Looking For Anne Review by Monica Stark

Looking for Anne review by January Magazine

Sunday, April 20, 2008

New this Month: Looking for Anne by Irene Gammel

If it seems like you’re suddenly hearing more about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne Shirley, it’s because the first book in which Anne appeared, Anne of Green Gables, was published around this time one hundred years ago.

Earlier this year, we saw the publication of a brand new Anne book by Budge Wilson, Before Green Gables (Penguin Canada). Now noted biographer Irene Gammel brings us Looking for Anne (Key Porter Books) a brilliantly researched, in-depth and charming biography on both Lucy Maud Montgomery and her Titian-haired creation and brings us more than a few surprises. For example, we discover that Anne Shirley was as much a product of the zeitgeist as she was of innocent inspiration.

Author Gammel, who holds the research chair in modern literature and culture at Ryerson, tells us she was intrigued by the mystery that had surrounded Montgomery’s most famous literary creation. The book, Gammel writes, “was sparked by a paradox and a mystery.”

With over fifty million copies of the novel sold, a multi-million-dollar tourist industry, and countless adaptations of the novel and its sequels in musicals, movies, cartoons, dolls, and figurines, millions of fans know Anne Shirley intimately, but they know surprisingly little about how she came about. How can a work be so famous and yet its history so little known? We know more about other literary texts whose creation is shrouded in mystery, such as Cervantes’ Don Quixote, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, or Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Erye, than we know about Anne of Green Gables.

Gammel never manages to lift all the secrets, but she makes some pretty strong inroads. Fans and scholars of this enduring book will leave it knowing — or suspecting — much that had been in the dark before.

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Irene is a former teacher of my wife Junko when they where at the University of Prince Edward Island.  Island Spirit PEI also had the honor of sponsoring the Ryerson Showcase : Anne of Green Gables Centenary which she lead. anne-of-green-gables-ryerson-showcase

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