Often a measure of a novel’s success, in its depiction of a particular place, occurs when readers feel they know it, they recognize it, or, better yet, they want to visit. Such has been the case with the perennial favorite, Anne of Green Gables. Since its publication in 1908, fans of Anne Shirley have sought out the small island in eastern Canada, keen to meet the character and tour the landscapes she made memorable—The Lake of Shining Waters, the Haunted Wood, Lover’s Lane, the Birch Path. Like the free-spirited Anne, who loves and names almost every tree and flower she encounters, they, too, want to know the place that had such an influence on her. For lovers of the Anne novels (Maud Montgomery wrote an additional seven for the series), much of the magic seems rooted in the very land Anne roamed.
Visitors to Prince Edward Island will find much to love in its natural beauty—a narrow strip of rolling hills in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, with lush fields, quiet coves, and miles of white sand beaches. But its pastoral, timeless feel can’t quite explain its powerful draw. While the summers are mild, its winters are long, and two of the primary industries—fishing and agriculture—can be tough to pursue at any time of year. Yet tourism, the second most important, remains strong, with hundreds of thousands of visitors arriving every year to experience the same sites that were such a part of Anne Shirley’s adventures.
It is, in many ways, an odd phenomenon, a balancing act between the real and the fictional that Canada’s National Park Service, among others, helps sustain. In the town of Cavendish (“Avonlea” in the novels), in the house known as Green Gables, visitors can see the rooms where Anne and Matthew and Marilla slept; they can walk the same paths, cross the same streams and inhale the same fir-scented air. Along the way, they can relive some of Anne’s more memorable moments—scaring herself with Diana in the Haunted Woods, welcoming spring with her schoolmates on a mayflower picnic, accepting Gilbert’s offer of friendship on an evening stroll as the novel concludes. And yet these are all imagined events, superimposed on the PEI canvas—until one reads more about Montgomery’s life. There, in the pages of her journals, which were first made available to the public in 1985 (edited by Mary Rubio and Elizabeth Waterston), is where the real and the fictional intersect.
Though Montgomery insisted that Anne wasn’t based on anyone she knew—“I have never drawn any of the characters in my books ‘from life,’” she writes, “although I may have taken a quality here and an incident there”—her journals suggest otherwise. Reading them alongside Anne of Green Gables is to see the many similarities between the young Maud and Anne. Both were raised by elderly people after losing their parents (Maud’s mother died when she was young and her father left her with her grandparents before moving to western Canada). Both had vivid imaginations and the same seen-only-by-them friends (Katie Maurice, Violetta). Both gave similar names to their favorite places to walk (Lover’s Lane, the Birch Path), and both saw trees and plants as sensate beings who welcomed a greeting after time spent apart. Anne is, in many ways, an idealized version of the young Maud, completely at home in and energized by the natural world. As a result, her presence is far larger than that of simply fascinating, charismatic girl; she embodies the very stuff of life, as in the epigraph from Robert Browning that Montgomery used for the novel—“The good stars met in your horoscope / Made you of spirit and fire and dew.” ... [mehr] https://lithub.com/on-the-magical-landscapes-of-anne-of-green-gables/