Thursday, January 31, 2013

Reading Journal: Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel

Book Description:
In June 1908, a red-haired orphan appeared on to the streets of Boston and a modern legend was born. That little girl was Anne Shirley, better known as Anne of Green Gables, and her first appearance was in a book that has sold more than 50 million copies worldwide and been translated into more than 35 languages (including Braille). The author who created her was Lucy Maud Montgomery, a writer who revealed very little of herself and her method of crafting a story. On the centenary of its publication, Irene Gammel tells the braided story of both Anne and Maud and, in so doing, shows how a literary classic was born. Montgomery’s own life began in the rural Cavendish family farmhouse on Prince Edward Island, the place that became the inspiration for Green Gables. Mailmen brought the world to the farmhouse’s kitchen door in the form of American mass market periodicals sparking the young Maud’s imagination. From the vantage point of her small world, Montgomery pored over these magazines, gleaning bits of information about how to dress, how to behave and how a proper young lady should grow. She began to write, learning how to craft marketable stories from the magazines’ popular fiction; at the same time the fashion photos inspired her visual imagination. One photo that especially intrigued her was that of a young woman named Evelyn Nesbit, the model for painters and photographers and lover of Stanford White. That photo was the spark for what became Anne Shirley. Blending biography with cultural history, Looking for Anne of Green Gables is a gold mine for fans of the novels and answers a trunk load of questions: Where did Anne get the “e” at the end of her name? How did Montgomery decide to give her red hair? How did Montgomery’s courtship and marriage to Reverend Ewan Macdonald affect the story? Irene Gammel's dual biography of Anne Shirley and the woman who created her will delight the millions who have loved the red haired orphan ever since she took her first step inside the gate of Green Gables farm in Avonlea.
My thoughts:
Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic by Irene Gammel caught my eyes a couple of years ago at our local Borders (when it existed) always had it shelved in the wrong section. Obviously, their mis-shelving worked since it really piqued my interest. I had said in my initial post that I would read this based on time and interest. It did keep my interest, but I really had issues with parts of the book.

My first big issue was with the treatment of how girls behaved and acted during that time period. Today's author's put on lenses of political correctness and judge everything through that. Is it that hard to believe that at one time girl's liked to hold each other's hands, put their arms around each other, and even sleep together? (I remember my grandma once telling me that they slept three siblings in her bed.) In this book it is portrayed as weird and with a possiblity of being _ _ _. (I refuse to put the word in my blog!) So on that point I was highly annoyed.

But second issue was with the conjecture and supposition that I found threaded throughout. This is one reason why I have a big dislike for biographies since author's can't seem to really stick with facts, but tends to draw their own conclusions. Where does the fact end and fiction begin?

The sections that I liked best that told of Montgomery's life and actual writing of the story. From this book I could tell how her family had a big part in influencing her books and not only her Anne books. I came away with my own impressions that she was a very observant of those around her and a very good judge of human character and had a knack for portraying it so well in her stories. I would recommend this book if you are interested in every small detail of what may have inspired the writing of Anne of Green Gables and details that surround her life. For me, I'm probably done with reading anything else about her. I'm just going to enjoy her stories and recommend them to every one I know and you know what, I think she would be happy with that

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge


  1. It doesn't take much reading of older lit to know that girls really did do all those things. :) I'd be annoyed, too. :)

    It does sound interesting though! Thanks for sharing!

  2. I dislike it when authors make judgments, too, though I sort of did that to Emily of NM, didn't I? ;-)

  3. This one sounds really interesting. I, of course had to look up Evelyn Nasbit, and I must know how Ms. Montgomery got from her to Anne.

  4. Agreeing with you and Annette - I'd be annoyed. I really dislike it when author's interject their own interpretations into biographies like that. Why couldn't she embrace it as something charming from a bygone era??

  5. I saw this book on Amazon but your review makes me glad that I didn't buy it. You CAN'T judge Montgomery according to today's morals and politics. Her writings are over 100 years old and have to be considered in that light! How very frustrating.

    At any rate, I'm really glad that you took the time to review it. Sounds like you managed to walk away with some insights into Montgomery which is great. But you can also get to the point where you are done reading "behind-the-scenes" and just want the stories, please and thank you.

  6. I read this one last year (reviewed it here: and had felt much the same about it as you did. The assumption of anything but the most innocent goings-on between girls in the story is ridiculous.

    I also disliked that she tried to pin so much of what LMM wrote on her life and surroundings as if she had no imagination. They'd have a great deal of influence, naturally, but I'm sure she made up situations and people as well.



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