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The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery’s Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance

The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass: L.M. Montgomery’s Heroines and the Pursuit of Romance is a book-length study by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly that considers each of L.M. Montgomery’s novels in turn. It was published as a jacketed hardcover by University of Toronto Press in March 1992, with a trade paperback edition appearing in February 1993. The book was reissued with a new preface, also by University of Toronto Press, in April 2014.

From the Dust Jacket (Original edition)

Anne of Green Gables may be the most famous Canadian literary character ever created. She has captured the imagination of young girls around the world, and her popularity shows no sign of diminishing. But Anne Shirley is only the best known of the memorable heroines created by Lucy Maud Montgomery, a group that includes Emily Byrd Starr, Valancy Stirling, and Pat Gardiner. These characters are at the centre of Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s book, the first full-length critical study of all L.M. Montgomery’s fiction.

Epperly argues that the strength of the novels lies in their descriptions of nature, the comic interplay of eccentrics and children, and above all the heroines. She points out that Montgomery was a master of the genre of romance, a skill she honed in hundreds of short stories aimed at a specific market. But her heroines reveal a much more complex relationship with the genre. Each one’s struggle to establish individual identity is at odds with the conventions of romance. So is the powerful love of home that drives each of them. The expectations of romance readers are confounded, and yet, in the end, the happy endings fulfil the romance formula.

Through her use of literary allusions, repetitions, irony, and comic inversions, Montgomery deftly works with and against the literary convention of which she is in total command. As Epperly demonstrates, Montgomery’s place in the Canadian canon arises not simply from the affection in which the world holds Anne, but from her creator’s mastery of her craft.

From Inside the Book (2014 Edition)

When it originally appeared, Elizabeth Rollins Epperly’s The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass was one of the first challenges to the idea that L.M. Montgomery’s books were unworthy of serious study. Examining all of Montgomery’s fiction, Epperly argues that Montgomery was much more than a master of the romance genre and that, through her use of literary allusions, repetitions, irony, and comic inversions, she deftly manipulated the normal conventions of romance novels. Focusing on Montgomery’s memorable heroines, from Anne Shirley to Emily Byrd Starr, Valancy Stirling, and Pat Gardiner, Epperly demonstrates that Montgomery deserves a place in the literary canon not just as the creator of Anne of Green Gables but as an artist in her chosen profession.

Since its publication more than twenty years ago, The Fragrance of Sweet-Grass has become a favourite of scholars, writers, and Montgomery fans. This new edition adds a preface in which Epperly discusses the book’s contribution to the ongoing research on the life and writing of L.M. Montgomery, reflects on how Montgomery studies have flourished over the past two decades, and suggests new ways to approach and explore the Canadian writer’s work.


Acknowledgments (ix) [1992 edition]

Abbreviations (x) [1992 edition]

Preface to the 2014 Edition (ix–xlii) [2014 edition]

Permissions (xliii) [2014 edition]

Acknowledgments (xliv) [2014 edition]

Abbreviations (xlv) [2014 edition]

Introduction (3–14)

Part I: Anne

Romancing the Voice: Anne of Green Gables (17–38)

Romance Awry: Anne of Avonlea (39–55)

Recognition: Anne of the Island (56–74)

“This Enchanted Shore”: Anne’s House of Dreams (75–94)

Heroism’s Childhood: Rainbow Valley (95–111)

Womanhood and War: Rilla of Ingleside (112–30)

Recapturing the Anne World: Anne of Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside (131–42)

Part II: Emily (143–48)

The Struggle for Voice: Emily of New Moon (149–67)

Testing the Voice: Emily Climbs (168–81)

Love and Career: Emily’s Quest (182–207)

Part III: The Other Heroines

Romancing the Home: Pat of Silver Bush, Mistress Pat, Jane of Lantern Hill (211–27)

A Changing Heroism: An Overview of the Other Novels (228–48)

Epilogue (249–50)

Notes (251–60)

Works Cited (261–66)

Index (267–75)


Reviews by Lisa Arsenault, Dennis Duffy, Lalage Grauer, Aoife Assumpta Hart, Richard Lemm, Andre Narbonne, Catherine Sheldrick Ross, Jennie Rubio, Barbara Scotto, and Genevieve Wiggins.


Author: Elizabeth Rollins Epperly
Publisher: University of Toronto Press (Toronto)
Date: 1992
Format: Jacketed hardcover
Trim: 6” x 9”
Pagination: x + 275 pp.
ISBN: 0-8020-5999-6

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