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The Wheel of Things: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery, Author of Anne of Green Gables

Author: Mollie Gillen
Country: Canada
Publisher: Fitzhenry and Whiteside (Don Mills, ON)
Date: 1975
Pagination: xviii + 200 pp.
Format: Jacketed hardcover
Trim: 6” x 9”
ISBN: 0-88902-018-3

The Wheel of Things: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery, Author of Anne of Green Gables is a trade biography by Mollie Gillen that was published by Fitzhenry and Whiteside in 1975. Its title derives from a quotation from Rudyard Kipling’s Kim, also used as the book’s epigraph: “Where, then, is the River? My dream told me to find it. . . . By it one attains freedom from the Wheel of Things. . . .”

From the Dust Jacket

L.M. Montgomery is known to millions of fans the world over as the creator of Canada’s most famous redhead, Anne of Green Gables. Yet despite her literary fame, Maud Montgomery is little known as a person. She is so thoroughly identified with her famous heroine that the creator runs the risk of being overshadowed by her creation.

Anne, of course, is not autobiographical, but it is hard not to believe that the trials and tribulations of that spunky little orphan do not reveal the inner longings and aspirations of the Maud Montgomery who was born in the tiny P.E.I. village of Clifton in 1874, and grew up in Cavendish, on the north shore of the island. Nor did Maud Montgomery offer the world an alternate vision of herself; she always avoided talking publicly about herself in any depth or detail.

Fortunately, during most of her lifetime she carried on a private correspondence with two men—true kindred souls—Ephraim Weber, a schoolteacher in Saskatchewan, and George Boyd MacMillan, a journalist in Alloa, Scotland. The Weber letters have long been lodged in the Public Archives of Canada. The MacMillan letters vanished.

In a remarkable feat of literary detective work Mollie Gillen has tracked down and rescued this treasure trove of some eighty long letters from its dusty resting place—a trunk which had passed into the possession of MacMillan’s nephew.

The Maud Montgomery revealed by the MacMillan letters is a complex, contradictory figure. A self-reliant young woman who successfully tried her hand at both teaching and journalism, she abandoned her independent existence and returned to the rural isolation of Cavendish to care for her widowed grandmother through thirteen long years.

A sensitive poet, she was also a hard-boiled professional writer who knew how to grit her teeth and produce for the market—and rejoice when the cheque came in. A passionate free spirit, she married Presbyterian minister Ewan Macdonald and imposed on herself the strict and confining role of minister’s wife.

L.M. Montgomery has contributed unforgettable characters and images to the pages of Canadian—and world—literature. With this study Maud Montgomery takes her proper place in the pages of Canadian—and world—literary biography.

The Wheel of Things is Mollie Gillen’s fifth book. Born in Australia and a graduate of Sydney University, she is a Canadian citizen and has lived and worked in Canada for many years. Most recently she was for eleven years associate editor of Chatelaine magazine. Her previous books include The Masseys, The Prince and His Lady, and Assassination of the Prime Minister.


Preface and Acknowledgements (n.pag.)

1. Beginnings (1–6)

2. Passport to Fairyland (7–12)

3. Young Writer (13–18)

4. The Marco Polo (19–23)

5. A Very Active and Energetic Man (24–29)

6. Prince Albert Year (30–37)

7. Schoolteacher (38–42)

8. Newspaperwoman (43–48)

9. Pen-Friendships (49–54)

10. Behind the Mask (55–60)

11. Child’s-Eye View (61–68)

12. Anne of Green Gables (69–75)

13. Delights and Disappointments (76–82)

14. The Wider World (83–88)

15. Affairs of the Heart (89–93)

16. Honeymoon (94–98)

17. Mistress of the Manse (99–103)

18. Terrors and Triumphs (104–10)

19. Lawsuit (111–16)

20. Minister’s Wife (117–24)

21. Demands of Duty (125–33)

22. The Wheel of Things (134–40)

23. An Inadequate Spoonful of Wine (141–47)

24. Realm of the Spirit (148–55)

25. A Squirrel Running . . . (156–61)

26. Fans and Critics (162–66)

27. Old Books and New Views (167–72)

28. The Gleam and the Glory (173–78)

29. Green Gables Enshrined (179–83)

30. World Upside Down (184–91)

Bibliography (193–95)

Index (197–200)[/tab]

Subsequent Editions

Gillen, Mollie. The Wheel of Things: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery, Author of Anne of Green Gables. London: George G. Harrap and Company, 1976. ISBN 0-245-52971-3. Identical to the original edition, except for the publisher’s name on the title page and copyright page.

Gillen, Mollie. The Wheel of Things: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery, Author of Anne of Green Gables. Halifax: Formac Publishing Company, 1983. Goodread Biographies. ISBN 0-88780-109-9. Identical to the original edition, except that the index appears without page numbers starting on page 196. A longer biography of Gillen and ads for titles in the Goodread Biographies series are appended at the end. The book has appeared with two different covers—one orange and one pink—with the same ISBN.

Gillen, Mollie. The Wheel of Things: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery, Author of Anne of Green Gables. Markham, ON: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1997. Canadian Classics Collection: Large Print Library. xvi + 275 pp. ISBN 1-55041-296-5. This reset edition omits the index and adds a list of “Photo Credits” on page 275.


Reviews by Ann S. Cowan, Frances M. Frazer, Carrie Fredericks, and Elspeth Walker.

This page last updated on 12 December 2022. Please contact the site owner with additions, corrections, questions, and suggestions.