Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic


In June 1908, a red-haired orphan appeared on to the streets of Boston and a modern legend was born. That little girl was Anne Shirley, better known as Anne of Green Gables, and her first appearance was in a book that has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 35 languages (including Braille). The author who created her was Lucy Maud Montgomery, a writer who revealed very little of herself and her method of crafting a story. On the centenary of its publication, Irene Gammel ...

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Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic

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In June 1908, a red-haired orphan appeared on to the streets of Boston and a modern legend was born. That little girl was Anne Shirley, better known as Anne of Green Gables, and her first appearance was in a book that has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 35 languages (including Braille). The author who created her was Lucy Maud Montgomery, a writer who revealed very little of herself and her method of crafting a story. On the centenary of its publication, Irene Gammel tells the braided story of both Anne and Maud and, in so doing, shows how a literary classic was born. Montgomery's own life began in the rural Cavendish family farmhouse on Prince Edward Island, the place that became the inspiration for Green Gables. Mailmen brought the world to the farmhouse's kitchen door in the form of American mass market periodicals sparking the young Maud's imagination. From the vantage point of her small world, Montgomery pored over these magazines, gleaning bits of information about how to dress, how to behave and how a proper young lady should grow. She began to write, learning how to craft marketable stories from the magazines' popular fiction; at the same time the fashion photos inspired her visual imagination. One photo that especially intrigued her was that of a young woman named Evelyn Nesbit, the model for painters and photographers and lover of Stanford White. That photo was the spark for what became Anne Shirley. Blending biography with cultural history, Looking for Anne of Green Gables is a gold mine for fans of the novels and answers a trunk load of questions: Where did Anne get the "e" at the end of her name? How did Montgomery decide to give her red hair? How did Montgomery's courtship and marriage to Reverend Ewan Macdonald affect the story? Irene Gammel's dual biography of Anne Shirley and the woman who created her will delight the millions who have loved the red haired orphan ever since she took her first step inside the gate of Green Gables farm in Avonlea.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Interesting and well-researched."—The New York Times

"Drawing on a vast array of neglected and unknown sources, this groundbreaking study establishes new connections between Montgomery's isolated life in Cavendish, P.E.I., and the metropolitan existence that she consumed vicariously through magazines published in New York, Boston and Philadelphia. Looking for Anne is a highly readable, top-rate study that [provides] a new spin on Montgomery's text." Globe and Mail

"Rather than simply rehashing available material, Ryerson professor and noted literary researcher Irene Gammel … explores the social and literary influences that guided and inspired Montgomery in creating her impetuous heroine. … Even more fascinating is the amount of inspiration Montgomery found in the myriad of current magazines and journals that made their way into her hands via the desk of her grandmother the town postmistress." Quill and Quire

"Looking for Anne is a fascinating and wonderful book. It brings forward an amazing wealth of new information, filling in many gaps (some of which I didn’t even know existed!), and is presented in a captivating narrative that is very well organized and a great read. The research is fabulous…. It’s rather like the Road to Xanadu.”— Carole Gerson, Simon Fraser University and co-editor of History of the Book in Canada

"... The material is incredible, the interpretive work unsurpassable. "— Holly Virginia Blackford, Rutgers University-Camden.

Kate Bolick
…a well-researched if occasionally overreachingdual biography of Anne and her creator. Much has been written about Anne's enduring appeal, by academics and critics debating her proto-feminist status or unpacking her influence on children's literature. Less known is her genesis, and it's this "perfect storm of inspiration" reconstructed by Gammel, a professor of English at Ryerson University.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly

Anne of Green Gables may be one of the most beloved of books, selling more than 50 million copies since it was first published 100 years ago. But according to Ryerson, a Canadian scholar and co-chair of the L.M. Montgomery Institute, Anne's creator was both secretive and "an emotional and forceful advocate of her own legend." So Ryerson seeks out the truth about Montgomery and the writing of her novel, including the possible sources for Anne Shirley, a high-spirited, irrepressibly optimistic, redheaded Canadian orphan. Among Anne's antecedents were the bestselling Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and a proliferation of stories and poems about orphan girls named Ann, such as James Whitcomb Riley's popular nursery rhyme "Little Orphan Annie," based on a girl orphaned during the Civil War. Montgomery's fear of aging and outsider status as a motherless child brought up by aging grandparents also fed into her image of Anne as did her adopted cousin Ellen Macneill, also an orphan. But this lackluster study won't find many takers beyond Montgomery scholars and rabid Anne Shirley fans. 16 pages of color photos. (July)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

Gammel (modern literature & culture, Ryerson Univ., Toronto) has written numerous essays on Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) and Canadian culture. Here, with a good sense of narrative and "what the reader wants to know" and using little academic jargon, she extends her research into a full study of the Canadian author and her most famous creation, Anne Shirley. Montgomery was just 30 when she wrote Anne of Green Gables. In this book coinciding with the centenary of that book's publication, Gammel interweaves Anne's and Montgomery's life stories, showing how Anne's life mirrored her creator's own dreams, memories, and emotions. She shares such wonderful tidbits of information as how Anne got the e in her name, how she was modeled after the notorious Evelyn Nesbit, and which characteristics of her many friends Montgomery instilled in Anne. There are also photos of family and friends who are mirrored in the novels as well as actresses who have portrayed Anne over the years. This would make an excellent selection for lovers of Anne and her many adventures; recommended for all public and academic libraries.
—Rebecca Bollen Manalac

Kirkus Reviews
Oblique, somewhat frustrating attempt "to piece together the fragments that inspired" the beloved Canadian novel. Gammel (English and Modern Literature and Culture/Ryerson Univ.; Baroness Elsa: Gende, Dada, and Everyday Modernity, 2003, etc.) concentrates on the years from 1903, when the germ of Lucy Maud Montgomery's classic novel Anne of Green Gables took root, to its publication in 1908. Maud, as friends and family always called her, kept notebooks while writing the book, but "only the distilled version that she wanted us to see was allowed to survive," comments the author. She also edited her voluminous diary with an eye to publication: "her journal was the stage on which Maud performed her artful versions of the truth." She acquired habits of secrecy and self-deception early, avers Gammel. Her mother died of TB when Maud was a toddler, her father left and she was raised by undemonstrative maternal grandparents on Prince Edward Island. Though her fiction enveloped the old homestead in misty nostalgia, it was more like a prison to the ambitious young writer, whose dreams of becoming self-sufficient and famous found stimulus in such popular magazines of the era as The Delineator and Godey's Lady's Book. Gammel doggedly pursues a clipping of a girl pasted in Maud's journal and determines this "model for Anne's face" to be teenaged Evelyn Nesbit, who made her living posing for artists before the Stanford White murder trial made her notorious. The author links the theme of "bosom friends" in the novel to Maud's own intense female friendships, concluding that the writer was probably not a lesbian, but sexually frustrated in her subsequent marriage to the "sub-thyroid" (depressed) ReverendEwan Macdonald. In the end, Gammel's triumphant declaration of "the mystery of Anne revealed" is judiciously countered by Anne's own assertion in the novel: "There's such a lot of different Annes in me."Much ado about nothing, though loyal fans will celebrate this work on the centenary of Anne of Green Gables' publication. Agent: Hilary McMahon/Westwood Creative Artists
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312382384
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2009
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 787,942
  • Product dimensions: 5.88 (w) x 8.80 (h) x 0.94 (d)

Meet the Author

IRENE GAMMEL is an English professor and holds the Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture at Ryerson University, Toronto. She has served as president of the Canadian Comparative Literature Association and as an editorial board member of Canadian Literature. She lives in Toronto, Canada.

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Table of Contents

Prologue: The Mystery of Anne of Green Gables     13
The Perfect Storm, Fall 1903-Spring 1905
Old Memories and New Ambitions     19
The Model for Anne's Face     31
Building Castles in Spain     40
The Orphan Girl and the Snow Queen     58
Writing Anne, Spring 1905-Winter 1907
Romantic Orchards, Kindred Spririts, and a Spring Flirtation     77
Maud's Bosom Friends     89
Pagan Love and Sacred Promises: Anne and Diana     100
Good Enemies and Old Love Letters     111
Wicked Satire in Small-Town Avonlea     124
This Old Place Has a Soul, Green Gables     137
Red Hair, Puffed Sleeves, and the Rituals of Growing Up     169
Farewells and Decisions     185
The Mystery of Anne Revealed     207
Anne Takes Off, Spring 1907-Fall 1938
The Most Popular Summer Girl     223
The Vows Kept for Life     241
Epilogue: Dramatis Personae     258
Abbreviations     263
Endnotes     265
Selected Bibliography     293
Acknowledgments     306
Index     308
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