Icon for the Blog page


Shirley We’re Serious: It’s the Summer of Anne!

August 10, 2023

By Brian Boone

In the hot summer months of 1908, the first copies of L.M. Montgomery’Anne of Green Gables rolled off the presses and delighted and moved the first of countless readers. The story of the unwanted, orphaned, but never undaunted Anne Shirley, who turns a stern Prince Edward Island community upside down is a Canadian literary classic. Here’s a look behind the gables with some facts about the book, its author, and its impact.

• Montgomery finished writing the novel in 1905 and it took three years and six publishers before it would see stores. It sold 19,000 copies in five months, was reprinted 10 times between 1908 and 1909, and has now sold more than 50 million, making it the most successful Canadian novel ever published. 

• The first non-English translation of Anne of Green Gables: Swedish, in 1909. The Japanese adaptation created a cultural phenomenon. A missionary left a copy with Japanese translator Hanako Muraoka in 1939, who made a faithful version that wasn’t published until 1952 — when the Japanese government encouraged post-World War II understanding of the West by teaching its literature in schools. Muraoka’s Akage No Anne (literally “Anne of the Red Hair”) was an enduring smash, to the point where Japanese students can attend School of Green Gables or Anne Academy. The former teaches Anne’s ideals; the other instructs English with a Prince Edward Island accent. 

• It’s the most famous and popular of L.M. Montgomery’s books, but Anne of Green Gables launched a publishing franchise. Montgomery had no artistic interest in writing sequels, but publisher Page Company offered too sweet a deal to turn down. So, Montgomery wrote a total of six books, tracking Anne Shirley’s life from an 11-year-old arriving in the town of Avonlea through her college education, married years, motherhood, and young adulthood. After refusing to write past book six, Montgomery pursued fiction starring another character named Emily, before writing two more Anne books in the 1930s.

• Anne refers to her signature red hair as her “lifelong sorrow” for the negative attention and admonishments it has brought her. Nevertheless, her hair is technically and specifically a shade of red hair known as Titian—it’s a brownish-orange and is very similar to auburn. 

• Longest-running musical in Canadian history: Anne of Green Gables: the MusicalSince 1965, it plays every year at the Charlottetown Festival on Prince Edward Island, not far from Cavendish, the inspiration for Anne’s fictional adoptive home of Avonlea.

• Self-assured, assertive Anne Shirley makes a big deal about people getting her name right—there’s an “e” on the end, she often reminds. This comes from author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s own experience. She went by Maud, not Lucy, and frequently had to tell people that there was not an “e” on the end.

Anne of Green Gables is the kind of book you want to take with you everywhere you go. We’ve got you covered. A portable edition with a durable, flexible cover is available now from Canterbury Classics.