A few weeks ago, 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 a recent episode of Jeopardy!. It made my day, especially since neither the original 2009 edition or the 2018 Penguin Modern Classics Edition has been available outside Canada. The episode was posted to YouTube shortly after it aired, but unfortunately, it’s no longer available.
The Blythes Are Quoted
Happy book birthday to the Penguin Modern Classics Edition of L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted! Completed by Montgomery shortly before her death in 1942 as a final sequel to Anne of Green Gables and first published in its entirety in 2009, this book features a blend of short fiction, poetry, and vignettes that shows the contrast between the dynamics between Anne and her family members and how they’re perceived by outsiders. Divided in two parts, one set before and one after the Great War of 1914–1918, the book consists of Montgomery’s final word about a number of preoccupations in her earlier books, including war, family, romance, and childhood.
This edition includes the full text of the 2009 edition, along with an updated introduction and suggestions for further reading by me and an updated afterword by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly. It is available primarily across Canada, but it can be ordered through Amazon.ca and Chapters.Indigo.ca, both of which ship worldwide.
“[T]his re-acquaintance with the voice of L.M. Montgomery is marvellously satisfying … Lefebvre’s patient and meticulous scholarship has resulted in this fascinating volume, a gift to insatiable followers of Anne Shirley’s story.”
—Aritha van Herk, The Globe and Mail
Three exciting new L.M. Montgomery-related books have been published throughout the month of May, with three more appearing shortly. Together, these six books showcase the wide reach of Montgomery’s literary and cultural legacy more than seventy-five years after her death.
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
Coming up in June is Liz Rosenberg’s middle-grade biography, House of Dreams: The L.M. Montgomery (Candlewick Press), as well as 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. Finally, in early July, Penguin Canada will publish a new Penguin Modern Classics Edition of Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, with a revised introduction by Benjamin Lefebvre and a revised afterword by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly.
At some point in the months leading to the publication of the first edition of L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted in October 2009, my colleagues at Penguin Canada presented me with the cover of the hardcover edition, which looked like this:
They had designed it to be similar to Budge Wilson’s prequel, Before Green Gables, which they had published in hardcover in February 2008 along with a “100 Years of Anne” hardcover edition of Anne of Green Gables that duplicated the original 1908 cover, like this:
A year later, after the hardcover edition of Blythes did so well, Penguin Canada published a paperback edition of the book, like this:
The paperback edition appeared in November 2010 alongside a restored edition of Montgomery’s First World War novel, Rilla of Ingleside, which I edited in collaboration with Andrea McKenzie and which also was rereleased in paperback a year later, like this:
Meanwhile, I was thrilled when news came that Blythes would appear in Finnish and in Polish, the former as Annan jäähyväiset [Anne’s Farewell], translated by Marja Helanen-Ahtola (Helsinki: Werner Söderström Osakeyhtiö, September 2010), the latter as Ania z Wyspy Ksiecia Edwarda [Anne of Prince Edward Island], translated by Pawel Ciemniewski (Krókow: Wydawnictwo Literackie, May 2011), like this:
And I was especially pleased when I learned that it would be published in Japanese as well, but because of the length of the book it would be split into two volumes, as An no Omoide no Hibi [Anne’s Days of Remembrance, translated by Mie Muraoka (Tokyo: Shinchosha, October 2012), like this:
In the time since then, I moved on to other projects, but I still hoped there would be an opportunity later on to do a new edition of The Blythes Are Quoted. That opportunity came this past spring when I learned that the book would be included in a revamped Penguin Canada Modern Classics set of Canadian literature reprints. This edition will now be available in January 2018, and I’m so pleased finally to be able to share the new cover art:
What’s next for The Blythes Are Quoted? Well, I’m planning some events in the first half of 2018, and hopefully, there will be new editions in English outside Canada and further translations in the years to come. In the meantime, please join us on the book’s official Facebook page for the latest discussion!
I’m thrilled to announce that my edition of L.M. Montgomery’s rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted, which Penguin Canada published in 2009, will be republished in October 2017 as part of the Penguin Canada Modern Classics imprint! It can be pre-ordered through the Penguin Random House Canada website and through all book vendors.
Given that 2017 marks the seventy-fifth anniversary of Montgomery’s death, and given that the typescript for the book was apparently delivered to her publisher the very day of her death (which was interpreted by her family as a suicide), I am especially pleased that the book will be released again during this anniversary year.
More details about this new edition, including cover art, will be published here as soon as they’re available!
Today, on what would have been L.M. Montgomery’s 141st birthday (she was born on 30 November 1874), I would like to share with you an extract from a journal entry dated exactly 101 years ago, on the occasion of Montgomery’s fortieth birthday:
Once I thought forty must be the end of everything. But it isn’t! I don’t feel any older today than yesterday—when I was only 39! Or the day before yesterday when I was—19! Thank God we don’t feel old. Life is much richer, fuller, happier, more comfortable for me now than it was when I was twenty. I have won the success I resolved to win twenty years ago. It is worth the struggle—but I would not wish to be twenty again with the struggle still before me.
Montgomery is trending on the Internet as I write this, due in large part to several Google Doodles paying tribute to Anne of Green Gables. And as Melanie J. Fishbane has pointed out in a blog post published earlier this afternoon, 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 was also published today, on the website Heavy, and mentions her rediscovered final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.
I’m glad, because all this media attention reflects the continued relevance and the persistent quality of Montgomery’s writing, not only as works of literature but also as the basis for an enduring popular culture icon and a set of new Anne texts for stage and screen. I’m looking forward to delving back into the novel Anne of Green Gables next term, when I teach the book in an undergraduate children’s literature course at Wilfrid Laurier University, as an example of a crossover text that continues to appeal to both adults and children.
In honour of Remembrance Day, two recent blog entries have appeared discussing L.M. Montgomery’s depiction of the Great War in Rilla of Ingleside and The Blythes Are Quoted. First, Christine Chettle discusses Walter Blythe’s poems “The Piper” and “The Aftermath” on the website for the Centre for Canadian Studies at the University of Leeds:
Most famous for her tale of cheerful red-headed orphan Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery offers a more complicated view of the Canadian war experience. Like many of her contemporaries, the fiercely patriotic Montgomery viewed World War I as a struggle for liberty against a threat of evil from Kaiser’s Germany.
Next, Melanie Fishbane talks about Montgomery’s experience during the war in her fiction and her life writing on the Indigo website:
It is hard for us to imagine that one hundred years ago, the boys we grew up with, the men we may have worked with and our brothers, husbands and partners would have joined in the wake of that strong call to arms in the belief that Canada, as an English colony, was in real danger. It is also hard to imagine, that many of those same men never came home. If we consider Montgomery’s fictional world of Ingleside, as a representation of the different townships across Canada, than I think we will begin to understand the magnitude WWI (and subsequent wars) had on our nation’s history.
In a journal entry dated March 1910, Montgomery mentioned that she had recently received a copy of the Swedish translation of Anne of Green Gables, which she found “interesting as a curiosity,” not because of the translated text but because of the bizarre cover image and design. Today I had a somewhat similar experience after receiving my copies of Ania z Wyspy Księcia Edwarda, the Polish translation of The Blythes Are Quoted, which was published a few months ago in both hardcover and paperback by Wydawnictwo Literackie in Crakow. For me, the “curiosity” was not the cover image, since the Polish edition simply duplicated the cover of the original hardcover edition, but the advertising copy used to entice readers to buy the book.
Although Montgomery wasn’t able to comment on the translation of the Swedish translation of Anne of Green Gables because she spoke no Swedish, a reader today has fewer obstacles in this regard, thanks to Google Translate. So it’s remarkably easy to figure out that the title of the Polish edition is Anne of Prince Edward Island, which I actually prefer to the title of the Finnish edition, Anne’s Farewell. In contrast to the deliberately provocative first line of the jacket copy of the English-language edition – “Adultery, illegitimacy, revenge, murder, and death – these are not the first terms we associate with L.M. Montgomery” – the Polish edition takes a remarkably different tack.
The tag on the front cover translates as “Previously unpublished final volume of adventures / Anne of Green Gables,” which is fairly similar to “The rediscovered last work of L.M. Montgomery.” On the back cover, they add an almost identical tag (“Last, never previously published volume of adventures / Anne of Green Gables”) followed by the following blurb:
Lucy Maud Montgomery’s wishes were to close the book series about the most famous red-haired heroine of all time. The text provided to the publisher just before the death of the author had never appeared in its entirety. Its premiere in Canada in 2009 created a sensation in the publishing market and delighted readers.
And then, right below this, in a larger font: “Get to know the fate of Ani, Gilbert and their loved ones!”
Is this a better marketing tack? I really don’t know, but I notice that if you type in “Ania z Wyspy Księcia Edwarda” into Google, there are 810,000 hits, compared to 125,000 hits for “The Blythes Are Quoted.” What this indicates, however, is anybody’s guess.
Also, I’ve just been informed that the Kindle version of The Blythes Are Quoted is available again, but on Amazon.com only. I’m not sure why it’s available only there, but at least it can be ordered by Kindle readers all over the world. It’s also available as an e-book directly from Penguin Canada.
The Online College website has published a post called “50 Iconic Writers Who Were Repeatedly Rejected,” with links to detailed reports of the early struggles of a number of writers ranging from J.K. Rowling to Dr. Seuss to Stephen King. To this list I’d add L.M. Montgomery, whose first book, Anne of Green Gables, was rejected by four or five publishers (the exact number depends on which version of the story you read) before being published to great acclaim by L.C. Page & Company in 1908. While the success of Anne of Green Gables and its successors certainly opened up a lot of doors to her, she continued to face rejection throughout her career. She reported in her journal that her poem “I Wish You” was rejected twenty-three times before it was published in Good Housekeeping in January 1936. This poem appeared again in The Blythes Are Quoted, which includes several short stories that Montgomery had tried unsuccessfully to publish in magazines before reworking them for her final book.