LM Montgomery, while I love her dearly, can be a teensy weensy bit melodramatic. This book is where she showcases all her mad melodramatic skills.
The book is told from the point of view of the man you see brooding in the background on the cover, which is somewhat unusual for LM Montgomery. Eric Marshall has just graduated from college and is at a loose end before going to work for his millionaire father. A friend needs a break, so asks Eric to substitute teach for him for a month on PEI in a small town named Lindsay.
And wouldn't you know it, Eric goes and falls in love with the one impossible girl in Lindsay. Kilmeny Gordon has never been out in public and has never spoken. Her mother decided her own personal beauty was a terrible burden, so decided Kilmeny should stay out of the public eye for fear she would realize she is beautiful. There is a complicated backstory to her mother, which you learn through the book. It is sad, dark, and mildly insane. LM Montgomery was never afraid to bring a little dark into her writing.
Kilmeny can play violin like magic, is incredibly beautiful, and totally innocent due to her lack of contact with the outside world. One thing I don't exactly like is that Kilmeny's worth is definitely dependent on her beauty. Eric is a millionaires son. Falling in love with a poor girl from a rural PEI town is not really part of his millionaire father's life plan for Eric. Eric tells his father and anyone else who questions his choice of girl "Just wait until you see Kilmeny." Not interact with her and enjoy her wit, but just observe her beauty; that will justify my choice of woman. Kilmeny has a lot of great characteristics, so she is not some vapid beauty. Eric appreciates her musical talent, her wit, her intelligence, her pleasure in life, but it is her beauty that he keeps mentioning.
There are occasions when stereotypes are brought into LM Montgomery's works, and this is one of them. Kilmeny has an adopted brother-ish sort of person who happens to be Italian. The poor guy is forever being irrational, brooding, and passionate. Because that is how Italians are apparently. At least in 1910's PEI.
So Kilmeny of the Orchard is melodramatic, somewhat shallow, and stereotypical. If you read this book with a modern sensibility, you will likely roll your eyes. However, most people come to this book after Anne or Emily and already adore LM Montgomery, so they will love this book based on that fact alone. And really, for this time and in this place, the sensibilities in this book are pretty representative.
And guess what? I love this book. I can't take it seriously, but this was one of my first ever LM Montgomery books. (It just so happens this is her shortest novel.) I listened to Anne when I was very little, so loved her, then read this when I was too young to tackle of book of Anne's length, but wanted more LM Montgomery. So I love this book for sentimental reasons. Plus, I was much more melodramatic as a nine year old or whatever I was when I read this. So I probably didn't roll my eyes at all.
There is poetry in this book, lyrical descriptions of PEI in May, and an overall happy ending. And, it is by LM MONTGOMERY, for crying out loud. So you can do a lot worse. Just don't think you will find LM Montgomery's clever, biting wit or hilarious situations.