Author Spotlight: L. M. Montgomery


Photograph of L. M. Montgomery, c. 1900

Which book do you think I'm describing from this plot summary: a plucky young girl moves in with new guardians who are initially a bit stodgy and harsh, until said plucky girl softens their hearts and they grow closer. This brief description could fit more than one book surprisingly well, including Kate Douglas Wiggin's Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1903) and Eleanor H. Porter's Pollyanna (1913). The first book that I ever read featuring this plot, though, and perhaps the one that would come to mind first for many readers, is Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables (1908).

When I first read Anne of Green Gables, I immediately identified with the novel's titular character. The book opens with Anne at age eleven, the same age I was at the time. Anne was very particular about spelling her name with an "e" at the end, rather than simply "Ann," and I was particular that no one should add an unwanted "a" or "h" to my own name of "Megan." Anne was a good student and particularly interested in English, just as I was. And while Anne was a bit dreamier and more prone to flights of fancy than I was, I still had a strong imagination, just like Anne.

Of course, I didn't share anything in common when it came to Anne's orphaned status and Canadian nationality. Still, these differences only served to make her character more interesting to me, and her life at Green Gables more fascinating. As soon as I finished Anne of Green Gables, I went to the library to check out an omnibus of Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. I would later go on to read all of the books Montgomery wrote starring Anne, albeit somewhat out of order due to my local bookstore and library not having the entire series available when I was reading the books.

Because I read the books so quickly, Anne got rapidly older while I stayed roughly the same age. Through her years teaching at Avonlea school, then as a college student, and then teaching once again at a different school, I still enjoyed Anne's adventures and the glimpse they offered me of a more grown-up life. However, when I got to Anne's House of Dreams, Anne outpaced me by too great a distance as she dealt with being a married woman and suffered the death of her newborn child. I did go on to read the three books that followed in the series' internal chronology, but it wasn't with the same enjoyment and enthusiasm that I had approached the first four.

Even so, I look back at my journey with Anne fondly. If I were to reread the books now, I imagine that I would see them from an entirely different perspective: I would now be at the same place in life as Anne was in Anne of the Island, and her experiences teaching would perhaps take on a whole new light now that I myself am interested in education as a subject and a potential career. While Anne's struggles in Anne's House of Dreams would still be foreign to me, I could perhaps appreciate her story in this installment more now that I'm older. Which, really, is the wonderful thing about rereading books: the experience will be different each time we approach them, because we ourselves have grown and changed--just as Anne does over the course of Montgomery's books.