Recently, while searching for L.M. Montgomery’s long-lost short stories on a variety of digital archives, I came across an ad for Anne of Green Gables in The Nation, a New York magazine:
This ad is unique for several reasons:
First, it makes no mention of the type of book it refers to (fiction? non-fiction?), let alone what the book might be about or what readership it targets. There’s also no mention of the book’s publisher, which is highly unusual, given that in most early ads for Montgomery’s early books, the “From Page’s List” logo appears prominently almost always.
Second, the first appearance of this ad that I’ve found is in the 9 July 1908 issue, which is less than a month after the book was published (on 13 June). That means that the designation “cleverest book of the year” seems a bit premature.
Third, this ad appeared again and again in the months to follow: on 20 August 1908, 17 September 1908, 8 October 1908, and 15 October 1908, and then again on 15 July 1909, 5 August 1909, 2 September 1909, 16 September 1909, and 7 October 1909. Not only does it seem odd for this ad to be deemed the “cleverest book of the year” in two separate years, but the later ads show no awareness of the publication of Anne of Avonlea, early in September 1909.
In short, while this ad campaign breaks from a number of advertising conventions, clearly it was deemed to be effective, or else it wouldn’t have run for a minimum of nine times over a fifteen-month period. These ads may not have given anything away in terms of the book’s contents or form, but by using the term “clever,” thus commenting on the book’s literary quality, this ad campaign would have appealed to readers searching for “clever” fiction who may have turned away from ads proclaiming the book’s staggering popularity.
Although my work on the last volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader is done, I still on occasion come across reviews of Montgomery’s books that I might have wanted to include in the volume. Just today I found the following review of Anne of Avonlea in the 16 October 1909 issue of The Congregationalist and Christian World, a Boston church magazine.
Would it be possible to follow a successful story for girls, extending over the period of school life, with a love novel of the heroine’s after experience? Miss Montgomery evidently does not think so, for she has declined the task in her Anne of Avonlea (Page, $1.50), which carries on the life of her delightful “Anne of Green Gables” only to the first glimmering dawn of her recognition of the day of quiet love. The new book cannot bring us the happy surprise of its predecessor, nor does it move in so well-marked a sphere of experience. From the dramatic unities it slips easily, however, into the pleasant task of chronicling the progress of a happy girl’s life. Anne is well worth knowing as schoolmarm of seventeen and village improver.
The touch is neither so unconscious nor so sure as in the charming earlier story, but the book is well worth reading by all Anne’s lovers, if it were only for her delightful bits of moral philosophy—her’s [sic] and the mischievous twin’s. It is the latter who says, after an escapade of compelling his prim and proper sister to walk the pigpen fence, “I feel sorry now myself, but the trouble is, I never feel sorry for doing things till after I’ve did them.” But it is Anne who counters on the man who believes in “telling the truth to everybody,” by saying: “But you don’t tell the whole truth, you only tell the disagreeable part of the truth. Now you’ve told me a dozen times that my hair was red, but you’ve never once told me that I had a nice nose.” The story is rich in such material of wise and humorous casuistry. It belongs both on the shelf for girls’ reading and among the books with which sagacious grown-ups refresh their souls.
What do you think of this assessment of Montgomery’s second book as good but not so good as Anne of Green Gables, as evidence of Montgomery finding it impossible to write the love story of the heroine of a story for girls? (This reviewer didn’t know that Anne of the Island would follow six years later.) Would this second novel have been more successful had the plot been anchored around resolving the love story of Anne and Gilbert?
Although reviewers were pretty much in agreement that L.M. Montgomery’s second book, Anne of Avonlea, was not quite to the standard set by the first, overall they were filled with praise for this second novel about Anne. For J.B. Kerfoot of Life magazine, however, the lessening of this quality had less to do with the fact that this novel was a sequel to the first but with the stage of life that it portrayed:
Any one who has to do with dogs knows that between their irresistible puppyhood, when humans of all ages love them, and their comradely maturity, when human grown-ups chum with them, there is an interval during which children avoid them, grown-ups lose patience with them and they would be quite neglected, did not idealistic youth lead them about with a string around their necks. So, at times, with books. Last year, we met “Anne of Green Gables,” an irresistible child-woman, and loved her. Some day – who knows? – we may meet her full grown and chum with her. But Anne of Avonlea, by L.M. Montgomery, is Anne betwixt and between – a book for girls.
Today’s L.M. Montgomery ad appeared in The Boston Herald in September 1909 to coincide with the publication of her second novel, Anne of Avonlea. Note that it offers no details about plot except that it’s a sequel to Anne of Green Gables.
“Such delightful stories are much to be desired, both for their clean, wholesome influence and the fact that they are in utter contrast to the many silly, sentimental love stories of the day and the tiresome mystery and problem stories of exceedingly doubtful literary value. The reading public is surfeited with such stories. Let us hope to hear more of Anne in the not too far distant future – to say nothing of Gilbert.” —Robert A. Turner, The Des Moines News (Des Moines, IA)
Puffin Classics will reissue Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island on 6 August 2009 on the U.K. (available in Canada on 24 November 2009), joining their reissue last year of Anne of Green Gables with an introduction by Lauren Child. As you can see from the covers above, the authors of the introductions to the second and third books are to be confirmed, although Amazon suggests that Budge Wilson has written the introduction to Anne of Avonlea. I’ll let you know once I hear anything more.
In anticipation of the CTV broadcast of Anne of Green Gables: A New Beginning (an exact date has not yet been released), Sullivan Entertainment will release six books in September and October. A novelization of the new movie, written by Kevin Sullivan, will be published by Key Porter Books on 1 October (Amazon.ca listing here). Also on that day, they are publishing through Davenport Press reissues of Montgomery’s novels Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island; an audio CD of Anne of Green Gables, read by Kevin Sullivan; and a new novelization of their first Anne of Green Gables miniseries.
Sullivan Entertainment has also released new trailers of the New Beginning movie, both of which imply that Anne wasn’t really an orphan after all. View them at their official website.