Recommended reading age: 9+
Like Matilda and The Secret Garden, it was a real place that would go on to inspire the Anne of Green Gables author - and a much-loved story. One of the little known Lucy Maud Montgomery facts is that she was raised by her Aunt Emily Macneill and then by her grandparents in her cousin’s home - the John Macneill home which still exists today on Prince Edward Island in Canada. This is the place that Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert would live - and where the lovable 11-year old redheaded orphan Anne Shirley would be sent - in Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables book (published in 1908).
“I remember thinking that Prince Edward Island sounded like this magical place [when I first read Anne of Green Gables]”, says travel blogger Lucy Dodsworth from On the Luce. “I had no idea it was a real place though”.
In 2018, Lucy visited Prince Edward Island and decided to go and search for the ‘real’ Green Gables. “It’s just as beautiful as I imagined from the books”, she says. “The red soil, the sand dunes, the lighthouses and the green fields were just the same.”
Carolyn Collins, who runs the LMM Literary Society agrees that Prince Edward Island practically became as much a character in the book as Anne herself. “Montogomery writes of Prince Edward Island’s natural beauty that approaches poetry”, says Carolyn. “She has a way of letting us in on the customs and manners of the time and place that enrich the setting”.
Carolyn re-read Anne of Green Gables as an adult and went on to write The Anne of Green Gables Treasury. “I was about 12 years old when I first read Anne of Green Gables. But, when I gave it to my daughter to read when she was about that age, I decided to re-read it and discovered so much more in it as an adult reader. I loved reading about Prince Edward Island and was intrigued by all the details that I had overlooked as a child”.
Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables in the old kitchen of her cousin’s home, which also doubled as a post office for the community. “Montgomery began writing it in 1905, thinking it might be a good serial for a young people’s magazine”, says Carolyn. Montgomery quickly expanded it into a novel, deciding to set her story in the fictional community of Avonlea, located on Prince Edward Island and inspired by Cavendish.
Lucy Dodsworth actually visited the ‘Green Gables’ house herself, now part of a National Park on Prince Edward Island. “You can see where she got her inspiration from”, she says. “It’s been carefully recreated to look like it would have done in Anne’s day, from the carriage out front to the puff-sleeved dress hanging up in Anne’s bedroom. It really did feel like walking into a scene from the book and was a proper shiver-down-the-spine moment”.