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Pat of Silver Bush by L. M. Montgomery
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Pat of Silver Bush (1932)

by L. M. Montgomery

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Originally published in 1933, Pat of Silver Bush was one of L.M. Montgomery's later titles, and although not the equal of the classic Anne of Green Gables, or the romantic The Blue Castle, it nevertheless has a charm all its own. The story of Patricia Gardiner, whose attachment to her family home at Silver Bush runs deep, it is at heart an exploration of the nature of change - both good and bad.

"If I went to heaven I'd want to get back to Silver Bush," declares Pat at one point, and no statement better exemplifies the theme of the book. Devoted to her family, her home, and the domestic rituals of her childhood, Pat is resistant to any change. She mourns the loss of every tree on the property, secretly wonders why her mother would want another child (although she is soon reconciled to the existence of her new baby sister, Cuddles), and wishes passionately that she and her siblings could live together indefinitely at Silver Bush, rather than growing up, getting married, and moving apart.

This leitmotif serves to unify a book that is far more episodic in structure than many of Montgomery's other novels, and seems a reflection of the author's own conflicted feelings on the subject. It is, unfortunately, rather overdone during the first half of the book, with Pat almost a caricature, but the wonderful prose, and the humorous characterization of Judy Plum, are enough to carry the reader through to the second half, by which time Pat is somewhat matured.

Read for the first time as an adult, Pat of Silver Bush will probably never rank among my favorite Montgomery titles, and I cannot help but wonder whether it is just one of those books that needs to be read during youth, in order to achieve the full effect. However that may be, I did enjoy it, am glad to have filled in this hole in my Montgomery knowledge, and look forward to reading the sequel, Mistress Pat! ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | May 27, 2013 |
Pat really is as likeable as Anne. ( )
  JG_IntrovertedReader | Apr 3, 2013 |
I have to admit, there are things about Pat's story which could have been lifted directly from any of Montgomery's other novels (that I have read) - her "queerness", her love of nature, the passions she throws herself into, and so on. It also took me a while to sink into the flowery prose sufficiently to begin to connect with Pat and her fellows (I was particularly thrown off by Judy's dialect - it was rather difficult to make sense of at times). However, once I'd gotten used to it, it was like coming home. [full review on my bloghref>] ( )
  theinsidestory | May 19, 2010 |
Book club for June. So far: Pat hates change. Got it.***The second half grew on me quite a bit, maybe around when Jingle's mother shows up. Pat is still a little too obsessed with Silver Bush, but she became a little more complex as life started happening to her. It got me interested enough to go straight on to Mistress Pat! ( )
  jphilbrick | Dec 3, 2009 |
This was my favorite of all the L. M. Montgomery novels when I was a kid. Though none of my copies were in particularly good condition (I'd managed to get most of them as remainders from a family friend who ran an independent children's bookstore, and thus they were missing the front covers), I had actually bought this one brand new and ended up reading it so much the cover fell off. The book is now held together with several bits of yellowing tape, and the cover is more of a suggestion than something actually attached in any way. I mean, I loved this book so much.

I was always crazy for Montgomery's heroines, with their imaginations and pretty words and old-fashionedness, but Pat was the one I was best able to relate to. I knew exactly how she felt about change, since I loathed any kind of change myself, and her adoration for Silver Bush was matched in my love for semi-rural Florida. Her clannishness reminded me of my family, I even thought we looked sort of alike. I used to read Pat of Silver Bush and want so much to either be Pat or be her best friend in the whole world - I daresay I was rather jealous of Bets and Jingle.

As Treeseed said in that review, this book has a lot in it that appealed to me at different ages, which is probably why it was one of my best-loved books. But I have grown and changed, just as Pat does, and I can't read the novel anymore without crying and feeling that I've lost a dear friend. Where once the highly evocative imagery delighted me, I now find it cloying and tedious. Where I used to love all the little details about Pat's life and her friend and family and everything, I've started to grow weary of the pace and fiddly bits where all that happens is imagination. I notice more how old Judy Plum grows and how obvious it is that Silver Bush is no longer the haven it used to be, and I know that the end is coming, and I can't bear to follow through with the book anymore.

In my identifying with Pat, I always knew exactly what she meant when she said she never wanted to get married and leave home. I always thought that the romance between her and Bets was the most beautiful thing in the world, and it broke my heart every time Bets died, and then my heart broke again when Pat and Jingle ended up promising to each other. I suppose that's the one thing that never worked for me with this book - even at nine years old, I knew that I wanted Pat and Bets to get married and for Jingle to be their best friend forever. Or maybe for all three to live together in a happy polyamorous trio. Now, when I read, I find myself skipping any passage that might suggest romance between Pat and Jingle, and I skip huge chunks of the end, because I prefer to imagine that Pat and Bets are together forever in Silver Bush with Judy Plum.

Maybe I still identify too strongly with Pat. Even if I've grown out of the period when L. M. Montgomery's writing style charms me and captures my attention completely, I still love the story and the characters, and Pat is the best of them all.

(But let's not talk about Mistress Pat. We'll pretend that one never happens, okay?) ( )
  keristars | Jul 12, 2009 |
The book is about a 7 year old girl living on Prince Edward Island. I have a friend with a 6 year old so I can easily see the thoughts and actions as described. Pat loves widely and deeply. Which means that change is dreaded, but must be faced as a fact of life. This book shows 11 years of Pat’s loves and growth through changes. I enjoyed the descriptions of her emotions, her surroundings, and how she faced each change. ( )
  lauranav | Jan 3, 2009 |
Pat of Silver Bush is a story very much in the vein of Montgomery's Emily and Anne books. Pat Gardiner loves her home Silver Bush, the ancestral farm of her family. She loves it so much that her uncle jokes, "Silver Bush isn't Pat's home — it's her religion." And he certainly wasn't far off the mark. Pat hates change, and her dream is to stay forever at her beloved Silver Bush with her family and their servant (who really is like a member of the family), Judy Plum. Judy plays a big role in the story, as Pat's mother has poor health and Judy helps raise the children. When the story opens, Pat is eight years old and very attached to her brother Sid and to Judy. Much of the narrative is taken up in Judy's rich brogue and richer stories of ghosts and fairies. Pat is "pickled" in these stories from birth, and very enjoyable they are.

The characters were well-drawn, as is usual with Montgomery, and there were many similarities between them and characters from Montgomery's other books. Judy Plum is like Susan Baker and Rebecca Dew, Pat is like Emily and Anne, Aunt Edith is like any number of straitlaced maiden aunts that abound in Montgomery's world, Josiah Tillytuck is like Mr. Harrison, May Binnie is like Josie Pye, Hilary Gordon (Jingle) is like Teddy Kent, and on and on. The story and episodes also remind me of those in the other books.

If you're looking for something different from Montgomery's other books, you won't find it here. She writes poetically of the scenery and often quotes poetry. There are scandals at funerals and weddings, humor and gossip and pretty girls, and plenty of good food. There are ghost stories and fairies and long descriptions of the beautiful Island, and over it all there is the comforting presence of wholesome family love. Certainly this book reminds me a great deal of Montgomery's other works — and that is why I enjoyed it. There is something addicting about Montgomery's delicate prose, so poetic in one place and so funny in another. Whenever I start one of her books I have trouble putting it down, not because it's suspenseful (it's not) but because I love that idealized world so much. Recommended. ( )
1 vote wisewoman | Jun 11, 2008 |
This book has long been one of my top picks for pure heaven in reading.

I want you to journey with me along the shore and across the gently rolling hills and deep red farmlands of one of my favorite places on earth, Canada's Prince Edward Island. We'll step back in time to approximately three years after the Armistice of World War I. The world is changing and Prince Edward Island with it but there are little pockets of quaint and simple farm life and Victorian era sensibilities that flourish there like small precious bits of Brigadoon. I want to share with you a book, an author, a place and an era very dear to me. The novel, Pat of Silver Bush, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942), the author of the famous Anne of Green Gables is a kind of time machine that has the power to transport us. It is also a sort of Victorian keepsake called a Glory Box where sentimental, beautiful, romantic treasures and mementos are stored to remember and cherish.

Pat of Silver Bush is the first of a two book series that also includes Mistress Pat. It traces 10 years in the lives of the Gardiner Family whose farm homestead is called Silver Bush because it sits at the edge of a large birch grove. The story focuses particularly on Pat, the fourth child and second girl of the family. Pat is only eight years old when the book begins and is eighteen when it ends.

The publishers say this book is intended for readers 9-12 years of age. I've read this book four times, beginning when I was 11, then at age 15 and again at age 23 and finally just now in order to write this review. Each time I read it I thought it was written just perfectly for my age group. Each time it spoke to me and touched my heart and made me dream and yearn for the times and places it describes. Each time I loved more things about it. As time goes by since its publication in 1933 I think it becomes less and less a book for children because language is changing and many of the colloquial sayings, bits of poetry, Biblical verse, historical points and the sheer delicacy of the speech, sentiments and viewpoints of the characters may try a modern child's patience and test their attention spans. Montgomery wrote this and her other books in such a detailed way, (word painting she called it) and she wrote it with a deep personal familiarity. This book does not offer up a backward look but takes us brain, body and soul directly to the times and places described, without a road map, trusting us to follow our hearts to find our way. In one sense this is a large part of the success of the book but in another sense the vision she created of that long ago time in which she lived may have the tendency to appear, to young people who lack her frame of reference, like the curious antique photographs one finds stuffed in an old shoe box in an antique shop, quaint, a little interesting but hard to relate to meaningfully. The dreamy, sentimental child will be able to enter this world almost as they would a fairy tale and will enjoy it. For those of us with some actual memory of these times or memories of a generation once or even twice removed, this Glory Box will more easily open its lid. I really can't say for whom L.M. Montgomery intended this book but I don't think it ever had anything to do with the reader's age. Montgomery wrote for kindred spirits and she opened up her sensitive soul and spilled it onto the pages of all of her many books and gave us an abundance of detail and a depth of feeling that I have rarely seen elsewhere or enjoyed as much.

This book is less plot driven than others by this author. It does contain the same type of humorous and whimsical vignettes that any fan of the Anne books will know. It takes us through the ins and outs of everyday life on a working farm. We are present for births, weddings, deaths and funerals, the social world of young people, the beauties of home and family and offered rich descriptions of the natural wonders of PEI. It is more theme oriented. The main character, Pat, is a girl who so loves every little detail of her home and family life, the people, animals, gardens, countryside, the house itself and every one of its features and attributes that she dreads change of any kind. Whether it is a catastrophic change like the death of her best friend or simply the cutting down of an old lightning struck tree, change cuts Pat to the quick and she suffers from it each and every time. All the while she is intent upon cherishing her beloved Silver Bush change is happening gradually around her and she grows into a young woman strengthened by the changes and as deeply in love with her world as ever.

Although somewhat formulaic, the colorful characters, their interrelationships and their everyday experiences, sometimes dramatic and sometimes mundane, are the heart of this book. The exquisite descriptions of the people and places are what draws the reader into their world. Pat's family consists of her father and mother, two older brothers, an older sister and a younger sister and the marvelous character of Judy Plum. Judy is an Irish woman with a thick brogue who claims to have witch blood in her family tree, who has a bit of the second sight and is on speaking terms with fairies and ghosts. She has been the housekeeper and lived at Silver Bush since Pat's father, Long Alec, was a baby and is the heart and soul of the family. She is Pat's confidant and champion and as was so common for the times, she is more involved in the raising of the children than is the mother of the family.

Pat is described as not being beautiful or having any special intelligence but with being blessed with the gift of loving. She knows how to make people feel comfortable and valued. She appreciates life down to its smallest detail and seems to make it richer and more enjoyable for the people around her.

There are several extended family members, aunts, uncles, cousins, great aunts and even a great, great aunt that live near Silver Bush and figure in Pat's life. Her two best friends, delicate Bets and devoted Hilary are near neighbors. According to custom popular for the times Montgomery includes a romantic thread throughout the book and gradually develops Hilary from a scruffy, unloved foster boy to a dear friend and eventually to a young man who is in love with Pat. The beautiful and frail Bets, of course, must die after a lingering bout with pneumonia flu. Victorians loved their pathos and had a strong streak of morbidity. The plot is more like a faint scent that we experience in the background as we focus on the everyday details of life at Silver Bush. Pat is troubled and then delighted with the birth of her baby sister. She goes to her first party, she makes mistakes, she makes friends, she falls in love with two different beaus and discards them when she realizes they do not value or appreciate Silver Bush as she does. She goes to school and reluctantly on to college and eventually, like Anne in Anne of Green Gables is awarded the teaching position at the local one room school.

I loved everything about this book just as I have every time I've read it since I was 11 years old but this time I kept a dictionary handy and a notepad. I went prospecting for the colloquial treasures of language once familiar and second nature to the author but forgotten in the modern world. Unearthing them as I read along, I brushed them off and my dictionary helped illuminate them much to my delight. With the help of the Internet I tracked down the complete poems, famous and obscure from whence Montgomery took her numerous poetic snippets. I looked up the Bible verses. I investigated the mythological references. I searched out the recipes for Brown Betty and Bishop's Bread. I had such a great time out in the garden and in the woods. I learned the folk names of plants like Farewell Summer for the common wayside wild aster. The difference in temperament that caused the people of Montgomery's day to refer to a common ditch-weed aster as Farewell Summer is a good example of the many lovely nuances that time has eroded but that this book restores to us. Today, as we whiz by in our cars do we even reflect for a moment on that fleeting streak of purple whose royal color decorates the ditch? We know neither its true name or its folk name.

L.M. Montgomery created several characters in her many books who were dreamy, sensitive girls who grew into strong, creative women, characters that are not just a little autobiographic in nature. I find the story line in Pat of Silver Bush romantic and predictable and I will admit to you that if you've read one Montgomery plot or have come to know one Montgomery heroine you in effect have read and known them all. The heroines all have vivid imaginations, sensitive natures, deep loyalty to family and friends. They are all proud yet modest. They all seem to have at least one dear close friend and one crusty curmudgeonly adult who loves them. They all seem to come very close to missing their one true love only to realize him in the end. There is always an orphan somewhere in the plot as well as a writer or a teacher. They all get themselves in comical scrapes and they are all good and truthful. Even though that is true I find that every book, this one in particular, manages to draw me in to Montgomery's world so that it becomes my world as well.

There is no detail spared and for the space of my edition's 329 pages the book reveals myriad details that capture my imagination and make me believe in the characters as if they are my own dear friends. I could easily draw a map of Silver Bush inside and out and all of its surrounding countryside. Montgomery makes her readers fall so in love with her world that it is immaterial whether or not the plot is predictable. Of course our heroines are good and of course they suffer only to triumph in the end. What matters to us as we read this book are the very same things that mattered to Montgomery as she wrote it...Prince Edward Island, home, family, and the sacred and guiding principals, beauty and truth. Reading this book, for me, is like being invited into an ideal...a place and time where life does not move so fast, people are not so jaded, materialism does not take precedence over all else and where there is peace and tranquility. Starry skies shine above and clean water runs in the brooks. Traditional bride-cakes that require 3 dozen eggs are still mixed up by hand and baked in homey kitchens where cats curl up near the heat of the stove and children sit on the back steps shucking peas and thrilling to a tale tall about ancestors who are buried in the little grave yard down below the orchard. A cook adorns a company cake with pale green slivers of angelica and crimson cherries. (Today how many people even know what angelica is?) The people are not ignorant but they still have a healthy innocence that makes their world seem to follow a gentle rhythm. They are guided and protected by community morés and the very closeness of the community. Montgomery shows us poverty, illness and other dark issues of that era as well as the gentle things so we know it is not all peaches and cream but for the characters that we come to know intimately we find that their values and their lifestyle pull them through and provide for them a haven we can only long for.

I'm glad that Montgomery wrote this book because it preserves the ideal. We have come so far from the life depicted in this book that many of the things described are not even a part of memory. If they weren't preserved here in the richly colored imagery of this gifted writer that would be lost. Even though the era has been written about by many others I think L.M. Montgomery has captured subtle nuances that "great" writers never noticed and so never wrote about.

I'll share a few tidbits of L.M. Montgomery's world that Pat of Silver Bush so dearly loved and I ask that you try to see them in your mind, try to go there and feel. Picture Father getting the Silver Bush Lizzie out to drive to church for Aunt Hazel's wedding. Pat chooses to ride with Uncle Tom who feels that no Lizzie or any other such lady will do. He drove a great roomy, double "phaeton" drawn by two satin bay horses. Now I ask you, are you quite sure that you knew the Lizzie is the Model T? Do you know how small it was or how rarely it was taken out of the barn and driven? Did you know the name phaeton derives from a Greek mythological character who almost set the world on fire with his reckless driving. This type of carriage was made of wicker, making it quite lightweight. The Phaeton was intended for pleasure driving. Can you see the color of the matched pair of bays? In view of the fact that I didn't know these things that were once so commonplace I am so thankful that Montgomery loved them enough to record them for me to discover. These beautiful, genteel things and customs are stored here in the Glory Box of this book and thankfully I can take them out whenever I wish and love them.

One of my favorite episodes in this book takes place when Pat is ten years old. The moon was rising over the Hill of the Mist...little pools of shadow lay here and there all over the farm, among the shorn hayfields. There was one big field of hay that hadn't been touched yet; wind waves went over it in that misty light. Beyond it a field where happy calves were in buttercups to their shoulders...the only living creatures in sight if you were sure those shadows along the edge of the silver bush were shadows and not little rabbits dancing. A warm brooding night...a night that surely belonged to the fairies. For the moment Pat could believe in them wholeheartedly again. Some strange bewitchment entered into her and crept along her veins. She remembered a Judy-story of an enchanted princess who had to dance naked in the moonlight every night of full moon in a woodland glen, and a sudden craving possessed her to dance thus in moonlight, too. Why not? There was nobody to see. It would be beautiful...beautiful. Pat disrobed...she stood among the shadows, a small, unashamed dryad, quivering with a strange, hitherto unknown ecstasy as the moon's pale fingers touched her through the trees. She stepped out among the daisies and began a little dance...A breeze blew on her through the aisles of the shining birches. If she held up her hands to it wouldn't it take hold of them? A faint, delicious perfume arose from the dew-wet ferns she danced on; somewhere far away laughter was drifting across the night...faint, fairy laughter which seemed to come from the Haunted Spring. She felt as light of being as if she were really made of moonlight. Oh, never had there been such a moment as this! Well, of course, strict and rigid maiden Aunt Edith happens upon poor Pat's moondance and drags her before her family at the unfortunate time that they are entertaining some rather uppitty cousins with perfect, well-behaved daughters. It is a pure scandal! Pat's punishment is "being sent to Coventry," a punishment that was reserved for severe infractions but which was common for the times. It meant that the rule-breaker must not speak to any member of the household nor would they speak to her for a designated period of time. Pat was sent to Coventry for a whole week. As one who has done my own share of naked moondancing I can assure you that no amount of time in Coventry should deter you if you haven't tried it yourself. A quick Google search reveals the phrase "sent to Coventry" originated during the English Civil War, when Coventry, a stronghold of the Parliamentarian forces, was used to house Royalist prisoners. It is claimed that the phrase grew out of the hostile attitude of residents of the city to either the troops billeted there or the Royalist prisoners held there in St. John's church.

This lovely book is brimming with similar colloquialisms that charmed me time and time again. I doubt that today's 9-12 year old will know any of these words but I hope they have the good fortune of reading this book so that they may discover the meanings and be enriched...I savored words like...chromo, billet-doux, drugget, dudgeon, avoirdupois, paling, whiffet. I would rather receive a billet-doux instead of an email any day. Isn't it better to imagine someone in a high dudgeon rather than imagining them being merely angry? Imagine a full moon, mists hovering in the night air, a black cat sitting quietly on the paling fence that surrounds an old grave yard and ask yourself if you'd rather have a chain link fence there instead. Wouldn't you love to attend a wedding where, The bridesmaids wore dresses of pink Georgette crêpe with pink mohair hats and bouquets of sweet peas and where Little Emmy Madison made a charming flower girl in a smocked frock of pink voilé? I wore dresses with smocking in my own childhood. Crêpe, mohair and voilé? These were all elegant and made of 100% natural fibers. All-about-fabrics.com says Georgette crêpe is a lightweight, heavy, sheer fabric that has quite a bit of stiffness and body and has a dull, crinkled surface. Picture it!

If you have a very romantic soul please read this book. You will enjoy it, I promise you. Allow yourself to see and feel every bit of Montgomery's haven of sweet, mannerly yesterdays and intoxicating natural beauty. Step closer to the physical life of hands on labor and appreciate life with the tender sensibilities and honesty of a hand made world. Unlike me, you may not wish to live there but I think you will enjoy the visit. Read it yourself or read it with your children. Savor the past and preserve its goodness for the future. A copy of Pat of Silver Bush has a permanent home in my own personal Glory Box and I hope you might find room for it in yours. As Pat thought one evening after she had taken over the running of Silver Bush following her mother's heart surgery, "There had been so many things in this house and it had not forgotten one of them. Love and sorrow...tragedies...comedies. Babies had been born...brides had dreamed...all sorts of fashions had come and gone before the old mirrors. Its very walls seemed to hold laughter...How she loved it! She loved it in morning rose and sunset amber, and best of all in the darkness of night, when it loomed palely through the gloom and was all her own. This beauty was hers...all hers. Life could never be empty at Silver Bush." No, never...I promise. ( )
  Treeseed | Feb 19, 2008 |
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