Making Avonlea: L. M. Montgomery and Popular Culture, ed. by Irene Gammel

Making Avonlea


Goodreads: Making Avonlea
Series: None
Age Category: Adult
Source: Library
Published: 2002

Official Summary

Since the publication of Anne of Green Gables in 1908, L.M. Montgomery and the world of Anne have propelled themselves into a global cultural phenomenon, popular not only in Canada, but in places as diverse as Japan, the United States, and Iran. Making Avonlea, the first study to focus on Montgomery and her characters as popular cultural icons, brings together twenty-three scholars from around the world to examine Montgomery’s work, its place in our imagination, and more specifically its myriad spin-offs including musicals, films, television series, t-shirts, dolls, and a tourist industry.

Invoking theories of popular culture, film, literature, drama, and tourism, the essayists probe the emotional attachment and loyalty of many generations of mostly female readers to Montgomery’s books while similarly scrutinizing the fierce controversies that surround these books and their author’s legacy in Canada. Twenty-five illustrations of theatre and film stills, artwork, and popular cultural artefacts, as well as snapshot pieces featuring personal reflections on Montgomery’s novels, are interwoven with scholarly essays to provide a complete picture of the Montgomery cultural phenomenon. Mythopoetics, erotic romance, and visual imagination are subjects of discussion, as is the commercial success of various television series and movies, musicals, and plays based on the Anne books. Scholars are equally concerned with the challenges and disputes that surround the translation of Montgomery’s work from print to screen as well as the growth of tourist sites and websites that have themselves moved Avonlea into new cultural landscapes. Making Avonlea allows the reader to travel to these sites and to consider Canada’s most enduring literary figures and celebrity author in light of their status as international icons almost one hundred years after they first arrived on the scene.

Star Divider


With its broad focus on everything from interpretations of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon to film analyses, descriptions of doll-making, and explorations of Japanese Anne clubs, Making Avonlea is a fascinating look at how Montgomery’s work has been received, reinterpreted, and commodified. The essays range from scholarly critiques to personal confession, with each writer bringing their unique perspective to a field that they hope will continue to find acceptance in the broader scholarly community. However, despite the academic emphasis, the collection will also appeal to a more popular audience; any fan of Anne’s will be intrigued by the new viewpoints raised, and encouraged to look at Montgomery’s writings (and their reincarnations) with fresh eyes.

Like any collected work, Making Avonlea contains essays that vary in quality and interest. For my part, I found several of the analyses of Anne of Green Gables and Emily of New Moon lacking–though this did not surprise me. I remain convinced that the “publish or perish” mentality in higher academia has led to a wealth of sub-par publications, which often do not seem to have any real point (observing things in a literary work, but not saying why it matters) or that seem to be far-fetched theories in an attempt to say something new. This is true of many publications, not just this one.

So, for instance, I was intrigued by Irene Gammel’s “Safe Pleasures for Girls: L. M. Montgomery’s Erotic Landscapes” and its argument that Montgomery subversively represents reader desire in her works. However, I started to question how far the argument can really go when Gammel writes that Emily’s sexual awakening occurs at Priest Pond and experiences menstruation in the Pink Room, as represented by what Gammel calls “Montgomery’s complex literary cryptogram for menstrual symptoms,” i.e. Emily’s “cold perspiration, anxiety, terror, horror, panic, and a none-too-subtle Gothic vision of a ‘bleeding nun'” (123). I am not sure that anxiety and terror are the most obvious symptoms of menstruation. Had Emily experienced cramps, bloating, backache, a headache, or fatigue, I would be more convinced that she is on her period, and not just experiencing an overactive imagination.

In the same vein, while I find it interesting for Gammel to argue that, “Wyther Grange signal the heroine’s entrance into fertility… ‘Grange’ (=grain) evokes the ancient fertility rites,” (123) I tend to be skeptical of criticism where we have to read too much into the work. Yes, the text can support the argument since the evidence is there. But…isn’t it a bit much to start linking Emily’s visit (where, it is true, she does grow up, does have a weirdly sexual encounter with a grown man, and does learn about sex from her female relatives) with fertility rituals? I tend to be a bit old-school with my literary criticism preferences, and I dislike when scholars seem to need to reach to prove their cleverness with unlikely allusions and assertions. An analysis of Emily’s experiences and how she emerges from them with new knowledge and less innocence is sufficient for me.

My favorite parts of the collection were the essays that did not focus on the books, but on the adaptations and products linked to the works. It is fascinating to see how Montgomery’s writings have spawned a bunch of industries, turning P.E.I. into a tourist destination designed to please fans who mistakenly think Anne is real (or conflate her with her author), creating copyright disputes and fights for “authenticity” when mass producing Anne products, and even inspiring an Avonlea section of a Japanese theme park. Some of these essays seem more like observations than analyses–or observations with a few sentences tacked on the end, in a half-hearted attempt to link the observations to some nebulous broader theme. But the questions they raise about Anne’s popularity, how she has been received by fans, and how others seek to capitalize on or manipulate fans’ enthusiasm are ones that will haunt readers as they consider their own place in the ever-expanding world of Anne.

Overall, Making Avonlea is both an enjoyable and an engrossing read. Anyone interested in Montgomery’s writing, popular culture, or, of course, Anne will want to check this out. The many incarnations of Anne may surprise even the most avid of fans!

The Blue Castle by L. M. Montgomery


Goodreads: The Blue Castle
Series: None
Source: Library
Published: 1926


Valancy Stirling is twenty-nine and she has never lived.  Her mother and her cousin control what she does, where she goes, and whom she speaks to.  But then Valancy learns that she has a fatal heart condition and only one year before she dies.  Determined to enjoy life before it is too late, Valancy moves out and suddenly happiness does not seem so far away.


“Fear is the original sin.  Almost all of the evil in the world has its origin in the fact that some one is afraid of something.  It is a cold slimy serpent coiling about you.  It is horrible to live with fear, and it is of all things degrading.”–John Foster

The Blue Castle is one of only two adult novels written by L. M. Montgomery (the other being A Tangled Web) and thus of particular interest to her fans. It focuses on a twenty-nine-year-old “old maid” who is repressed by her family and afraid to speak back to her nasty relatives.  The content is innocent enough that you can find this volume shelved with the children’s books (The adult content might be considered to be a few curses and a girl who had a baby outside of marriage.), but the story itself is a mature one, one that focuses on bitterness and time lost.  It is a story that the old will respond to more fully than the young.

L. M. Montgomery is often associated with idyllic childhoods–an association that overlooks the pain and suffering her heroines must overcome.  The Blue Castle, however, contains a darkness that is harder for readers to overlook.  It begins with Valancy waking up on her birthday and facing a life of loneliness and stifled feelings, a prospect that seems intolerable.  Even as Valancy begins to find the courage to be herself, she remains on the fringes of a small-minded society that would rather see a young woman die alone in poverty before they associate themselves with her shame.  Valancy ultimately attempts to escape the pettiness around her by retreating into the wilderness.  But there are suggestions that no retreat can be permanent.  Duty will always call a person back.

The story, however, still feels uplifting because it suggests that anyone can find the courage to live and that that courage can make all the difference.  Valancy gives of herself to others and does the right thing, even when the right thing will socially stigmatize her.  She becomes the bright beacon of her world, the promise that everything is not as bad as it seems.  And she is rewarded.  Beauty comes to those who seek it.  Montgomery’s love of the Canadian wilderness shines here as she lingers over trees, birds, and waters.

Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention that The Blue Castle also contains an unlikely but utterly romantic love story.  Barney Snaith possesses neither the name nor the appearance of a typical romantic lead, but his kindness, integrity, and thoughtfulness all make him the perfect hero.  Valancy and Barney seem to be living in a fairy tale and, even when it seems too good to be true, readers just want to believe.

If you are a Montgomery fan, The Blue Castle provides all the sharp characterization, ironic wit, and beautiful landscape descriptions that your heart could desire.  If you are not a Montgomery fan, The Blue Castle might just make you one.

5 stars

Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery


Goodreads: Rainbow Valley
Series: Anne of Green Gables #7
Source: Library
Published: 1919


A new minister and his family have moved into the manse.  The Meredith children, however, are motherless and their antics are scandalizing the neighborhood.  From playing in the Methodist graveyard to showing up to church without stockings, nothing seems beyond them.  The Blythe children, however, are always ready to play and Mrs. Dr. Blythe remains their staunch defender.


Rainbow Valley is classic Montgomery and everything enchanting.  The focus moves from Anne and her family to the Meredith children who, like Anne herself, tend to act first and think later.  Their innocent revelries are the cause of much consternation in the congregation.  Poor Miss Cornelia is not sure she will ever be able to face the Methodists again!  The combination of childhood joys, heartbreaks, and fancies, along with the gossip of the locals provides a perceptive look at life in a small town where nothing is ever dull and the tragedies of old maids are as great as the tragedies of queens.

Readers who miss the Anne of Green Gables days will delight in Rainbow Valley.  The manse children, though well-meaning, get up to all kinds of humorous high jinks.  Their desire to do good always seems to go awry in a way that is very reminiscent of our favorite redhead.  However, they distinguish themselves from Anne because their mishaps are often intentional–they simply do not understand the social mores of Glen St. Mary.  They go at life with vim and are confused when the staid old maids gossip as a result.

The gossip is, as always, both riveting and the target of Montgomery’s wit.  Montgomery makes small town trials and tragedies come alive, showing that passion is not confined to only higher segments of society.  But the gossip often centers around trivial matters when little else is happening.  Thus, the ladies of Glen St. Mary unconsciously couple stories of jilted lovers and vengeful wives with shocked whispers about the doings of the manse children, as if a childhood prank exists on the level of seriousness.  The ladies become a little humorous themselves even as they tell the silly doings of the children.

Rainbow Valley is sure to please any fan of L. M. Montgomery.  However, it also has much to recommend it to any casual reader.  It enters sympathetically into the world of childhood and brings readers back to the innocence of imagination.  But it also contains a keen wit and perceptive characterization as it charts the deaths, births, marriages, and courtings of Glen St. Mary.  The characters seem real, so real that leaving them feels like leaving friends.

5 stars

Anne of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery


Goodreads: Anne of Ingleside
Series: Anne #6

Source: Library
Published: 1939


Now married with five (and soon to be six) children, Anne Blythe finds that life never has a dull moment. Nan and Di struggle to make friends in school, Jem desperately wants a dog who will love him, and Walter dreams and writes poetry.  And whenever they need advice?  It’s Mummy who understands best.  Anne may no longer live in her House of Dreams, but she’s more than contented where she is.


Anne of Ingleside is a treat because, well, any book that brings us more of Anne, her family, and P.E.I. cannot help but be.  Still, even I, as an avid L. M. Montgomery fan, must admit that the book feels a little uneven.  It moves between focusing on Anne, her dreams, and her worries about her relationship with Gilbert to focusing the fancies and tragedies of her children.  Is it a book about a midlife crisis or a book about childhood?  It’s a little hard to tell.

If I am honest with myself, I did not fully enjoy the chapters focusing on Anne’s brood.  Rainbow Valley is the book for that.  The children’s struggles with making friends or keeping a pet alive felt out of place when juxtaposed with Anne’s struggle to remove Gilbert’s overbearing aunt from their household and her worries that her husband might not find her interesting or attractive anymore.  I wanted this to be Anne’s book.  I wanted to see how she would navigate middle-age.  If the chapters on her children had focused more on Anne’s response to them, I might have enjoyed them more and I might have felt the narrative less uneven.

Many reviewers have criticized the book for depicting Anne as a happy housewife. I have no problem with this.  To say that the book deserves a low rating because Anne only writes sometimes and prefers to take care of her family is to rate it 1) based on modern ideals of what a woman’s life “should” look like and 2) based on a personal feeling that having a career is more important than having a family.  To me, feminism means respecting the choices of women when they say they are doing what makes them happy and fulfilled.  If Anne is happy and fulfilled as a housewife, we should support her, not criticize her as not being feminist enough.  (And, if you want a Montgomery heroine who does put her writing career first, there is always the Emily of New Moon trilogy.)

Anne of Ingleside may, unfortunately, be the most lackluster of the Anne series.  It feels a little as if Montgomery’s heart were not in it.  Even a chapter in which the Ladies Aid gossips about the townsfolk feels somehow less ironic and witty than is Montgomery’s wont.  Still, any glimpse of Anne’s life is welcome to me.  I’m glad we get to see a little bit of it, even if the execution does not seem up to Montgomery’s usual standards.

Need more Montgomery?  Check out our infographic featuring some of her other books.

Today I’m joining in with the Anne of Green Gables series read-along hosted by Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf and Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku.  You can find the details here if you would like to read along, catch up with reading along, or join in with some of the bonus posts!

4 stars

Top 5 Things I Wish I Could Change About the Anne Series

Anne of Windy Poplars

Anne of Windy Poplars

Today I’m joining in (belatedly) with the Anne of Green Gables series read-along hosted by Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf and Jackie @ Death by Tsundoku.  You can find the details here if you would like to read along, catch up with reading along, or join in with some of the bonus posts!

Top 5 Things I Wish I Could Change About the Anne Series

(Spoilers Ahead for All Eight Books!)

The Treatment of Dora

I have written about this before, but I do not understand why Anne does not like Dora because–gasp!–Dora is a well-behaved child.  Apparently Dora is boring as a result and we do not need to hear much about her after Anne leaves Green Gables.  Poor Dora.

The End of Anne of Green Gables

You know the end.  The part where Matthew dies.  I cry every time.  This is potentially the worst death in all of literary history.

Rilla of Ingleside

Don’t get me wrong.  I love this book.  And I love Rilla and the way she grows when put to the test.  But watching Anne Blythe age and lose her spirit while her boys are off to war is the last thing I ever wanted.  Anne deserves better.  Her family deserves better.  It doesn’t help that my favorite character, Walter Blythe, dies.  Or that Una is left facing a lifetime alone.

The Fate of Jane Andrews

Why does everyone feel bad for Jane because she marries an old wealthy guy?  Maybe she wanted to marry him.  Maybe she loves him.  It does not seem right that Anne and Jane’s old acquaintances judge her for taking an opportunity Jane clearly wanted to take–for whatever reasons.

Anne’s Refusal to Apologize

Anne, think of all the years you could have had with Gilbert if you weren’t so stubborn!  You’re breaking my heart!

Not sure what to read after finishing Anne’s series?  Check out our flow chart with recommendations for L. M. Montgomery’s other works.

Which L. M. Montgomery Book Should You Read Next? (Flow Chart)


Are you wondering which book to read after Anne of Green Gables?  Fortunately, L. M. Montgomery was a prolific writer and has many novels to choose from (as well as several short story collections).  If you don’t know where to start, check out our handy guide to selecting your next Montgomery read as well as some of our past reviews.

Your Guide



The Anne Books

The Emily Trilogy

The Pat Books


Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane


Goodreads: Maud
Series: None
Source: Gift
Published: April 2017


Fourteen-year-old Lucy Maud Montgomery dreams of attending college and becoming a writer, but her grandfather does not believe in higher education for women.  Worse, when she finally goes out west to be with her father again, her new stepmother treats her as nothing more than a nanny.  Will Maud ever find a way to follow her dreams?  Or will she grow old feeling that her world has grown increasingly smaller?


Fans of Anne of Green Gables, rejoice!  If you have ever wished to find a similar book and have already read and reread all of L. M. Montgomery’s other titles, this might just be the book for you.  Based on Montgomery’s journals and letters, Maud recounts the author’s teen years on P.E.I. and in Prince Albert.  Maud is a little bit of Anne and little bit of Emily, combining a love for life and beauty with a desire to overcome the odds.  But Maud is, most importantly, ultimately herself–and you are sure to fall in love.

The early parts of the book most resemble Montgomery’s novels, which can make it feel at times like the author and the reader are playing a game of “spot the allusion” together.  Perhaps this is understandable, however.  Montgomery’s stories sprang from her own life and her own feelings of loneliness, frustration, and despair–as well as the moments of deep joy– certainly made their way into her heroines’ journeys.   Maud’s tale is, however, a little darker than those of her young female protagonists, and readers will find themselves sympathizing with her as her world shrinks and her hopes diminish.  Knowing how history turns out does not make the journey less moving.

The pacing of the story does feel a little uneven, with Maud’s years in P.E.I. and her blossoming romance with a certain handsome someone cut abruptly short at the end of Book One.  Book Two, which chronicles Maud’s years with her stepmother and her father in Prince Albert, takes up the bulk of the story.  This is where much of the drama is, as Maud tries to hone her writing skills even as her stepmother tries to keep her from school so she can play nanny to her stepmother’s children.  However, Book One offers many delightful friendships, quiet and reflective moments, and cherished time spent on the Island.  Fishbane could have made Books One and Two roughly equal in size to keep the narrative pacing consistent.

Overall, however, Maud is a charming tale of a young woman growing up, discovering herself, and chasing her dreams.  Fans of Montgomery’s works will love it, but, with its compelling protagonist and sweet romances, fans of YA will find much to enjoy in it, as well.

4 stars

Along the Shore by L. M. Montgomery


Goodreads: Along the Shore
Series: None
Source: Purchased
Published: 1989


This volume presents sixteen previously unknown short stories written by L. M. Montgomery, best-known for Anne of Green Gables, and collected by Rea Wilmshurst.  Though each one is centered around the sea, they span in content from romance to humor to tragedy.


Though I appreciate Wilmshurt’s work in collecting previously unknown work, I admit that I find her editorial choices a little strange.  She presents various collections of Montgomery’s work by gathering tales with similar themes– the sea, the supernatural, orphans, correspondence–and publishing them all together in the same volume.  (Along the Shore, of course, is all about the sea.)  The sixteen short stories in Along the Shore are already a little repetitive because they contain characters, events, and entire chunks of narration and dialogue that can also be found in books such as Emily of New Moon, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of Ingleside.   But because they are all centered around the same oceanic theme, they also repeat themselves within the same volume.  Tales of characters about to be caught by the tide or saved by dogs occur  more than once within the collection making it seem, if not predictable (Montgomery’s work is already arguably predictable and does the stories no harm), at least a little tiresome. One wishes for variety.

If one overlooks Wilmshurst’s editorial choices and considers only the short stories, it is clear that Montgomery brings to them the same wit and sensitivity that have endeared her to readers of her novels.  They vary from tragic romances to happy romances, tales of brave children to tales of brave dogs.  Notable among them are the courtship of a woman and a man who can never meet face-to-face, thanks to the woman’s man-hating aunt;  a minster’s love for a woman who has never been to church; and the inadvertent betrayal of two friends who fall in love with each other’s beaux.  Even when the stories are tragic, they often contain a hint of the humorous or at least of the ironic.

Any L. M. Montgomery fan will surely love this collection, but it also has appeal for those who simply enjoy a good short story.  These are the kinds of short stories that wrap up right, giving one a sense of closure, even if the ending is sad.  No nebulous, modern endings that simply off the tale and call it “mysterious” here.  Every tale feels like a precious gem, carefully wrapped up and gifted to the reader.  Montgomery wants her readers to enjoy these tales, to be moved by them, to live them.  She doesn’t do you the discourtesy of ending a good tale that has only just begun.

*Content Note: The final story contains an offensive use of the n-word.

4 starsKrysta 64

Anne’s House of Dreams by L. M. Montgomery

Anne's House of DreamsINFORMATION

Goodreads: Anne’s House of Dreams
Series: Anne #5
Source: Library
Published: 1917


Now married, Gilbert and Anne move to Four Winds Harbor where Gilbert can pursue his profession as a doctor.  There Anne meets a host of new neighbors from Captain Jim who keeps the lighthouse to Miss Cornelia who despises men to Leslie Moore who lives a tragic life as her husband’s nursemaid.


I have to admit that, now Anne has given up teaching, her life seems to be somewhat less full of adventure.  True, she still writes some fanciful short stories–but oftentimes she seems to downplay their worth or significance, in contrast to what other writers can accomplish–and we the readers see nothing of the writing or publishing process.  At times it is unclear whether Anne is still writing at all.  Her new life as a married woman thus seems to have shrunk a little.  The focus here shifts from Anne to the lives of her new neighbors.  One of them, Leslie Moore, beautiful and tragic, almost becomes the star of the show.

I believe Montgomery does not mean to suggest married life is unexciting or dull, but Anne’s new life sees her associating with exactly three new  neighbors–Capt. Jim, the old lighthouse keeper; Miss Cornelia, an amusing man-hater; and Leslie Moore, forced into an unhappy marriage years ago when she was only sixteen.  One or two other characters crop up, but Anne’s life revolves around giving and receiving visits from these three individuals.  She has hired help now, too, so her domestic misadventures are largely over–mentions of her chores include gardening and sewing, but nothing goes amiss.

None of this is bad.  In fact, Montgomery, with her typical magic, manages to convey the enchantment of everyday life for Anne.  She  goes for long walks on the shore, weathers election season, almost has a quarrel with Gilbert, and experiences what it means to be a mother.   She has a happy and fulfilling.  But if you wanted the old Anne who finds herself in amusing predicaments, you won’t find her here.  Instead Montgomery shifts the drama onto Leslie, married when she was sixteen to a man of low reputation and now acting as his nursemaid as he has lost his memory.  Her storyline at some points almost borders on the melodramatic.  You might have thought this was realistic fiction, but what are the odds of Leslie’s story happening to the nice woman down the road?

Maybe Montgomery herself realized that a story with such a small cast of characters would not be sustainable in the long run as, when she eventually continued Anne’s story, she had Anne and Gilbert move out of their house of dreams.  However, even in her very small world, Anne casts her spell over all those who know her, providing her signature sympathy, wisdom, and kindness.  Being allowed to visit her house of dreams is, for readers, a great honor.

5 starsKrysta 64