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Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery
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Tangled Web (original 1931; edition 1989)

by L.M. Montgomery

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Genteel, Canadian-spinsterly version of a potboiler, with some surprisingly lovely descriptions of the sky. ( )
  amelish | Sep 12, 2013 |
One of the few L.M. Montgomery titles that I did not read in my childhood, A Tangled Web was a double treat, in that it contained so many well-loved Montgomery "types," but was also wholly new to me. The simultaneous feeling of friendly familiarity and excited discovery that I experienced while reading it made it the ideal book in which to lose myself for a few wonderful hours.

Chronicling one year in the life of the interrelated Dark and Penhallow clans, whose many scandals, quarrels, and love affairs are brought to the fore when family matriarch Aunt Becky refuses to disclose who is to inherit the old Dark jug (a much-coveted heirloom), A Tangled Web offers a rich tapestry of stories, each entertaining in its own right, and all woven together in a moving portrait of extended family life on Canada's Prince Edward Island.

Here the reader will encounter the beautiful Gay Penhallow, merry and young, who is convinced that her love for her fiancé Noel Gibson will last forever - until he is stolen away by her femme-fatale cousin Nan. Here are Peter Penhallow and Donna Dark, who have hated each other all their lives because of their fathers' quarrel, until a chance meeting causes them to fall instantly and violently in love. Here too are Joscelyn and Hugh Dark, inexplicably separated on their wedding night; Little Sam Dark and Big Sam Dark, two bachelors who part ways over religious principle and a naked statue; lonely little Brian Dark, who longs for a mother; and wistful, poetic Margaret Penhallow, who longs for a child... All these quandaries, and more besides, are happily resolved by the end, as Montgomery brings her many story-lines together in a satisfying and very appropriate ending. Naturally, the Dark jug goes to the right person!

That said, although I am a devoted fan of Montgomery's work, and enjoyed A Tangled Web, I think the contemporary reader will be quite uncomfortable, as I was, with two glaring instances of racism in the book. The first was Little Sam's "harmless hobby" of collecting skulls from the local Indian burial ground and posting them on his fence, and the second was the unfortunate use of the word "n*gger" at the very close of the story. It's possible that Montgomery was simply trying to convey the "courseness" of the characters involved, and I'm sure an argument could be made that this is how people "back then" thought and spoke. I wouldn't say that the inclusion of these two elements ruined the novel for me, but they certainly inserted a most unwelcome and ugly tone in an otherwise pleasant book. ( )
1 vote AbigailAdams26 | May 27, 2013 |
I read this book when I was young but it remained one of my favourite L. M. Montgomery books. My sister passed her copy on to me and since I was looking for a book set in PEI for a reading challenge I decided to go with this one.

Although I remembered the bare skeleton of the book I didn't remember many of the details, nor did I remember the ending. So it was almost like reading it for the first time.

The Dark and the Penhallow families are long time residents of the same area of PEI. For most Darks, the only choice for a mate is a Penhallow and similarly for the Penhallows, they would only consider a Dark. The matriarch of the clans is Aunt Becky and when she decides that she does not have long to live she calls everyone together to tell them how her estate is to be distributed. Aunt Becky doesn't have a lot to leave but she is the possessor of a prized heirloom jug and that is what everyone is interested in. After insulting almost every person in attendance, Aunt Becky finally gets around to distributing her goods and chattels. Of course she leaves the jug to the end and everyone is hanging on her every word. Finally it comes time to give away the jug but Aunt Becky decides to keep them waiting longer. The jug will be given to Dandy Dark who will pass on the jug in a year according to Aunt Becky's instructions.

It is not clear if Dandy will have a choice in the matter or if he will just have to carry out Aunt Becky's final choice. To be on the safe side everyone decides to be on their best behaviour. However, life goes on and there is always someone in love or in some other predicament.

If you have read this book once, read it again. And if you have never read it, find a copy to read. It's that good. ( )
  gypsysmom | Dec 10, 2011 |
[A Tangled Web], first published in 1931, is considered one of the few books published by Montgomery that was written for a predominantly adult audience.

The premise of the story is an interesting one - two families, the Darks and the Penhallows, comprise an extended clan that has seen no fewer than 60 marriages between the two families in three generations. Aunt Becky, the outspoken 85 year old matriarch of the clan, decides to host a levee where she reads her will and announces all bequeathed items to the family members gathered. Well, not all of the items. The name of the family member to inherit the family jewel, an heirloom jug that has been in the family for over 100 years that all of the family members covet, is to remain a secret for one year. When Aunt Becky dies one week after her infamous levee, the clan rises to the challenge, with what appear on the surface to be self serving motives, in their attempt to live up to Aunt Becky's beliefs and win the jug. What ensues is an entertaining glimpse into family rivalry, bickering, love matches, family secrets and struggles to abstain from certain vices.

Set on Prince Edward Island in 1926 and 1927, I found this story to be a fun romp through the lives of the Darks and the Penhallows during their year of improvement and self discovery. Montgomery portrays the characters in a manner that is at times laughably ridiculous while still remaining appealingly charming. Keeping in mind that the story was written some 80 years, with different value systems and beliefs in place, I felt the book still has a lot to offer today's more contemporary reader.

In a nutshell - Quite fun! ( )
8 vote lkernagh | Nov 23, 2010 |
I liked this a lot. There were some characters I wish there had been more depth on, like Brian, but overall I liked the range of characters. I could have done without the last chapter, however; the Sams were my least favorite pair (in terms of their reconciliation) and the last paragraph left me with a bad taste in my mouth. Overall, though, I really liked it! ( )
  jphilbrick | Dec 3, 2009 |
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To my good friends Mr and Mrs Fred W. Wright in memory of a certain week of laughter
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A dozen stories have been told about the old Dark jug.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0770422454, Mass Market Paperback)

Over the years sixty members of the Dark family and sixty Penhallows have married one another--but not without their share of fighting and feuding. Now Aunt Becky, the eccentric old matriarch of the clan, has bequeathed her prized possession: a legendary heirloom jug. But the name of the jug's new owner will not be revealed for one year. In the next twelve months beautiful Gay Penhallow's handsome fiance Noel Gibson leaves her for sly and seductive Nan Penhallow; reckless Peter Penhallow and lovely Donna Dark, who have hated each other since childhood, are inexplicably brought together by the jug; Hugh and Joscelyn Dark, separated on their wedding night ten years ago for reasons never revealed, find a second chance--all watched over by the mysterious Moon Man, who has the gift of second sight. Then comes the night when Aunt Becky's wishes will be revealed...and the family is in for the biggest surprise of all.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:28:17 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

When Aunt Becky bequeaths her prized heirloom jug -- the owner to be revealed in one year's time -- the fighting and feuding that have occurred over the years grow more intense. But on the night that the eccentric matriarch's wishes are to be divulged, both families find the biggest surprise of all.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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