Review 17: Kilmeny of the Orchard

Kilmeny of the Orchard (L.C. Page and Company, 1910)L.M. Montgomery’s third novel, Kilmeny of the Orchard, is now one of her least-known books, and while reviewers did not see it as nearly as strong as Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea when it was published in spring 1910, they still offered it respectable praise. An article in the December 1910 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, a magazine published in Boston and New York, qualified that praise in what was one of the earliest sustained responses to Montgomery’s work. In “Lying Like Truth,” Margaret Sherwood attributed the phrase to a statement made about Daniel Defoe to refer to “the art of making the unreal, perhaps even the impossible, more evident than that which happens before your very eyes, because amazing improbabilities are told with such close attention to immediate detail that you can but believe; and, by the side of his fictitious tales, newspaper accounts of actual happenings seem, in their sketchy presentation, unreal and improbable.” Claiming that she had been “searching, among the novels of the last six months, for the truth that comes from close observation,” she offered the following analysis of Kilmeny of the Orchard as a successor to Anne of Green Gables:

It is partly a lessening of this quality of close study which makes Miss Montgomery’s Kilmeny less appealing than Anne of Green Gables. There was a distinctness about the former, an artistic truth in the portrait of the quaint child with individual fancies. This story is pretty and fanciful, in the green and gray setting of a Prince Edward Island orchard, but vagueness replaces the close rendering of real things, and, in spite of the poetic touch, the tale does not hold the reader. Only the genuine poet, one to whom the invisible is more real than the visible, dare write the story “all made up of the poet’s brain.”