Died April 24, 1942, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born November 30, 1874 in Clifton (later renamed New London) on Prince Edward Island in Canada into a family of thorough-going Scotch Presbyterians. Her mother, Clara Macneill Montgomery, died of tuberculosis at only twenty-three and when Maud was just short of two years old. Her father took to traveling extensively on business leaving Maud in the care of her maternal grandparents, strict, serious and dutiful more than effusive about taking in a high-spirited young girl. Her father moved to Saskatchewan (where he remarried) in western Canada in 1884 when Maud was only ten years old - between the death of her mother and the departure of father, Maud was left with a strong sensibility and sense of being an orphan.
I guess I should say right here that the circumstances of Montgomery's life are not that exotic. She grew up in a strict and not particularly emotive household but had much time of her own and an open environment to explore. She carved an independent path for herself writing but, duty bound, spent material chunks of her life caring for and nursing others.
She did not wed till she was thiry-six and then to a Presbyterian minister who had a somewhat checkered employment history. They moved to Toronto. She had two children. She wrote her first book, Anne of Green Gables, in 1908. Her contract was not very favorable but she rectified that in the future and became prosperous through her subsequent writings including nine further books charting the life of Anne.
There was a very large part of the Anne story which was either a recapitulation of Montgomery's own life and/or the aggregation of experiences of others with whom she was close.
There is nothing particularly remarkable in the circumstances of her life. There is much that is remarkable about the books that she wrote, their entry into the world and their continuing effect on readers today.
Anne began as a simple idea for one of the many magazine stories by which Montgomery earned money. Plucking through her writer's notebook, she came across an entry she had jotted down some years before "Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them." From this seedling of an idea, Montgomery nurtured first a brief tale, and then as she became fascinated by her own creation, extended it into a series of stories, incorporating many elements of her own life and people she knew. Deciding that a serialized magazine story just was not the vehicle for this girl she had created, she resolved that this would be her first book. She wrote Anne of Green Gables over 1904 and 1905. Having finished it to her satisfaction she sent it off to a number of publishers.
And was rejected. And rejected. And rejected again. She put the book aside for a couple of years. Looking at it with fresh eyes in 1907 she made some revisions, finalized the manuscript and sent it off to a publisher, L.C. Page, in Boston. Acceptance at last. Her first book, Anne of Green Gables, came out in 1908.
The effect of Anne of Greene Gables is something akin to a combination of Tom Sawyer (high-spirited out-doors child), Pippi Longstocking (red-headed mischievous girl), Jo of Little Women (independent girl whose life story is told over a series of books and captures the rhythms of family dynamics), and Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House on the Prairie series (girl in an open, frontier-like environment encompassing a life journey, romance and adventure).
Anne Shirley is an orphan. Orphaned at birth, at the beginning of the story she is eleven years old and her life has so far consisted of being let out to a series of indifferent families who view her as a temporary babysitter for their other children. Anne is inadvertently sent by the orphanage to an elderly brother and his sister (the Cuthberts) who had requested a boy to help them on their farm.
Anne, bubbling over with the spirit of life, full of imagination, seasoned with a quick temper, is a cyclone of disruption and breath of fresh air into the lives of the Cuthberts, their neighbors and everyone in the immediate vicinity. Perhaps her most notable attribute is an optimism so strong, a faith in a better future so unrelenting that it colors all her actions and shapes the narrative of her life.
Like many great children's stories, the Anne series operates at several levels which is in part why they are popular among both children and adults. In fact, Montgomery actually targeted her writing at adults as well as children and it is primarily with time that the Anne stories have come to be considered primarily children's stories.
The startling thing about the effect of Anne of Green Gables is two-fold. One is that a story written one hundred years ago this year, still reads in such a contemporary fashion. If you were to select a sampling of randomly picked children's books from 1908, most of them have a mustiness in their language and a stiltedness to the structure of the story-telling that jars and is something of a barrier to their endurance. Anne of Green Gables, like a handful of other enduring stories, reaches across the century and seems as fresh and accessible today as it did then.
The second aspect of Anne of Green Gables which is hard to comprehend is how quickly and how completely Anne spanned the globe. For example, a year after it's publication in North America, Anne of Green Gables was released in translation in Sweden in 1919 where it has remained a popular staple. The prolific and accomplished Swedish children's author, Astrid Lindgren has identified Montgomery's books as a major influence. Poland and France were two other countries in which a significant presence was established in these very early years. Even more curiously, leaping language and culture, Anne of Green Gables became a perennial and well established children's and young adult favorite in Japan with numerous fan clubs, discussion groups, and now web sites. She is such a staple that Japanese tourism to Prince Edwards Island to visit sites from Montgomery's childhood numbers in the thousands annually.
A century on, Anne is still well established in the English speaking world (particularly Canada, the USA, Great Britain, Australia and New Zealand) as well as the above mentioned of fandom, Japan, France, Sweden and Poland. It is intriguing to me how quickly Anne of Green Gables established a presence around the globe in radically different cultures and has sustained that enduring appeal over a century.
While the Anne series of books are frequently stereotyped as "girls" books, and they are extremely popular among girls from eight or nine years through perhaps fifteen, these stories are enjoyed by boys as well when they get past the stereotype of being girls books. Just as girls can and do enjoy Tom Sawyer, boys can and do enjoy Anne; they just might not admit it.
There are ten books in the Anne Shirley series of books: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea , Chronicles of Avonlea, Anne of the Island , Anne's House of Dreams , Rainbow Valley , Further Chronicles of Avonlea: Which Have to Do with Many Personalities and Events in and about Avonlea , Rilla of Ingleside , Anne of Windy Poplars , and Anne of Ingleside . Montgomery wrote other series such as the Emily books, as well as collections of short stories and standalone novels. The other series drift in and out of print as do some of the standalone novels. The collections of short stories are mostly appreciated primarily by die-hard fans. Anne though, across the years and across language and cultures continues to capture and refresh hearts around the world.
Lucy Maude Montgomery passed away on April 24th, 1942 in Toronto, Ontario.
Independent Reader - The Anne of Green Gables Series
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Chronicles of Avonlea, in Which Anne Shirley of Green Gables and Avonlea Plays Some Part by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Further Chronicles of Avonlea: Which Have to Do with Many Personalities and Events in and about Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Independent Readers - All Other Books
The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery Recommendation
Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery Suggested
The Road to Yesterday (short stories) by L.M. Montgomery Suggested
The Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery by L.M. Montgomery Suggested
Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L.M. Montgomery Suggested
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery 1908
Anne of Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery 1909
Kilmeny of the Orchard by L.M. Montgomery 1910
The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery 1911
Chronicles of Avonlea, in Which Anne Shirley of Green Gables and Avonlea Plays Some Part by L.M. Montgomery 1912
The Golden Road by L.M. Montgomery 1913
Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery 1915
The Watchman, and Other Poems by L.M. Montgomery 1916
Anne's House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery 1917
The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career by L.M. Montgomery 1917
Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery 1919
Further Chronicles of Avonlea: Which Have to Do with Many Personalities and Events in and about Avonlea by L.M. Montgomery 1920
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery 1921
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery 1923
Emily Climbs by L.M. Montgomery 1924
The Blue Castle by L.M. Montgomery 1926
Emily's Quest by L.M. Montgomery 1927
Magic for Marigold by L.M. Montgomery 1927
A Tangled Web by L.M. Montgomery 1931
Pat of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery 1933
Courageous Women (biography) by L.M. Montgomery 1934
Mistress Pat: A Novel of Silver Bush by L.M. Montgomery 1935
Anne of Windy Poplars by L.M. Montgomery 1936
Jane of Lantern Hill by L.M. Montgomery 1937
Anne of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery 1939
The Road to Yesterday (short stories) by L.M. Montgomery 1974
The Doctor's Sweetheart and Other Stories by L.M. Montgomery 1979
My Dear Mr. M.: Letters to G. B. MacMillan from L. M. Montgomery by L.M. Montgomery 1980
Spirit of Place: Lucy Maud Montgomery and Prince Edward Island by L.M. Montgomery 1982
The Poetry of Lucy Maud Montgomery by L.M. Montgomery 1987
Akin to Anne: Tales of Other Orphans (short stories) by L.M. Montgomery 1988
Along the Shore: Tales by the Sea by L.M. Montgomery 1989
Among the Shadows: Tales from the Darker Side by L.M. Montgomery 1990
Days of Dreams and Laughter: The Story Girl and Other Tales (includes The Story Girl, The Golden Road, and Kilmeny of the Orchard) by L.M. Montgomery 1990
After Many Days: Tales of Time Passed by L.M. Montgomery 1991
Against the Odds: Tales of Achievement by L.M. Montgomery 1993
Christmas with Anne and Other Holiday Stories by L.M. Montgomery 1995
Across the Miles: Tales of Correspondence by L.M. Montgomery 1995
Rainbow Valley by L.M. Montgomery 1995
The Story Girl by L.M. Montgomery 1996
The Green Gables Letters, from L. M. Montgomery to Ephraim Weber by L.M. Montgomery 1905-1909
The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery, Volume 1: 1889-1910, Volume 2: 1910-1921 by L.M. Montgomery 1985-87.