I didn’t really think I was going to read a Montgomery book that I liked less than Emily’s Quest, but Pat was a complete bust for me. This was another of Montgomery’s books that Mom told me, back when I was a kid, not to bother reading, and, as usual, Mom was right!
Note: This review WILL contain spoilers both for this book and its sequel, which I didn’t read (but had Mom summarize haha), Mistress Pat.
First off, this book is somewhat boring compared to other Montgomery stories. It should have been titled “Judy of Silver Bush” because huge chunks of the book are just Judy – the housekeeper/cook/etc. – telling telling random stories about random people we don’t know and never will know, all in a somewhat annoying Irish brogue (delightful to hear in real life, annoying to read). Judy heads up the “let’s enable Pat in her unhealthy aversion to change” club, constantly sheltering her and scolding the family if they don’t treat Pat with the reverence she “deserves.” Don’t get me wrong – I liked Judy just fine, I just felt like a lot of this book focused just as much on her as the titular character.
Generally, Montgomery does a good job sketching characters and making me feel as though I know them, but that was completely lacking here. Even Pat herself can basically be summed up with “hates change and is obsessed with Silver Bush” and that’s pretty much her entire character. It took me several chapters to even know which names belonged to actual siblings because Montgomery (weirdly) doesn’t particularly introduce them. We’re told repeatedly that Pat and Sid are best friends (Sid is a brother), but absolutely never see that actually happening on the page – in fact, we mostly see the opposite, times when he lets Pat down or doesn’t understand her or keeps going out with the one girl Pat can’t stand at school. I absolutely never bought Pat and Sid being BFFs and was persistently puzzled as to why Pat would for one second depend on Sid for her future happiness, i.e. being so convinced that he really wasn’t ever going to get married and that they could just live at Silver Bush together forever. (Spoilers: Did Montgomery already know what she was going to write in Mistress Pat? It felt like a lot of arbitrary things that happened in this book were just to set up all the absolutely horrific things she planned to do to these characters in the sequel. I definitely felt like she killed off Bets just so Sid could marry the dreadful Binnie girl in the second book. Knowing that was what was going to happen definitely made me enjoy this book a lot less, and it also contributed to my “why in the heck does Pat think so highly of Sid” feelings.)
Nothing happens in this book. Many of Montgomery’s books are somewhat episodic, but perhaps because she was covering so many years (10+) this one just felt rather scattered, with no consistent storyline to further what was happening. It’s just “here’s a random thing that happened. Here’s Judy telling some irrelevant stories. Oh, that Judy, so funny! Hey, here are some descriptive paragraphs about nature!” This book just wasn’t actually GOING anywhere.
I think what really got me about this book is that Pat has ZERO character growth. Other Montgomery heroines actually change – Anne, Emily, Jane, Valancy, even Marigold – but Pat is completely stagnant as a person and as a character. At the beginning of the book, she has completely meltdowns any time there is even a POSSIBILITY of something changing (her pouting around and refusing to eat because her sister MIGHT stay with family in a nearby town to go to a better school? I almost stopped reading after that because she annoyed me so much. What an absolute brat), and at the end of the book – she still does! She consistently doesn’t care about what is best for the people she supposedly loves, because what is best for people is for them to change and grow and go on to live their own lives and Pat doesn’t want that to happen. She’s so petty about everything – people going to school, people pursuing other careers, people getting married, freaking people deciding to shave off their own moustache – because it messes up HER little perfect life that she can’t BEAR to see changed. And instead of her family gently helping her learn that CHANGE IS PART OF LIFE, they all just handle her with kid gloves and go out of their way to avoid upsetting her. (And hey, here’s a tip, maybe part of the reason Pat doesn’t like leaving home is because you all freaking wait until she’s gone and then go on with some major change you know she’s going to hate and haven’t bothered to remotely prepare her for, like cut down trees! And then act all surprised when she doesn’t want to leave anymore! Maybe absolutely blindsiding someone with huge changes isn’t actually the best way to help them learn to deal with change in a health manner!)
At the beginning of the book, Pat is literally obsessed with Silver Bush and it being the perfect place and her never leaving there and always living there, and basically she worships Silver Bush. In the end – it’s the same. She doesn’t actually try anything new, beyond one year of school in a nearby town, and instead just comes back home to Silver Bush. Don’t get me wrong – I’m a homemaker, I love it, I love my home and I love my family and I love caring for them. I think being a homemaker is a noble and beautiful thing, and just as important, valid, and useful as a “career.” HOWEVER Pat’s situation is simply NOT HEALTHY. She only wants to care for Silver Bush because it means she can keep everything the same as it has always been.
I found Pat annoying as a small child at the beginning of the story, and found myself genuinely worried about her when she was a young woman at the end. She had learned nothing, had not grown or developed, and her obsession with keeping things the same had, I think, reached the point of mental illness by the end of the book. By the time you’re 19 you should be old enough to realize that change is part of life, and while it can be sad or upsetting, you can’t stop it, and pouting and crying and making everyone around you feel bad doesn’t actually solve the problem or prevent the change.
2* because there were some brief moments of storytelling that were engaging, but in the end – Mom, you were right. The Pat books really aren’t worth my time.