Jane of Lantern Hill

Back in February, I read The Blue Castle, by L.M. Montgomery. That extra-Anne experience was so much fun that I asked readers which stand-alone Montgomery novel I should take on when I next had time, and the consensus was that Jane of Lantern Hill, one of her young adult offerings, would be sure to please. Well, you weren’t wrong, people. I read this on my e-reader during my recent trip to Canada (I thought it was fitting), and enjoyed every moment.

The story is gentle, not unpredictable, but totally satisfying. Young Jane’s parents are divorced, and she lives with her spineless mother and nasty, oppressive grandmother in Toronto. One day, her father writes: he wants Jane for the summer, in Prince Edward Island. Jane travels there in fear and loathing — she has no memory of her father, who will surely be a brute — but when she arrives, she finds herself utterly at home, with the place, the people, the customs, and most of all her father himself. Her time there establishes her in her own skin, as a cook, a home-maker, a girl of courage and insight. Jane is changed forever, and begins to understand some of the things that drove her parents apart, despite their love for each other.

One thing I found particularly interesting here was that Jane is frequently accused by her grandmother of having low tastes. This manifests itself in her wanting to cook, for instance, or make friends with a little servant girl next door, and you can perhaps understand a very starchy and rather conceited grandmother feeling that a proper young lady wouldn’t want to do those things. However, Jane recites some “habitant” poetry at one point, referring to the poetry of the early French settlers of Canada, and this, too, was anathema. I found this interesting, as poetry per se shouldn’t be vulgar, and Jane’s recital was good, but the grandmother sneers at it as “patois,” revealing, perhaps, a more general anti-French bias. I can’t run the actual poem to ground (“The Little Baby of Mathieu”) and perhaps it doesn’t exist, but the more general point stands. Did you know that the Canadiens hockey team is still nicknamed “the Habs” for the Habitants?

The ending of the book is contrived and even a little silly. Two characters, whose fate I would have liked to see made explicit, drop out of sight; two others are forced together in what I suppose was a romantically  inevitable way (but I think in real life it wouldn’t have worked.) But the heart of the book isn’t there. The heart of the book is Jane, finally learning who she is, learning the skills she needs to give love to others in a concrete way, as she has always wanted to do. She creates a home, something which is at the center of every book I’ve read by Montgomery. The house and garden and view are important — beauty is crucial to Montgomery — but it’s the living heart inside that animates the place and makes it magic.

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17 Responses to Jane of Lantern Hill

  1. Oh I hope I ws one of those who recommended this. yes I agree the ending is a tad contrived but it is ‘happily ever after’ and I love it. The bit where she walks down the high street with a lion is s hoot

    • Jenny says:

      Oh, wasn’t that fun? Yes, I liked the happily-ever-after bit, too, I just wish it had been done a little more realistically, I guess. But I’ve got no real complaints. The book was terrifically enjoyable.

  2. Nicola says:

    I’d like to read this – I love coming of age novels and The Blue Castle was a favourite of mine.

    • Jenny says:

      I just loved The Blue Castle. This one was almost as good, and I would highly recommend it. Deeply satisfying, especially in the central home-making bits.

  3. Anastasia says:

    This sounds like a sweet little book! I’ve only ever read LMM’s Anne books (and I don’t think I finished the series, either), so I’m quite interested in reading this one. Adding it to my TBR wishlist~

  4. Jenny says:

    Which are the characters that drop out of sight? Jodie and Jane’s awful grandmother?

    I’m glad you liked this though! I of course love it — and I remember how excited I was when I got a little bit older and realized that the “habitant” poetry must sound a lot like Cajun French (or Cajun-accented English if it was in English). Jane’s grandmother is such a meany!

    • Jenny says:

      Yes, Jodie (I wanted to see more about how her adoption worked out) and the grandmother (I wanted to see her either redeemed, which is what I was frankly expecting, or rejected, not just slid quietly off the landscape.)

      And I taught a course on Quebec and Cajun culture last semester. The language *would* have been similar to Cajun French/ English/ Creole. I’d actually kind of like to explore that.

  5. rebeccareid says:

    This sounds like such a fun book. I am adding it to my to read list right now!! I loved the Anne books!

    • Jenny says:

      Rebecca, I think you’d love this one. I might’ve liked The Blue Castle even better, though, so keep that one in mind, too.

  6. Margaret baker says:

    I have rally enjoyed Jane, have read all of Montgomery’s books and I do think my favourite has always been The Emily Series. Wonderful characters and scenery

  7. Rachele says:

    I’ve read Jane many times, and I think her mother makes it clear that it isn’t the poem her grandmother has a problem with, but the fact that Jane’s father recited habitant poetry.
    I’m not sure which characters you’re talking about in the ending. Jane’s parents getting back together (they weren’t actually divorced, which is a fairly major plot point) seems unrealistic now, but Montgomery’s stories are full of the idea that you could carry a faithful love for someone, with no contact, for years and years, even after death. So it’s not out of character for Jane’s parents to find themselves still in love, once the distractions of Grandmother and Aunt Irene are out of the way.

    • Ren says:

      For all what it’s worth I’m one like that. 😅 Married at 22, after a love-at-first-sight meeting and 9 month long-distance-relationship. Broke up egoistically (me) over a flat-share, and living in Dubai, lived separated for a decade and more, travelled around the world working & learning – and kept the flame for my Canadian husband well hidden like an amber under ashes, regretting my stupidity.
      Met him years later in Europe (to where he had moved) to discuss a quick painless divorce…during which, the crusts of pain and time, fell away.
      20 years together since then 🤗

  8. Andrea says:

    Just to clarify, Jane’s parents are separated, but not divorced. Divorce was extremely rare in PEI at least until after WWII.

  9. afamilyonwheels says:

    Note: The reason grandmother was upset about the poetry was not because she disliked habitant poems in particular, but because Jane’s father was particularly good at reading habitant poetry. This is explained in chapter 8, in the third last paragraph. This event is placed in the book to show us how grandmother disliked Jane’s Father.

    and I disagree, with your comment “in real life it wouldn’t have worked” referring to the reconciliation of Jane’s parents. Firstly this is fiction and this is why fiction is so satisfying. Would Mr Darcy and Lizzie really have gotten together in real life? Secondly, LMM is clear in explaining the reasons for the separation and that both parties wanted to reconcile but had complicated reasons (pride, fear, grandmother etc) for not seeking each other out. From the beginning LMM explains that Robin (the mother) must eventually stand up to her grandmother and this finally occurs in the end. I find this book a pretty neatly wrapper parcel.

    LMM was planning a sequel to Jane of Lantern Hill which was never finished, so perhaps we would have hear more about Jody and Grandmother there.

    • Jenny says:

      I sort of feel as if you actually agree with me. You’re saying that in fiction it works. I’m saying that fiction is different from real life, and I don’t find this particular bit very realistic. That’s not a slam! I really liked this book! It’s just not… realistic. Pride and Prejudice isn’t very realistic either! It’s one of my favorite books, but it’s got a touch of romantic fantasy to it. A neatly wrapped parcel, indeed.

  10. Marilynne says:

    Hi Jenny. I just came across your site and thought I would share this with you. I grew up in South Africa with a mother who loved the Anne books, though I admit to a childish disappointment when I found out that she had loved them in her childhood – Ugh, so very long ago, I thought! I was probably 12 or 13 when an aunt gave me Jane of Lantern Hill (about 1955) and it was my favorite book. It has been with me through a long and somewhat varied life (South Africa, Southern Rhodesia (as was), the USA, England for ten years, now back in the USA. Recently I bought the book again for Kindle and am re-reading it with my iPad by me, being able to easily look up things that were a puzzle to me and would have taken an entire library to research — which is how I came across your interesting site mentioning habitant poetry. What a delight! Thanks for the site and for listening.

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