Anne of Green Gables

(continuer en français) – Last updated: January 3, 2022

Prince Edward Island’s most famous person was born in 1908 but never existed. She is a fictional character whose adventures have sold more than 50 million copies worldwide, with translations in many languages. Anne, the heroine invented by Lucy Maud Montgomery, is an orphan with a great imagination, she created another world for herself from elements of the island’s landscape.

Orphan stories are likely to move a young audience. More recently Harry Potter has also played on this psychological mechanism, on the terror of children losing their parents. The author’s life was not far away from Anne’s. After her mother died when she was only two years old, her father moved to central Canada and left her with her maternal grandparents on Prince Edward Island.

The green and white farm that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery belonged to cousins, and she often visited it. Today the farm has lost its real inhabitants, replaced by the characters of the novel suite.

Anne’s room in the attic has been reconstituted according to the descriptions in the novels. There is notably the window through which her thoughts wandered carried by her desire to invent her life. For the readers, seeing in reality what had been only fiction until then, makes them tip over into an uncertain world between imagination and tangibility, there might be disappointment or revelation.

The rest of the house was arranged by mixing details from books and what the domestic interiors might have been like in the last quarter of the 19th century. Although published in 1908, the action describes the situation of Prince Edward Island after 1875, when it had just joined Canada in 1873.

Life on the farm punctuated the young heroine’s life until she left for Charlottetown to pursue her studies. She became a schoolteacher and returned to monitor the farm’s affairs. The buildings are presented to reflect the farms of the late 19th century.

Anne of Green Gables soon became a great popular success, not only in Canada, but also in many other countries thanks to translations into several languages, the book was translated into Swedish as early as 1909. Since then, readers have come to visit Cavendish, the small town represented as Avonlea in the novels. Every year they are around 125,000 visitors to make the trip, including many Japanese.

Indeed, in Japan the book was included in the school curriculum in the 1950s, in order to introduce young Japanese to Western countries. Since then, Japanese readers have become very fond of young Anne, giving them a somewhat idealized image of Canada. When they come to visit the country, a stopover on Prince Edward Island is motivated by the Green Gables House.

The heirs of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s grandparents still live in Cavendish, although the house where the writer grew up has disappeared, only the basement remain. They generously allow visitors free access to it, even elegantly maintaining the surroundings.

There is still a house similar to the one where Lucy Maud Montgomery lived. As was common in those days, her grandparents’ house also served as the local post office, the perfect place to hear people’s stories. All of her early novels were written in Cavendish before she moved to Ontario after her wedding.

The literary success of Anne of Green Gables continued in film and television where many versions, sometimes quite freely inspired by the original written work, popularized the rural landscapes of Prince Edward Island.

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    • Anne of Green Gable is a timeless reading, but when seeing Prince Edward Island today, the tranquil rural landscape still lingers. I’m guessing that it won’t change much in the next couple of years.


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