One day, in 1904, the writer Lucy Maud Montgomery was reading through one of her journals from the previous year and came across this note: "Elderly couple apply to orphan asylum for a boy. By mistake a girl is sent them." This fired her imagination, and she began writing a story about an orphan named Anne who is sent to a farm couple who has asked for a boy to help them with their work. The book, titled Anne of Green Gables, was finished in October, 1905, and she sent it out to a publisher. That publisher, and several others rejected the novel, so Montgomery put it away. Several years later, she found the manuscript in an old hatbox, revised it, and sent it to a Boston publisher who accepted it.
On June 20, 1908, the date Anne of Green Gables was published, Montgomery wrote in her journal: "Today has been, as Anne herself would say, 'an epoch in my life.' My book came today...from the publishers. I candidly confess that it was to me a proud and wonderful and thrilling moment. There, in my hand, lay material realization of all the dreams and hopes and ambitions of my whole conscious existence-my first book. Not a great book, but mine, mine, mine, something which I had created."1
The book received over sixty reviews and was an immediate success. Within a year, the pleased publishers had requested a sequel. None of the more than 20 books which followed equals Anne of Green Gables in freshness or vitality. The book is a Canadian classic and has been recognized as a classic of international children's literature. Mark Twain referred to Anne as "the dearest, and most loveable child in fiction since the immortal Alice," and child readers agreed wholeheartedly. Anne is fresh and original and spunkier than the usual girl heroine of the late-nineteenth century. She is surrounded by a cast of memorable characters in a beautiful physical setting. Critic Jon Stott writes that "Montgomery took all these elements and shaped them into a classic fairy tale: the story of the lonely, unwanted orphan who finds happiness and security. It is a plot" he adds, "to which children have responded for generations."
The book has been in print since its publication and has enjoyed life in other media as well. Anne of Green Gables was made into a film in 1919 and again in 1934. It was made into a television movie by the BBC in 1972. In December, 1985, it was serialized for television by the Canadian Broadcasting Company with Megan Fellows as Anne; Colleen Dewhurst as Marilla and Richard Farnsworth as Matthew, and although coronations and royal weddings drew larger viewing audiences, it was the highest watched non-event television show ever in Canadian history.2
Copyright 2007© Rita Smith
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Monday, 28-May-2007 17:25:46 EDT