A Love Letter to Anne

  • L. M. Montgomery and Carolyn Strom Collins (Editor)
    Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript. Nimbus Publishing (purchase at Amazon.ca)

“You remind me of Anne,” my Grandma Margaret said, matter-of-factly, one day around 1989, when I was little more than a toddler. “I will call you my little Anne of Green Gables.”

And thus, I was reborn, entrusted with a treasure the worth of which I did not then know. Anne’s friendship has been a gift that I have been continuously unwrapping for the past thirty years and, like my Grandma, I will continue to explore the height and breadth of this beautiful gift until I behold “the seal of the Great Presence,” as Anne would say.

Considering my love for Anne, you can guess that I was elated to discover that Carolyn Strom Collins, a fellow kindred spirit, had researched and assembled the original manuscript of Anne of Green Gables, complete with author notes and editorial details that have been previously unpublished.

This is clearly a work of love and devotion on Strom Collins’ part. Readers will marvel at the care the editor displays in the way she designed, researched, and presented the book. The imagery that Strom Collins includes provides ample evidence of this attention to detail. The front cover features a beautiful portrait of the author, coupled with a selection of some of Anne’s favourite flowers: violets, forget-me-nots, daisies, and verbena. In addition to the floral imagery, I also appreciated the flyleaf pages, which feature various Anne of Green Gables cover art from around the world throughout the decades. This was, I think, a powerful way to visually display Anne’s impact on the world over the years.

Seeing Montgomery’s thought process as she added detail, changed her mind (Diana was going to be called Gertude? What?!), and fixed mistakes allowed me, for the first time, to see this author as something other than the flawless literary genius-on-a-pedestal that I had built up in my mind. She was a person with doubts and fears about her ability to transcribe the visions in her head to two-dimensional ink on paper; a person who did, actually, on occasion, make mistakes; and a person who had to work through drafts and even delete things.

The way that Strom Collins has formatted the pages makes them easy to read and understand. All of the notes are clearly labelled and fully explained. As a diehard fan, I really appreciated the addition of the handwritten pages from Montgomery’s first draft. At times, I felt like I was reading a letter from Maud herself. The introduction provides a colourful biographical snapshot of both Montgomery and her work. The author comes alive for the reader because of the excerpts from Montgomery’s journal, illustrating her life when Anne was first published.

This book is a gift for all of Anne’s bosom friends around the world, like me. Although we are separated from Anne by time, space, and fiction, Carolyn Strom Collins’ work reminds us that “true friends are always together in spirit.”

This review “A Love Letter to Anne” originally appeared in Canadian Literature, 26 Aug. 2020. Web.

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