On March 8, International Women’s Day, Historica Canada released its Heritage Minute video about L.M. Montgomery. The script features words straight out Montgomery’s journals and provides a moving and accurate portrait of the author, who struggled with depression as she sought to live out her literary ambitions. Renowned Montgomery scholars Elizabeth R. Epperly, Laura M. Robinson, and Mary Henley Rubio acted as consultants on the project. For more details, see the story from CBC News.
This year also saw the launch of an exciting new book series from University of Toronto Press: The L.M. Montgomery Library, which collects Montgomery’s extensive periodical output of short stories, poems, and miscellaneous pieces, first published between 1890 and 1942. Each volume is accompanied by a preface, an afterword, and annotations that provide context for all readers. Most of this material has never been collected in book form, so these volumes will add tremendously to our understanding and appreciation of Montgomery’s evolution as a professional writer.
The first volume in this series was first announced as Becoming L.M. Montgomery but published as A Name for Herself: Selected Writings, 1891–1917. This book involved extensive research in archives and rare periodicals, including three trips to Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa. It contains the full text of Montgomery’s so-called miscellaneous pieces: personal and travel essays, a playlet, contributions to student magazines, as well as texts that blur the lines between fiction and non-fiction. It includes for the first time the full text of Montgomery’s “Around the Table” column that she published in the Halifax Daily Echo over a nine-month period in 1901–1902 as well as a new edition of her celebrity memoir, “The Alpine Path.”
The afterword discusses Montgomery’s use of gender-neutral double initials (“L.M.”) and alternate signatures (including “Maud Cavendish” and “Belinda Bluegrass”) and places Montgomery in conversation with English-speaking women writers who preceded her (particularly George Eliot and Charlotte Brontë) and the strategies they used to succeed, including opting for initials or for male or androgynous pen names in order to help their work circulate in the marketplace.
Additional volumes showcasing Montgomery’s short stories and poems in chronological order are in progress, starting with A World of Songs: Selected Poems, 1894–1921, expected in early 2019.
I’ve been gathering copies of this material for over a decade with the ambition of making this work available in book form to Montgomery’s international community of readers, so it’s been humbling and gratifying to see this series finally going ahead.
On 30 November, which was also the 144th anniversary of Montgomery’s birth, A Name for Herself was included in the 2018 Book and Gift Guide from Canada’s History.
On 1 December, I received an email from University of Toronto Press announcing that A Name for Herself had been selected as the first book in its 12 Days of Reading campaign, which meant that, for one day only, both the paperback edition and the hardcover edition were 50% off.
And on 8 December, I was so pleased to discover that A Name for Herself was an Amazon.ca bestseller! In addition to being ranked 6,670 in terms of overall Amazon.ca bestsellers, it was #1 in two categories—“Books > Literature & Fiction > Canadian > History & Criticism” and “Books > Politics & Social Sciences > Women’s Studies > Women Writers”—as well as #3 in “Books > Literature & Fiction > History & Criticism > Women Writers & Feminist Theory.” Bestseller rankings on Amazon tend to change pretty quickly, but it was worth enjoying while it lasted!
Seven more books released throughout 2018 showcase the wide reach of Montgomery’s literary and cultural legacy more than seventy-five years after her death:
L.M. Montgomery’s Complete Journals: The Ontario Years, 1922–1925 (Rock’s Mills Press), a sixth volume of unabridged journals, with a preface and notes by Jen Rubio.
L.M. Montgomery and the Matter of Nature(s) (McGill-Queen’s University Press), a collection of essays edited by Rita Bode and Jean Mitchell that emerged out of a conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute in 2010.
The Diary of Charles Macneill, Farmer, 1892–1896 (Rock’s Mills Press), the full text of a diary by a distant relative of L.M. Montgomery that she transcribed in full and commented on extensively in her own journal in 1925, with a preface by Jen Rubio.
Summer in the Land of Anne (Acorn Press), a picture book written by Elizabeth R. Epperly and illustrated by Carolyn M. Epperly, about a young girl whose imagination is transformed during a trip to Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.
House of Dreams: The L.M. Montgomery (Candlewick Press), a middle-grade biography by Liz Rosenberg.
Marilla of Green Gables (William Morrow), a novel by Sarah McCoy that focuses on the life and challenges of a younger Marilla Cuthbert.
The Blythes Are Quoted (Penguin Canada), Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, reissued in a Penguin Modern Classics Edition with a revised introduction by Benjamin Lefebvre and a revised afterword by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly.
In other book news: heartiest congratulations to Melanie J. Fishbane, whose YA novel Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L.M. Montgomery was shortlisted for a 2018 Vine Award for Canadian Jewish Literature, under its Children’s/Young Adult category! The paperback edition of this book was released in October.
Finally, an animated version of Siobhán Gallagher’s cover art for the recent Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition of Anne of Green Gables (whose text I prepared and introduced) appeared on Twitter in early January of this year, showing that not even Anne is immune to winter weather!
On 27 October, the Lucy Maud Montgomery Society of Ontario held its annual L.M. Montgomery day, during which several presenters gave papers on this year’s theme, L.M. Montgomery at Home in Leaskdale:
Melanie J. Fishbane, “‘Pangs and Passions’: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on Her Adolescence While Living in Leaskdale”
Alan MacGillivray, “The Town of Leaskdale during Montgomery’s Era: 1911 to 1926”
Benjamin Lefebvre, “Business Woman and Poet: L.M. Montgomery during the Leaskdale Years”
Caroline E. Jones, “Growing Independence: L.M. Montgomery in Leaskdale”
The day concluded with a book signing with me and Melanie J. Fishbane.
In screen news, the Academy of Canadian Cinema and Television announced in January the nominees for the 2018 Canadian Screen Awards. The CBC/Netflix television series Anne with an “E” led with thirteen nominations, while L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: Fire & Dew, the last of three Anne movies from Breakthrough Entertainment, was up for four awards.
In a reverse of the first season of Anne with an “E,” which aired weekly on the CBC in March and April 2017 before being released the rest of the world on Netflix that May (it then appeared on Netflix in Canada this past January), the second season of ten episodes will appear on Netflix on July 6 but won’t be available in Canada until the CBC begins airing them as weekly episodes starting on September 23. As I’ve mentioned before, adaptations of Montgomery’s books have been a Sunday-night tradition for the CBC, since it was on Sunday evenings that the CBC aired the first halves of Sullivan Entertainment’s Anne of Green Gables (1985) and Anne of Green Gables: The Sequel (1987) as well as nearly the entire run of the episodic series Road to Avonlea (1990–1996) and Emily of New Moon (1998–1999, 2002–2003).
By coincidence, the third Anne movie from Breakthrough Entertainment, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables: Fire and Dew, which aired on YTV on 1 July 2017, had its U.S. premiere on PBS also on September 23. So it looks as though both American and Canadian viewers finally get the chance to see a much-anticipated follow-up production that their neighbours across the border have already been talking about!
Finally, I was thrilled when someone alerted me to the fact that L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, had been featured on an episode of Jeopardy! in December. It made my day, especially since that book has so far not been widely available outside Canada. The episode was posted to YouTube for a brief period shortly after it aired.