Quill and Quire


« Back to
Book Reviews

Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic

by Irene Gammel

Everything seems to be coming up Anne Shirley in this, the centenary of the first publication of Anne of Green Gables. Rather than simply rehashing available material, Ryerson professor and noted literary researcher Irene Gammel weighs in with a scholarly inclined new book, Looking for Anne, which focuses primarily on the writing of that celebrated novel. With painstaking research and detail, Gammel explores the social and literary influences that guided and inspired Montgomery in creating her impetuous heroine. 

By combining detailed passages from Montgomery’s journals – as well as photos and letters written to and from her – with small sections of original prose, Gammel casts Maud as a character in her own biography. With this unique blending of researched information and descriptive, literary passages, Gammel has made what could have been very dry material engaging to scholars and general readers alike.

Supported by this deeply detailed research, Gammel shows how even the most mundane and minute events in Montgomery’s life –and those of her family, friends and neighbours – informed the narrative of Anne of Green Gables. Even more fascinating is the amount of inspiration Montgomery found in the myriad of current magazines and journals that made their way into her hands via the desk of her grandmother, the town postmistress. Gammel has meticulously explored these publications, including the advertisements and photograph captions, showing how they, too, are mirrored in Montgomery’s work.

In this juxtaposition of academic study and storytelling, however, there are times when a storyline, once introduced, is suddenly dropped in favour of a litany of historical facts, then often followed by another separate and distinct storyline, disrupting the flow of the work. Also, while her book is very accessible, Gammel’s thoroughness runs the risk of removing some of the magic that makes the Anne books such a delight, recasting them as historical documents, which may limit the potential for escape into a beloved tale.


Reviewer: Cori Dusmann

Publisher: Key Porter Books


Price: $29.95

Page Count: 256 pp

Format: Cloth

ISBN: 978-1-55263-985-6

Released: April

Issue Date: 2008-4

Categories: History