Recently, while searching through online databases for L.M. Montgomery’s periodical pieces, I was able to add several more reviews of Anne of Green Gables to my collection. One of them, from The Journal of Education (Boston), actually predates a rather infamous review that appeared in The New York Times Saturday Review and that I claimed in the introduction to The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review to be “the first known review of Anne of Green Gables.” Of course, it mistakenly calls the book Anne of Gray Gables and gets some plot details wrong, but it is nevertheless of interest as now being the first known review of Montgomery’s first novel—at least until something earlier turns up!
Young and old will be interested in Anne and in her charming, livable manners. In spite of her uncongenial surroundings, the harshness of her unsympathetic sister, the heroism stands forth in marked contrast and forms a central figure about which the thread of the story is spun. The author evidently understands girls, and her appreciation of their nature has fitted her to write of the conditions and qualities which surround them. The story is beautifully illustrated.
In addition, two reviews that I came across only yesterday emphasize the book as appealing particularly to girls, as opposed to most of the early reviews, which saw the book as being targeted to adults or else to young and old alike.
The Times–Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia recommends it on the basis of the qualities it offers readers:
A charming story told in a charming way, full to the brim of imagination and the poetical outlook which transforms all living with beauty and grace. A story in which a little waif is rescued from dependence and being made the recipient of kindness and love, repays it “with good measure, pressed down and running over.”
A book which all girls ought to read and enjoy for the sake of its wholesome spirit and its bright, sparkling humor.
The phrase “with good measure, pressed down and running over” alludes to Luke 6.38 in the Christian Bible: “A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap” (New International Version).
The Philadelphia Inquirer does likewise, but it tends to have a rather narrow-minded view of female readers:
In these days it is difficult to get stories that are just what every mother wants for a girl of from fourteen to seventeen years old. There never has been a successor to Louise M. Alcott, but it is to be hoped that she will appear soon. It is with full knowledge of conditions as they exist both from the point of view of the publishers and the parents, that we recommend “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery to all young girls who want some inspiration in life, and who do not find exactly what they want on the bookshelves because of their own ignorance.
Mothers are not very astute in the matter of literature or they would not complain that they are afraid to let their daughters read any of the current literature. There is plenty of the best.
Anne was a young orphan who was adopted by a Canadian family and lived the simple life for a while under conditions which were a little disturbing, but which in the end made a woman of her. It is a wholesome and stimulating book that will help all and hurt none. Published by L.C. Page & Co.
So far I have added to this website lists of reviews of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Kilmeny of the Orchard, and The Story Girl, with reviews of the remaining novels to follow. You can also browse by periodical and see the wide range of sources the commented on Montgomery’s work.