Just over a century ago Lucy Maud Montgomery took the world by storm with her debut novel. An immediate bestseller, Anne of Green Gables concerned an 11-year-old red-haired orphan named Anne Shirley and her life in the village of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island off Canada's east coast.
Arguably Canada’s most famous book, Anne of Green Gables sold more than 19,000 copies in the first five months and is still as popular as ever with an estimated 50 million copies in print in over 35 languages. But it isn't just Canadian children who grow up falling in love with our freckled heroine; Prince William and his bride Kate Middleton enjoyed their time in Canada's smallest province during their 10-day visit to Canada June and July 2011. Apparently it was the Duchess who made sure to include Prince Edward Island on the itinerary; Anne of Green Gables was her favourite book growing up, and she wanted to see the places she'd read about.
The book’s continued popularity has been sustained by a parade of movies, television series, and plays. These adaptations range from the 1979 Japanese Anime series, Akage no An, to Anne of Green Gables – The Musical which has run in Charlottetown on Prince Edward Island every summer since 1964.
True first printings of Anne of Green Gables are extremely rare and have been known to go for five figures with later editions still fetching up to $1000.
To commemorate the book’s 100th anniversary, Penguin published a collector’s edition of Anne of Green Gables and a new prequel, Before Green Gables written by Nova Scotia author Budge Wilson, that describes the first 10 years of Anne’s life. Elizabeth Epperly has put together a collection of Montgomery’s scrapbook pages to create The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery. Prince Edward Island itself hopes to cash in by attracting ‘literature tourists’ with a series of Anne of Green Gables events over the summer.
Following the success of her debut novel, Montgomery continued to chronicle the life of Anne Shirley through seven more books that she wrote over the next 13 years.
Montgomery also wrote several other novels including the popular Emily series, which was also about an orphan girl from Prince Edward Island and The Blue Castle (the only one of her novels that is entirely set outside of Prince Edward Island).