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Tag: Anne of Green Gables

Review 15: Anne of Green Gables

Cover art for Anne of Green Gables, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1908.
Cover art for Anne of Green Gables, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1908.

Although L.M. Montgomery received overwhelmingly positive reviews throughout her lifetime, reviewers were not always unanimous in their praise. In fact, in the first known review of Anne of Green Gables (appearing in The New York Times Saturday Review), the unsigned reviewer is more than a little taken aback by Anne, referred to here as “one of the most extraordinary girls that ever came out of an ink pot”:

The author undoubtedly meant her to be queer, but she is altogether too queer. She was only 11 years old when she reached the house in Prince Edward Island that was to be her home, but, in spite of her tender years, and in spite of the fact that, excepting for four months spent in the asylum, she had passed all her life with illiterate folks, and had had almost no schooling, she talked to the farmer and his sister as though she had borrowed Bernard Shaw’s vocabulary, Alfred Austin’s sentimentality, and the reasoning powers of a Justice of the Supreme Court. She knew so much that she spoiled the author’s plan at the very outset and greatly marred a story that had in it quaint and charming possibilities.

This approach to Montgomery’s first book hardly set the stage for the reviews that followed, however: as she explained in a letter to her pen pal Ephraim Weber (included in The Green Gables Letters from L.M. Montgomery to Ephraim Weber, 1905–1909, published in 1960) concerning the sixty reviews she had received within three months of the book’s publication, “two were harsh, one contemptuous, two mixed praise and blame and the remaining fifty-five were kind and flattering beyond my highest expectations. So I feel satisfied as far as that goes.” She then copied out some extracts, and while her list includes one for “N.Y. Times,” it reads somewhat differently in this version: “A mawkish, tiresome impossible heroine, combining the sentimentality of an Alfred Austin with the vocabulary of Bernard Shaw. Anne is a bore.”

Whether they were “kind and flattering” or “harsh” or anything in between, Montgomery kept copies of these reviews in a number of scrapbooks as a unique record of her career. Both positive and negative reviews reveal so much to twenty-first-century readers in terms of literary trends or what Montgomery referred to as “the public taste.” And that’s why this week we’ll be looking at a wider range of responses to her work in the mainstream press of her day.

Montgomery Review 7: Anne of Green Gables

Cover art from Anne of Green Gables, published by L.C. Page and Company in 1908.

Today’s L.M. Montgomery reviews: excerpts from two early reviews of Montgomery’s first novel, the one that established both her popularity and her critical reputation—Anne of Green Gables!

Anne of Green Gables is worth a thousand of the problem stories with which the bookshelves are crowded to-day, and we venture the opinion that this simple story of rural life in Canada will be read and reread when many of the more pretentious stories are all forgotten. There is not a dull page in the whole volume, and the comedy and tragedy are so deftly woven together that it is at times difficult to divide them. The story is told by an author who knows the Island of Prince Edward thoroughly, and who has carefully observed the human tide which flows through that Island, as it does over all places where human beings live. With the pen of an artiste she has painted that tide so that its deep tragedies are just lightly revealed, for she evidently prefers to show us the placid flow, with its steadiness, its sweetness, and witchery, until the reader stands still to watch the play of sunshine and shadow as it is deftly pictured by the hand of the author of Anne of Green Gables. —The Globe (Toronto, ON)

“We have much pleasure in drawing attention to this novel, not only because it is, in our opinion, the most fascinating book of the season, but because its author, Miss Montgomery, is a resident of Prince Edward Island, where the scene of the story is laid, and is evidently a keen student of both nature and human nature. The fact that the volume was published quite recently, and is now in its second large edition, is a sufficient guarantee of its unusual merit; but it is almost impossible for readers to guess even vaguely the treat that awaits them in its perusal.” —George Murray, The Montreal Daily Star

Coming Soon: Book Reviews

The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in ReviewI’m pleased to let you all know that I’ve now returned to the publisher my corrected proofs of the third and final volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, subtitled A Legacy in Review. Proofreading this last volume took quite a bit of time, energy, and patience, partly because the manuscript was far too long (as was the case with the preceding volumes!), and so the published volume includes 370 reviews in their entirety, as opposed to 410 as originally planned (as well as extracts from several hundred more). But also, proofreading the volume gave me one last chance to go through all my files and make sure I hadn’t left out something crucial. And when I saw that some of the PDFs had been on my hard drive since early 2009—before even the publication of The Blythes Are Quoted—and that some of my hard copies are from even earlier, it finally dawned on me how many years this project has been keeping me busy.

I’m not quite ready to let go of this project, though. In fact, I’m going to post a teaser for it, every single day, until I receive my first author’s copy sometime in the second half of December: either an extract of a review included in the book, part of a review not included, or a digital image related to the coverage Montgomery’s books received in print media dedicated to supporting the book industry. Most of the material in the book has never been collected in book form before, so what it offers is a unique look at Montgomery’s critical reception during her lifetime and how that evolved thanks to twenty-four additional books published after her death.

To start off, here is an ad for Anne of Green Gables published in The Publishers’ Weekly shortly before the publication of the novel.

Ad for Anne of Green Gables, by L.M. Montgomery. The Publishers’ Weekly, 6 June 1908.

Be sure to subscribe to the blog to make sure you don’t miss a post! The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review can be pre-ordered directly from University of Toronto Press at a 30% discount or from your favourite bookseller.

Announcing a New Television Adaptation of Anne of Green Gables

Breakthrough Entertainment has issued a press release announcing plans for an all-new, thirteen-episode television series based on L.M. Montgomery’s novel Anne of Green Gables:

Leading Canadian production-distribution studio Breakthrough Entertainment and the heirs of beloved Canadian author Lucy Maud Montgomery have joined forces to develop and produce a 13-episode series for television based on one of Canada—and the world’s—most celebrated and eternal book series, Anne of Green Gables. Announcement of the all-new Anne of Green Gables television series was made jointly at the Banff World Media Festival by Breakthrough Entertainment principals Ira Levy and Peter Williamson, and Executive Producer Joan Lambur and Kate Macdonald Butler, granddaughter of author Lucy Maud Montgomery.

Set for production in 2013 in the Canadian Maritimes, Breakthrough Entertainment’s Anne of Green Gables will be a contemporary retelling of the famed book series while capturing author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s original vision for her characters and stories.

First published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables remains an iconic work selling more than 50 million copies worldwide.  The eight classic Anne of Green Gables novels have attracted generations of readers inspired by the adventures of the spirited redhead Anne Shirley, who comes to stay at Green Gables and wins the hearts of everyone she meets.

For more on this contemporary retelling of Anne of Green Gables, see the article at The Hollywood Reporter.

Follow-up: First-Edition Anne

To follow up on my earlier article “First-Edition Anne Expected to Set Auction Record”: James Adams reports in today’s Globe and Mail that this copy sold at auction for $37,500:

A first-edition copy of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables was sold by Sotheby’s New York Friday afternoon for $37,500 (U.S.)—a live auction record for the famous debut novel by Lucy Maud Montgomery that originally retailed for $1.50.

Read the rest of the article here.

Exporting PEI Beef to Japan

An article titled “A new job for Anne of Green Gables: selling beef to Japan” appeared in Tuesday’s Globe and Mail:

Enterprising farmers on Prince Edward Island are hoping to crack Japan’s stiffly competitive Wagyu beef market by using the lure of Anne Shirley, a revered figure to generations of Japanese women—the ones who decide what is served at weddings.

Read the rest of the article here.

First-edition Anne Expected to Set Auction Record

A news story by Randy Boswell has appeared in a number of newspapers across Canada yesterday and today.

One of the books most coveted by collectors of Canadian literary history—a first edition copy of Anne of Green Gables—is to be sold at auction next week in New York for what could be a record price.

The vintage edition of the classic novel by P.E.I.-born author Lucy Maud Montgomery, first printed in April 1908 by the Boston publishing house L.C. Page, is expected to fetch up to $25,000 U.S. at Sotheby’s Dec. 11 sale of rare books and manuscripts.

A top hammer price would just surpass the $24,000 record set in 2005 for another inaugural copy of the famous work.

Martyred Anne

A CBC News article reports that a martyred Anne of Green Gables appears in Diana Thorneycroft’s collection of photographs entitled “Canadiana Martyrdom”:

Artist Diana Thorneycroft uses Canadian icons to show how religion and torture have come together over the centuries, and her exhibit includes a photograph of a mutilated Anne of Green Gables doll.

[. . .]

The image is based on a 17th-century painting by the Spanish painter Francisco de Zurbaran depicting St. Agatha, who was tortured when she refused to marry a pagan prince in the third century.

The Blythes Are Quoted in The Guardian and Beyond

An article about The Blythes Are Quoted by Alison Flood appears in today’s The Guardian:

Lucy Maud Montgomery’s last work, featuring surprising experiments with poetry and prose, to be published in full

Penguin Canada is due to publish Lucy Maud Montgomery’s final book in its entirety, casting a new shadow over the author of Anne of Green Gables.

[. . .]

Despite the darker elements to The Blythes Are Quoted, Penguin is hoping to reach children as well as adults, aiming for the readers who bought Budge Wilson’s prequel to Anne’s story, Before Green Gables, last spring.

This story was subsequently picked up by the Wall Street Journal in today’s Morning Roundup blog:

Anne Returns, Again: Someone who wasn’t afraid of sequels is Lucy Maud Montgomery, the author of the “Anne of Green Gables” books. Penguin Canada is going to publish the ninth volume of the series in full. “The Blythes Are Quoted” follows freckle-faced heroine Anne Shirley through the First World War.

This story was then picked up again by The Examiner in an article by Peter Franklin called “A scandalous week”:

Lastly, it was revealed just today that Penguin Canada is set to publish an unabridged version of the final book of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic Anne of Green Gables series. Entitled The Blythes Are Quoted, the novel is said to include “adultery, illegitimacy, misogyny, revenge, murder, despair, bitterness, hatred, and death,” as well as an experimentation with storytelling not seen in the other volumes.

This development adds to the growing pall around Montgomery’s public perception; her granddaughter admitted last year that the children’s author had died of a drug overdose.

However, most shocking here is Penguin’s plan to market The Blythes Are Quoted in all of its murder and misogyny to kids. Alison Flood writes: “Penguin is hoping to reach children as well as adults, aiming for the readers who bought Budge Wilson’s prequel to Anne’s story, Before Green Gables, last spring.”

Puffin Classics reissues Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island

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.