At this point, we’re just a bit past halfway for #AnneReadAlong2017 !!! Halfway?! That’s craziness. For those of you not following along at home (which, honestly, you all should be. This has been amazing!), Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf and I have been hosting an Anne of Green Gables Read Along. You can learn more about it here.
But reaching the halfway point, I realized that we haven’t spent any time talking about the woman behind the book: L.M. Montgomery herself. That seems like a horrendous oversight! So grab a mug of something delicious and follow along as we learn more about L.M. Montgomery’s life and the origin of Anne Shirley.
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on Prince Edward Island, Canada on November 30th, 1874. Her mother died of tuberculosis when she was only 21 months old, and while she still lived with her father for a while, young Montgomery was under the custody of her maternal grandparents. Sadly, her childhood was spent mostly with her strict grandparents and her imaginary friends. There were few children around for Montgomery to socialize with. This period of her life was essential for developing her creativity.
It’s obvious that Montgomery’s childhood served as the kindling for what would become Anne Shirley’s life. In fact, many of Montgomery’s own life stories have fallen into Anne’s life. For example, she submitted a poem for publication at age 13 and struggled with the bitterness of that rejection. But, as time passed and she continued to practice her writing, she eventually became published at the age of 16. Montgomery enjoyed going on long walks out in nature- obviously inspiring Anne’s own such tendencies. However, even in adulthood Montgomery’s life seems to parallel Anne’s.
Montgomery got her teaching certificate in 1893. As Montgomery was teaching she taught at multiple schools across PEI, but mostly focused on her writing. During this time there were a number of suitors, both welcome and unwelcome, who came calling to her door. No longer does the strange collection of endless suitors from Anne of the Island seem peculiar to me. After all, what is stranger than reality?
For a while, once her grandfather died, Montgomery lived with and cared for her grandmother. But her passion for writing never died. In 1908, after trying to sell her novel to 5 other publishers, L.C. Page & Co published Anne of Green Gables. This novel became an instant best-seller boasting 6 printings in the first year alone. The publisher encouraged Montgomery to capitalize on this opportunity. Over the course of the next 31 years, more Anne books materialized. But Anne is not all she wrote! Montgomery published 20 novels, 530 short stories, 500 poems, and 30 essays before her death in 1942.
Unfortunately, the end of her life was no easier than the beginning. A deeply religious woman, Montgomery eventually married because she felt it was her place, but she was consistently unhappy. She bore three sons, but the second was stillborn. She was almost killed in the Spanish Influenza pandemic in 1918-1919. Both she and her husband struggled with mental health concerns. In fact, on April 24th, 1942 Montgomery was found dead in her bed. Her family reported the death related to a heart condition, but in September 2008 her granddaughter revealed that Montgomery’s depression had been worse than everyone thought– and it’s likely Montgomery took her own life through a drug overdose.
Despite all the ups and downs of her life, you cannot dispute that Montgomery is a great writer. She is one of the most famous, most often read, and most published Canadian writers of all time. She was honored by King George V with the title of Officer of the Order of the British Empire. To this day thousands of tourists flock to PEI each year to visit the farmhouse which inspired Green Gables and learn more about the world Anne Shirley grew up. Anne and her adventures are consistently being reimagined in television, film, and bookish swag. The world will never be able to stop loving that spunky redhead.
Unfortunately, the fame of Anne seems to have outshined Montgomery. So many people focus on Montgomery’s most well-known work they often ignore the author behind the pages. Even I did this until today! Thankfully, I’ve been enraptured by Sarah Emsley‘s posts about L.M. Montgomery. She helped me understand (indirectly through these amazing posts!) that in order to really appreciate a great work of literature, one must understand the author.
What you see above is only the tip of the iceberg which is L.M. Montgomery’s life. I personally will be continuing to learn more about her life as we continue the #AnneReadAlong2017. Just knowing this small amount has deepened my love and appreciation for the Anne of Green Gables series. I cannot imagine what more will do.
What do you think?
- Did you know much about Montgomery’s life before reading this post? What is new information to you?
- Do you often learn about authors before or after reading their works? Why?
- What author do you believe has the most interesting life story? Why?
- Kindred Spirit: A Biography of L.M. Montgomery, Creator of Anne of Green Gables
- The posts of Sarah Emsley:
- Mental Floss: 10 Things You Might Not Know About Anne of Green Gables
- ThoughtCo.: All About L.M. Montgomery