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Year in Review: 2015

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review

For me personally, the highlight of 2015 was the release in January of volume 3 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, subtitled A Legacy in Review. The fact that this multi-year project has finally come to an end is bittersweet, and it’s been nice to clear my desk, both literally and figuratively, as I start to ponder what it is I’d like to tackle next. I do hope that the materials included in all three volumes will prove useful and interesting to Montgomery’s broad readership, and of course I’m always happy to hear from readers in terms of questions, responses, and alerts to items I missed.

My friend Melanie Fishbane, upon receiving her copy of volume 3 after it was published, took a couple of photos of the three volumes on her shelf, edited them through some sort of Photoshop/Instagram rinse, and then posted them on Facebook. The arrangement looked so neat that I asked her permission to repost it, which she graciously gave. Thanks, Mel!

Montage of covers of /The L.M. Montgomery Reader/

And in November, all three volumes of The L.M. Montgomery Reader became available as a hardcover set from University of Toronto Press!

A tremendous resource for fans and scholars alike, the three-volume The L.M. Montgomery Reader gathers together a captivating selection of material, much of it recently rediscovered, on the life, work, and critical reception of one of Canada’s most enduringly popular authors.

Collecting material on Montgomery’s life (Volume One), her critical reputation (Volume Two), and reviews of her books (Volume Three), leading Montgomery scholar Benjamin Lefebvre traces the interplay between the author and the critic, as well as between the private and the public Montgomery. Each volume includes an extensive introduction and detailed commentary on the documents that provides the context for these primary sources, many of them freshly unearthed from archives and digital collections and never before published in book form.

These volumes have received tremendous praise from reviewers, for which I’m so grateful:

“While Lefebvre’s The L.M. Montgomery Reader is a vital resource of primary sources from and secondary assessments of one of Canada’s most popular twentieth-century authors, it is his insightful and knowledgeable analysis that shapes and gives meaning to the collection. . . . The depth of his knowledge results in a work that is as comprehensible as it is comprehensive.”
–André Narbonne, American Review of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre’s archival research is thorough and often brilliant, making the Reader an invaluable trove not only for Montgomery scholars but also for those working with the reception history of Canadian writers, especially women before Laurence, Munro, and Atwood. For Montgomery completists, the Reader is irresistible. For those engaged in Montgomery studies or Canadian literature more generally, it is invaluable.”
–Anne Furlong, University of Toronto Quarterly

“With this volume, Lefebvre broadens our understanding of Montgomery’s reception and reputation both within Canada and internationally, unearthing previously obscure content and commentary and making it accessible to a far wider audience. This reader will thus prove a valuable resource to both existing and future scholars of Montgomery’s work and life, as well as those fans keen for a little more insight into the ever-elusive figure of L.M. Montgomery.”
–Sarah Galletly, British Journal of Canadian Studies

“Lefebvre has uncovered a cache of new, important material in an already impressive and crowded field of Montgomery scholarship. . . . His sensitive editing of the material brings the public side of Montgomery into better focus as she fields endless questions about how she became a writer, how Anne came to be and whether or not she was a real girl and what the author thought of young women in her day. [This book will] deepen our knowledge and understanding of this beloved Canadian icon.”
–Laurie Glenn Norris,Telegraph–Journal (Saint John, NB)

“Lefebvre has thoroughly mined earlier scholars’ bibliographies and online newspaper archives to find reviews in periodicals from eight different countries, including the Bookman (London), the Globe (Toronto) and Vogue (New York). . . . Collectively, these reviews . . . represent a superb barometer of [Montgomery’s] fluctuating cultural value as a writer.”
–Irene Gammel, The Times Literary Supplement

L.M. Montgomery's Rainbow Valleys

Congratulations to Rita Bode and Lesley D. Clement on their new collection of essays, L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911–1942, which has just been published by McGill-Queen’s University Press!

Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942) and Anne of Green Gables will always be associated with Prince Edward Island, Montgomery’s childhood home and the setting of her most famous novels. Yet, after marrying Rev. Ewan Macdonald in 1911, she lived in Ontario for three decades. There she became a mother of two sons, fulfilled the duties of a minister’s wife, advocated for copyright protection and recognition of Canadian literature, wrote prolifically, and reached a global readership that has never waned.

Engaging with discussions on both her life and her fiction, L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys explores the joys, sorrows, and literature that emerged from her transformative years in Ontario. While this time brought Montgomery much pleasure and acclaim, it was also challenged and complicated by a sense of displacement and the need to self-fashion and self-dramatize as she struggled to align her private self with her public persona. Written by scholars from various fields and including a contribution by Montgomery’s granddaughter, this volume covers topics such as war, religion, women’s lives, friendships, loss, and grief, focusing on a range of related themes to explore Montgomery’s varied states of mind.

An in-depth study of one of Canada’s most internationally acclaimed authors, L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys shows how she recreated herself as an Ontario writer and adapted to the rapidly changing world of the twentieth century.

The volume consists of fourteen chapters of original scholarship by Kate Macdonald Butler, Mary Beth CavertLesley D. Clement, Melanie J. Fishbane, Natalie Forest, Caroline E. Jones, E. Holly Pike, Laura M. Robinson, Linda Rodenburg, Margaret Steffler, Kate Sutherland, William V. Thompson, Elizabeth Waterston, and Emily Woster, as well as an interlude by Katherine Cameron, an introduction by the volume editors, and an appendix by the volume editors with assistance from Kristina Eldridge and Chloe Verner.


L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on War (Toronto Public Library)

On 27 January, I joined Laura M. Robinson and Melanie J. Fishbane for an event called “The Canadian Home Front: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on War” at the North York Central Library branch of the Toronto Public Library. I spoke about how Montgomery’s shifting vision of the war appeared in periodicals of the period, not only in terms of some of Montgomery’s essays and letters published prior to the writing of Rilla of Ingleside but also the ways in which all her war books—Rainbow ValleyAnne’s House of Dreams, and The Watchman and Other Poems, as well as Rilla of Ingleside—were reviewed in North American newspapers and magazines.

Maud in the Garden (Leaskdale)

On Saturday, 20 June 2015, I drove to Leaskdale, Ontario, for the unveiling of “Maud in the Garden,” a public art sculpture by Wynn Walters that had been commissioned by the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario. Here are a few photos I took at the event.

Members of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario at the unveiling of Maud in the Garden.
Sculptor Wynn Waters speaks at the unveiling of the Lucy Maud Montgomery Statue in Leaskdale.
Sculptor Wynn Waters speaks at the unveiling of the Lucy Maud Montgomery statue in Leaskdale.
L.M. Montgomery's granddaughter, Kate Macdonald Butler, speaks on behalf of the heirs of L.M. Montgomery.
L.M. Montgomery’s granddaughter Kate Macdonald Butler speaks on behalf of the heirs of L.M. Montgomery.
I couldn't resist getting my picture taken with Montgomery.
I couldn’t resist getting my picture taken with Montgomery.

L.M. Montgomery and Gender (Charlottetown)

Proposals for L.M. Montgomery and Gender, the twelfth biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute and held at the University of Prince Edward Island on 23–26 June 2016, were due in August of this year, at which point conference co-chairs Andrea McKenzie and Laura Robinson sent out the following note:

Canada is fast approaching the centenary of women’s suffrage in the province of Manitoba (1916) and nationally (1918), so the twelfth biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute at the University of Prince Edward Island will re-consider the role of gender in L.M. Montgomery’s work, broadly defined: her fiction, poetry, life writing, letters, photographs, and scrapbooks, as well as the myriad adaptations and spinoffs in film, television, theatre, tourism, and social media.

The L.M. Montgomery Institute is delighted to announce the following keynote speakers: Jane Urquhart, Mavis Reimer, and Elizabeth Epperly.

L.M. Montgomery Day in Leaskdale

On Saturday, 24 October, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario held its annual L.M. Montgomery Day, which commemorates Montgomery’s arrival in Leaskdale as a minister’s wife in October 1911. This year’s theme was Maud’s Landscapes: The Effect of Nature on Her Writing, and the schedule of events included the following presentations, which were bookended by a welcome by Melanie Whitfield and a launch for L.M. Montgomery’s Rainbow Valleys: The Ontario Years, 1911–1942, which included remarks by editors Rita Bode and Lesley D. Clement:

Gwen Layton, “Maud in the Garden: L.M. Montgomery’s Sense of Place in Her Leaskdale Literary Landscape”

Melanie Fishbane, “Fairy Slopes and Phantom Shadows: L.M. Montgomery as Teen Poet”

Vanessa Brown, “Hester Gray’s Garden”

Benjamin Lefebvre, “In Lands Afar: L.M. Montgomery and the Re-creation of Prince Edward Island in Ontario”

Kate Macdonald Butler, “Reflections on Filming Anne of Green Gables in 2015”

Stage and Screen

In March, Toronto production company Breakthrough Entertainment added to its website a page for its upcoming adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. Initially announced as a thirteen-episode series, this ninety-minute telefilm was directed by John Kent Harrison from a script by Susan Coyne:

Based on the globally beloved classic children’s novel that was first published in 1908 by Lucy Maud Montgomery, Anne of Green Gables is the story of a fiercely imaginative little girl who, with her irrepressible spirit, touches the lives of everyone that she meets. In particular, it is the story of Anne’s stormy relationship with the strait-laced Marilla Cuthbert who discovers through Anne a capacity for love that she never knew she had.

L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables

While a movie poster released in October included the subtitle “Holiday Special,” indicating that the telefilm might air during the holiday season, a press release from Breakthrough Entertainment in June announced that the telefilm will air on Corus Entertainment–owned YTV early in 2016 and will star thirteen-year-old Ella Ballentine as Anne Shirley, and in August, a new listing on the Internet Movie Database a partial cast list, including Martin Sheen as Matthew Cuthbert, Linda Kash as Mrs. Barry, Sara Botsford as Marilla Cuthbert, Ella Ballentine as Anne Shirley, Julia Lalonde as Diana Barry, Zoe Fraser as Ruby Gillis, Kyle Gatehouse as Mr. Phillips, Stefani Kimber as Josie Pye, Drew Haytaoglu Gilbert Blythe, Kate Hennig as Rachel Lynde, and Isabella Ricker as Prissy Andrews.

Don Harron (1924–2015)

In January, it was reported that Don Harron, co-creator of Anne of Green Gables: The Musical and author of several books, including Anne of Green Gables the Musical: 101 Things You Didn’t Know (2008), had died on 17 January 2015 at the age of 90. For more on the life and accomplishments of this well-respected actor, writer, and director, see the obituary appearing on the CBC News website.

Jonathan Crombie (1966–2015)

And in April, it was reported that Jonathan Crombie, who played Gilbert Blythe in three Anne of Green Gables miniseries by Sullivan Entertainment, had died on April 15 at the age of 48. A CBC News report posted that day was subsequently updated several times to include more details about his death as well as tributes to him from several people, including his sister Carrie Crombie, his Anne co-star Megan Follows, and producer/director Kevin Sullivan.

30 November 2015

This year, on the anniversary of Montgomery’s birth in 1874, Montgomery trended on the Internet, due in large part to several Google Doodles paying tribute to Anne of Green Gables. And as Melanie J. Fishbane pointed out in a blog post published on that day, this is an exciting time for Montgomery and especially for Anne, thanks to the upcoming new telefilm version of Anne of Green Gables, a shout-out about the novel in a recent episode of The Simpsons, and numerous celebrity mentions. A list of “Five Fast Facts You Need to Know” about Montgomery, published on that day on the website Heavy, mentions her rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.