Anyone who works in a library or bookstore could probably tell you that L. M. Montgomery’s stories and novels for young people continue to be beloved today. At my library, the Anne of Green Gables books are still fairly popular, though I don’ t see much interest in Montgomery’s other works. These books about rural life in early 20th century Canada may not be relevant to all kids today–then again, what book ever is?–but there’s still a niche that they fill very well for some readers.
When I was a middle schooler, there was a phase when I pretty much read anything by L. M. Montgomery that I could get my hands on: the Anne books, the Emily books, the Pat books, and the various and sundry standalones (of which The Blue Castle remains my favorite). Her books–with all their strengths and flaws–were a significant part of my childhood reading experience. So I paid attention when Montgomery’s descendants recently announced that Montgomery, who struggled throughout her life with depression, committed suicide.
In the article linked above, Montgomery’s granddaughter explains her decision to reveal this family secret. She writes, “I have come to feel very strongly that the stigma surrounding mental illness will be forever upon us as a society until we sweep away the misconception that depression happens to other people, not us – and most certainly not to our heroes and icons.”
I can’t think of a better reason to make this sort of announcement, and I hope this news about such a beloved author does make a difference, even if only a tiny one. It’s heartbreaking to think that a writer whose books are full of such joy and hope suffered so terribly because society’s attitude toward mental illness meant that both she and her husband never received the treatment they needed.
Sherwood Smith discusses this news (drawing on her own knowledge of Montgomery’s life) on her Livejournal: Lucy Maud Montgomery and Depression.