Quite by accident, Jane learns that her father is alive and living on Prince Edward Island. When he sends for her, Jane is devastated. She can't imagine being away from her mother and living with a stranger for a whole summer, even though she'll be away from Grandmother. Jane is surprised to find that her father is a warmhearted man with a big imagination. They buy a house in Lantern Hill and Jane set about making their house a home, the home she always imagined she would have. Jane makes friends with the neighbours and gains a reputation for being able to do anything. When she returns to Toronto, Grandmother learns that Jane is a force to be reckoned with and things will never be the same again.
What an excellent little book Jane of Lantern Hill is! In a way, it reminded me of The Secret Garden. A precocious little girl moves away from the place she has always lived, meets new people and tries new things becoming a better person by the end of the book. The difference is Jane is lovable right from the beginning. She has loyalty to her mother even though the woman is completely spineless. Jane becomes so wise and strong, much wiser than the adults. And that Grandmother...yikes! Icy cold nasty lady. I kept imagining the step-mother in Cinderella.
The differences between her life in Toronto and Prince Edward Island are so completely opposed that I wondered if this was a comment on Montgomery's own life. At the time this was written, Lucy Maude was near the end of her life. She had been married to a minister with mental problems not to mention her own depression. The weight of keeping up appearances must have been smothering, much like Jane's life with Grandmother. She must have had fond memories of herself as a young woman in PEI. Jane is set free to be herself on the island. The island is as much a character as Jane is.
Although Montgomery's writing is prone to unbelievable coincidences and unlikely situations, it's full of quirky characters and sparks of insight that even adults can appreciate like the following:
Jane, the most awful as well as the most beautiful things in the world can be said in three words or less… I love you…he is gone…he is come…she is dead…too late…and life is illumined or ruined.Though Montgomery is known for Anne Shirley and her adventures, I hope readers will give Jane Stuart a chance.
Highly recommended though difficult to get if you don't live in Canada.