L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is a childhood classic that has doubtless turned many young readers into lifelong bookworms, and even writers themselves. Sarah McCoy is just one of the many inspired by Anne and her creator. McCoy’s latest novel, Marilla of Green Gables, takes readers to Green Gables in the days before Anne lived there. Here, McCoy shares why she was so inspired to learn more about the life of L. M. Montgomery, and lists her favorite books about the beloved author.
When I was a child, I was fairly certain that the authors of many of my favorite books were faceless, sexless initials: E. B. White, C. S. Lewis, A. A. Milne, L. Frank Baum, J. R. R. Tolkien, and L. M. Montgomery, to name a few. Abbreviation and apparition sounded alike, so I imagined them as writerly ghosts, neither good nor bad, not friendly or wicked, merely detached conduits of a story’s voice. These were the narrators designated by initialization. I gave little thought to the authorship with such rich characters clamoring for my attention.
Then one day I discovered a black and white photograph featured in the back of my borrowed library copy of Anne of Green Gables. Beneath it was a caption: Author Lucy Maud Montgomery. L. M. was Lucy Maud.
It was as if I’d be pinched with knowledge—a sort of strange aching of disbelief. On the page were the face and name of the person whose words I knew by heart, whose world I’d wished myself a part, whose characters I felt I knew more kindredly than any flesh and blood. Lucy Maud Montgomery was a person, a real person.
Starting that day, I no longer heard my own voice in the reading, but hers. I know it sounds bizarre, but in my mind, I heard the written words in the voice I imagined was Lucy Maud Montgomery’s: a kind of Victorian clip with a sassy edge. It was the auditory reproduction of the face and name I then knew.
When I mentioned my interest in Montgomery to my mom (an elementary school teacher), she was quick to guide me through the Dewey Decimal System to a nonfiction book about Montgomery’s life. It was my introduction to the biography, the autobiography, and the biographical novel. Part history schoolbook, part novel prose, this book was in a remarkable category all its own: a fleshing out of statistics, dates, and facts into a story that felt whole and personal.
I devoured it, and then went on to discover the people behind Winnie-the-Pooh (Alan Alexander Milne), Charlotte’s Web (Elwyn Brooks White), The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Clive Staples Lewis) and more. It amazed me to think that with every book of fiction I read, I could also read a biography on the author. Stories within the stories, like infinite literary nesting dolls.
And it all began with Lucy Maud. So here are six books that widened the scope of my imagination and pay homage to the initial woman who did the same for me.
The Selected Journals of L. M. Montgomery by L. M. Montgomery
There’s nothing quite like reading the uncensored reflections of a beloved author. More intimate than an autobiography, these diaries were first penned by and for Maud alone. The glimpse into her inner world is fascinating and invaluable to understanding the woman who created some of the world’s most treasured literary characters in Anne of Green Gables.
Maud by Melanie J. Fishbane
Fishbane does an excellent job using choice nuggets from Montgomery’s The Selected Journals to write an entertaining and poignant novel. If you want the greatest hits from the four volumes of The Selected Journals, this is a compassionately rendered retelling.
The Annotated Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
I call this my Anne bible and it is equally rich with Green Gables gospel. The annotated copy provides extensive historical information on Cavendish, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s family, cultural references, politics, horticulture and more. It’s everything you need to know while reading and highly recommended for every Green Gables aficionado.
Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings by Mary Henley Rubio
This book was a national bestseller, and Rubio comprehensively researched Montgomery’s life through exclusive interviews with Montgomery’s son, maids, friends, and relations over the course of two decades. Taking on the quest of a lifetime, Rubio traveled from Prince Edward Island to Poland to the Scottish highlands, tracing Montgomery’s family tree. This is an eye-opening account of Montgomery’s extensive lineage.
The Alpine Path: The Story of My Career by L. M. Montgomery
Montgomery’s autobiography was originally published as series of essays in Toronto’s Everywoman’s World magazine from June 1917 to November 1917. Montgomery does not flinch in her recap of the obstacles and harsh rejections she faced during the writing and publishing process of Anne of Green Gables. This book serves as a great reminder that all greatness comes with toil and perseverance.
House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg, illustrated by Julie Morstad
Just released in 2018, this biography is a beautiful way to introduce young readers to the intersection of fact and fiction. Parents and children of all ages will delight in connecting the novel (Anne of Green Gables) to the author and be inspired to imagine their own story worlds.
Sarah McCoy is the New York Times, USA Today, and international bestselling author of Marilla of Green Gables; The Mapmaker’s Children; The Baker’s Daughter, a 2012 Goodreads Choice Award Best Historical Fiction nominee; The Time It Snowed in Puerto Rico; the novella “The Branch of Hazel” in Grand Central; and Le souffle des feuilles et des promesses, a French exclusive title. Sarah’s work has been featured in Real Simple, The Millions, Your Health Monthly, Huffington Post and other publications. She has taught English writing at Old Dominion University and at the University of Texas at El Paso. The daughter of an Army officer, her family was stationed in Germany during her childhood. She grew up in Virginia and now lives with her husband, an orthopedic sports surgeon, and their dog, Gilbert, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.