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 fiancé 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.
She longed for freedom, as all women do, but had sense enough to understand that real freedom is impossible in this kind of a world, the lucky people being those who can choose their masters, so she never made the mistake of kicking uselessly over the traces.
I love when Montgomery drops you into the middle of a family gathering and leaves you to get your bearings and try to keep up. She writes the clannishness of large families so well, and you can always be sure that her characters will cover the range of every possible personality. No matter how crazy the personality or the situation, it always feels plausible in Montgomery’s capable hands.
A Tangled Web is full of wonderful characters. Roger is consistent with his sweet presence, with absolutely no red flags of pressure or expectations. Gay is at times frustrating but always honest with her naive view on life and love. Margaret’s acceptance of her dull life despite her desperate wish for a home and a baby. Moon Man appears at the exact right moment with his insightful commentary and wandering spirit. All thrown together with plenty of not-so-wonderful gossipy self-serving characters.
It’s lovely to see that instalove was alive and well in the 1930s, though, showing up twice(!) in A Tangled Web. As usual, Montgomery has to one-up everyone and show them how instalove is done – one look is all it takes in these situations. In the end, it just ends up causing heartbreak, lost time, and stupid, inflamed reactions. If Montgomery can’t do it, no one will ever convince me this is a legitimate (or believable) plot device.
Oh, I thought I was going to make it – I was so optimistic, but I should have known better than to hope that we’d make it through a book from this time without some form of racism. I suppose it’s good the only openly racist comment happened in the very last paragraph, but it’s certainly not the ideal note to end on.
I love Montgomery’s writing, and A Tangled Web is prototypical of her best, especially as a standalone. I grew up loving her series (both Anne of Green Gables and Emily), so it’s nice to read one of her standalones for the first time and be transported back into her beautifully written world for a short visit. While the families and the settings may be different, they all leave a similar feeling of nostalgia and satisfaction.