to dream that there could be such a house back in Toronto…a house where she and her parents could live together without Grandmother directing their lives–a house that could be called home.
Jane of Lantern Hill has been on my to-read list for years, ever since I finished both the Anne of Green Gables series and the Emily Starr trilogy. Jane of Lantern Hill is a stand-alone, and the last novel written by L. M. Montgomery.
While many themes are familiar, Jane starts off quite differently from the Anne and Emily books. The story opens in Toronto, where 11-year-old Jane lives in the stifling old mansion owned by her strict, judgmental grandmother, along with her very pretty but somewhat weak-willed mother. Jane’s father died while she was very young, or so she’s always understood. She’s miserable and lonely in her gray world, with the orphan girl living at the boarding house next door as her only friend.
Life changes dramatically for Jane when a letter arrives from her very much alive father, insisting that Jane come spend the summer with him on Prince Edward Island. Jane definitely does not want to go, but has no choice once the family realizes that he could cause legal trouble for them. And so, Jane travels by train and ferry all the way from Toronto to PE Island, filled with dread — but at first glance at her father, she feels a strong connection, and her unhappiness is immediately replace by joy.
On the island, her warm-hearted father devotes himself to creating a home for Jane. They buy a charming little house at Lantern Hill, and Jane is overjoyed to be the “woman” of the house, given free rein to organize, clean, and cook to her heart’s delight. (More on this in a moment…) Lantern Hill is surrounded by a community that welcomes Jane with open arms, and she finds her days filled with friends, animals, beautiful landscapes, and the sounds of the sea.
When summer ends, she must return to the dismal house in Toronto, but now at least she has something to look forward to, and ticks of the months until she can return to her true home at Lantern Hill. Meanwhile, she starts to learn more about her parents’ marriage and separation, and begins to realize that neither may truly have the full picture of what happened and why.
I really enjoyed Jane of Lantern Hill, as I do all L. M. Montgomery books, but with a few hesitations. I understand how freeing it must be for Jane to be given the chance to create a cozy, warm home for herself and her father, after a lifetime under her grandmother’s harsh control — but I disliked how so much of the focus was on Jane cooking meals, cleaning (she loves to polish the silver), and general tasks related to keeping house. Yes, she also goes on adventures with the local children, learns to swim, and loves being outdoors, but there’s just a huge emphasis on the joys of domesticity, and after a while, it really rankled.
I also must note that an antisemitic slur is used in this book. It’s not presented as representative of the author’s point of view, and to be fair, I don’t think she means it as a slur — but it still jarred me to see this particular phrase used in a casual conversation.
Other than these two factors, I enjoyed the book as a whole. It’s always lovely to revisit PEI through the eyes of L. M. Montgomery. The emphasis is wholly on Jane’s experiences, but there’s still an element of intrigue around why her parents separated, and readers learn the truth as Jane does.
Jane is a delightful character, not quite as fanciful and imaginative as Anne Shirley, but with an enthusiasm and abundance of love that have been suppressed all her life, until finally given free expression at Lantern Hill. She’s a lot of fun to spend time with, and the portrayals of her various PEI friends and neighbors, as seen through Jane’s eyes, are funny and entertaining.
The audiobook narrator is very good at capturing Jane’s spirit, as well as the awfulness of her grandmother, her mother’s gentle love, and her father’s exuberance. The audiobook itself (as available through Audible and elsewhere) has 10 – 15 places where phrases repeat, which I believe is an editing issue rather than a narration problem.
My introduction to the world of L. M. Montgomery was much later in my life than it should have been — I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time within the last five years! I do love her writing and the sense of Prince Edward Island’s beauty and community as portrayed in her books. I have two more L. M. Montgomery novels on my shelves (Pat of Silver Bush and Mistress Pat), and I’m eager to check them out.
If you’re interested in L. M. Montgomery’s books, I’d definitely recommend checking out Jane of Lantern Hill. It’s a sweet story of a memorable girl — well worth reading!
For those who are L. M. Montgomery fans, which other books of her do you recommend?