The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables

The Enchanting Island that Inspired L. M. Montgomery


By Catherine Reid

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One of Smithsonian magazine’s Best Books About Travel of 2018

The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables explores L. M. Montgomery’s deep connection to the landscapes of Prince Edward Island that inspired her to write the beloved Anne of Green Gables series. From the Lake of Shining Waters and the Haunted Wood to Lover’s Lane, you’ll be immersed in the real places immortalized in the novels.

Using Montgomery’s journals, archives, and scrapbooks, Catherine Reid explores the many similarities between Montgomery and her unforgettable heroine, Anne Shirley. The lush package includes Montgomery’s hand-colorized photographs, the illustrations originally used in Anne of Green Gables, and contemporary and historical photography.


Wheat ready for harvest.

“Old Prince Edward Island” is a good place in which to be born—a good place in which to spend a childhood. I can think of none better.




During the course of her life, Lucy Maud Montgomery published twenty novels, more than five hundred short stories, hundreds of poems, and numerous essays. But it was her first and remarkable novel, Anne of Green Gables (1908), that garnered her a worldwide audience. The enthusiastic response to the book spurred an immediate request for more stories about the spunky, irrepressible Anne (an additional seven novels and three story collections fill out the rest of Anne’s life), while Anne of Green Gables went through initial print runs at speeds that surprised author and publisher alike. In the subsequent century, the novel has sold over fifty million copies, been translated into twenty different languages, and spun off numerous films, plays, musicals, and television series.

Such popularity derives from the book’s equally compelling features: the appeal of its storyline—elderly siblings want a boy from an orphanage to help them with farm work and are sent an odd scrawny girl instead—and the sheer force of Anne’s personality, so garrulous, smart, and endearing that she quickly wins over Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert along with a wide array of island characters. Anne’s imagination carries the book, as she manages to find the beauty in the bleak and the lesson in every disaster, beginning with the grim possibility of being returned to the orphanage.

Due to the phenomenal success of Anne of Green Gables, tourism is Prince Edward Island’s second most important industry, with agriculture (number one) and fishing (number three) still as important as they were when Montgomery lived there. For the fan seeking the landscapes of Anne’s old haunts, however, the level of new development can be startling; this is not the Prince Edward Island of the late 1890s, when Anne was gathering mayflowers by the armfuls and wandering fern-lined paths through the woods. One has to look beyond the modern conveyances to see the evidence of undisturbed woodlands, acres of farmland, and expanse of ocean just beyond, or squint in a way that blurs the adjacent golf course and amusement park, the buses and B&Bs, the tour groups and Anne look-alikes in their aprons and wigs with red braids. It is then that it becomes possible to see and sense all that a child—or the child in all of us—might have been able to learn and pursue in the Prince Edward Island of Anne’s era. This book returns readers to the original landscape that so inspired one of literature’s most memorable characters.

“Matthew Cuthbert,” says the astonished Marilla, “who’s that?” Illustration by M. A. and W. A. J. Claus, from the 1908 edition.

A road through the woods, looking much as it would have in Montgomery’s day. In Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery referred to a similar lane as the Birch Path.

A street in Avonlea Village, which features original buildings from Montgomery’s time as well as replicas of other period buildings; Montgomery modeled the fictitious Avonlea on the town of Cavendish, Prince Edward Island.

LUCY MAUD MONTGOMERY shares numerous similarities with the unforgettable Anne Shirley. Anne’s parents died when she was an infant; Maud’s mother also died when she was not-quite two, and her father decamped to the other side of the continent a few months later. Both are subsequently raised by elderly people—Maud by her mother’s grim and stiff parents, and Anne by a pair of unmarried siblings. Both are gregarious, intelligent, high achievers, excelling at their schoolwork and ranking top in their classes. Both attend one-room schools and later teach in them. Both delight in being in the midst of social whirls—whether berrying, recital-planning, or sharing pranks with their classmates; both also pursue justice ferociously and are adept at maintaining an iciness against those they feel have wronged them.

Most notably, though, it’s when landscape and the imagination merge that their shared sensibility becomes most evident. They use many of the same names for their favorite places (Lover’s Lane, the Lake of Shining Waters, the Haunted Wood) and spend as much time as possible wandering favorite spots (when she and her friends were young, Montgomery writes in an 1892 journal entry, “we fairly lived in the woods”). The great expanses of sea and field act like canvases for their imaginations, the quiet island beauty nourishing their souls.

In the first eight years of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s surviving journals, the period she subsequently describes in Anne of Green Gables, nothing is rendered as poetically as are the scenes of nature—not clothing or playmates or the interiors of houses, not pets or schoolrooms or suitors. It’s when she turns her attention to the surrounding land that the reader can feel her changing gears to one that evokes far more passion. In that shift of her gaze to the outdoors, the ordinary falls away, and the following sentences soar with aesthetic power. The subtle hues in a sunset, the changing colors of autumn, the winter scenes from a horse-drawn sleigh—all reverberate with new meaning when seen through Maud Montgomery’s or Anne Shirley’s eyes.

Queen Anne’s lace (Daucus carota)

A field of clover, a cover crop that farmers might rotate with wheat, hay, corn, or potatoes.

This shift in voice when turning to the landscape is especially noticeable when either girl is feeling uncertain, badly treated, or homesick, as in Anne’s first hours with the Cuthberts, not knowing whether they would let her stay at Green Gables, or when Montgomery spends an awkward teenage year in Saskatchewan with her father and his new wife and realizes she has little place in their life there. To rally herself, each girl turns toward the natural world—looking out a window, walking down a wooded lane, or recovering a memory of some happy time spent outside—and almost immediately, as though a switch had been flipped, the prose vibrates with a new energy and the sorrow fades away.

Daisies, Queen Anne’s lace, and goldenrod against a yellow field of canola.

Maud Montgomery’s beloved cousin and kindred spirit, Frede Campbell, at Park Corner, in the splendor of summer birches. Photo colorized by Maud Montgomery in the 1920s.

In addition to documenting her life in her journals, Maud Montgomery, as she preferred to be called (islanders refer to her as “Lucy Maud”), also took photographs and created scrapbooks, which have helped later generations see and appreciate her world. Many of those photographs are included here, including some she colorized in the 1920s, along with images from some of the scrapbooks. Additional photographs by Kerry Michaels and Nick Jay provide contemporary context and atmosphere, and highlight the unique beauty that Prince Edward Island has retained over the years. The island’s role in fueling the creativity that animates Anne of Green Gables continues to inspire those who come to witness it today, a landscape made to wander in and wonder about, with all the charm, as Maud Montgomery writes in The Alpine Path, of “the rich red of the winding roads, the brilliant emerald of the uplands and meadows, the glowing sapphire of the encircling sea.”

I would like to go away on Sunday morning to the heart of some great solemn wood.




When Lucy Maud Montgomery created Anne Shirley, she contributed a memorable character to the rich literature of orphans: Jane Eyre, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn, along with Dickens’s Oliver Twist, David Copperfield, and Pip of Great Expectations. Each of these children is tested again and again by cruel adults and brutal circumstances, yet each manages to triumph over adversity, and see and shape a kinder world along the way. Anne Shirley’s situation follows a similar storyline—a young girl without family or friends, bounced from one bad situation to another, and then sent, unwanted, to a grim and crowded orphanage. By an odd stroke of luck, she finds herself en route to Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island, in response to Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert’s request for a child to help with the work of their farm. Though not the boy the brother and sister had expected, once there, Anne proves wildly successful at winning over her detractors and does so in a way that sets her apart from the other literary orphans. While the English moors, the Mississippi River, and the London underbelly are integral to their respective novels, Anne’s relationship with the land of Prince Edward Island soon proves to be a critical source of inner strength.

As in the novels that preceded it, the strong draw of Anne’s story is due as much to the orphan’s charisma as to the setting where it takes place—in her case, the wooded paths, the orchards in bloom, the fields stretching out toward the sea. But the lasting gift of Anne of Green Gables is how the landscape also fuels Anne’s prodigious imagination; it’s where she goes when she needs sustenance; it’s the example she’ll hold onto for what is beautiful, what is possible. Anne’s creator, Maud Montgomery, makes this abundantly clear in the ways she writes about the natural world. In such passages, her writing soars, every sentence imbued with the kind of sensory detail that could only be rendered by someone who knew the scenes intimately and loved all she found there. In giving Anne such a connection to Avonlea, Montgomery reveals the way place can fire the imagination, and imagination, in turn, is what enables a skinny red-haired girl not only to survive but to thrive. It’s no wonder that so many people associate the landscape of Prince Edward Island with transformative, nurturing power.

In the journals she kept throughout her life, Maud Montgomery reveals so many similar experiences to those of Anne Shirley that much of the novel appears to be autobiographical. Even so, she insists that Anne was not 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. I have used real places and speeches freely but I have never put any person I knew into my books.” Yet her journals suggest that she is overlooking the most significant influence, for it’s clear that the life that most shaped the beloved Anne is the author’s own; she herself was the inspiration for the spirited girl whom readers came to love.

I put my arm around a lichened old spruce and laid my cheek against its rough side—it seemed like an old friend.


Prince Edward Island wheat fields, spruces, and fir trees. “There is no spot on earth more lovely,” Montgomery wrote of the island, on December 11, 1890.

Montgomery may have believed that Anne’s characteristics were different enough from her own to deflect a sense of personal story—Anne’s particularly awful childhood (the author was never in an orphanage), the curse of red hair (the author’s was brown), kindly elders to raise her (the author’s were not), and the letter “e” as part of her name (“I never liked Lucy as a name,” Montgomery writes in her journal. “I always liked Maud—spelled not ‘with an e’ if you please.”). And she may have believed that other, obvious similarities lacked significance—both had potted geraniums named “Bonny”; both had the same names for their favorite haunts (the Lake of Shining Waters, Lover’s Lane, the Haunted Wood, the Birch Path); both had the same imaginary friends reflected in clear glass—Katie Maurice, Violetta; and both lived with women who were known for their red currant wine.

Or perhaps Montgomery did see the common themes of their lives but chose never to admit that to anyone, including herself.

When I am asked if Anne herself is a “real person” I always answer “no” with an odd reluctance and an uncomfortable feeling of not telling the truth. For she is and always has been, from the moment I first thought of her, so real to me that I feel I am doing violence to something when I deny her an existence anywhere save in Dreamland . . . She is so real that, although I’ve never met her, I feel quite sure I shall do so some day—perhaps in a stroll through Lover’s Lane in the twilight—or in the moonlit Birch Path—I shall lift my eyes and find her, child or maiden, by my side. And I shall not be in the least surprised because I have always known she was somewhere.

In ways that matter most to readers of the novel, that “somewhere” resides solidly within the author’s very being. Like Anne Shirley, Maud Montgomery valued the imagination almost as much as life itself. Like Anne, she deliberately chose to emphasize beauty—desiring, always, both to see it and to make it. And perhaps most important, like Anne, she found solace and sustenance in the natural world. The love they express for Prince Edward Island—its farms and forests, its flowers and fields, its past and its people—has imprinted the region on the novel’s readers, allowing us to believe that, in a place of extraordinary beauty, we, too, can learn to access the best parts of ourselves.

Late summer goldenrod (Solidago species)

MAUD MONTGOMERY WAS BORN in the town of Clifton (now New London), Prince Edward Island, in November 1874; twenty-one months later, she lost her mother, Clara Woolner Macneill Montgomery, to tuberculosis. Shortly afterward, her father, Hugh John Montgomery, joined the migration of families from Prince Edward Island to western Canada (a journey also taken by Gilbert Blythe’s father), leaving two-year-old Maud in Cavendish with his wife’s parents, Alexander and Lucy Macneill. Though she and her father corresponded, Maud would not see him again until she was nine, when he returned to Prince Edward Island for several months. At age twelve, when she learned that he was to be married, she was thrilled—“a real mother to love and be loved by!” She wrote her stepmother, Mary Ann McRae, adoring letters, enclosing pressed flowers gathered from her favorite places. “It gave me exquisite joy,” she wrote in her journal years later, “to search the woodlands until I found something I deemed perfect enough to offer her.” But her hopes were crushed when the two met. Her father’s new wife proved to be shallow, mean-spirited, and jealous of the young Maud’s hold on her husband’s affections, which left Maud as motherless as Anne, soon to return to Prince Edward Island to be raised by grandparents who shared none of her spirit or fire.

Hay bales in a field near Green Gables.

A rear view of the house that Maud Montgomery immortalized as Green Gables, home of her Macneill cousins, siblings David and Margaret, and later of Ernest Webb and his family; now the historic site visited annually by tourists.

The old homestead where Maud Montgomery lived with her grandparents, 1900; colorized by Montgomery in the 1920s.

But unlike Anne Shirley, Maud Montgomery had a large extended family on the island and her grandparents frequently housed boarders—relatives, summer visitors, teachers from the nearby school, the captain of the shipwrecked Marco Polo


  • “This book will be treasured by Montgomery’s legions of fans.” —Carolyn Strom Collins, author of The Anne of Green Gables Treasury; editor of After Many Years: Twenty-one “Long-Lost” Stories by L. M. Montgomery 

    “I love reading little bits about L. M. Montgomery that coincide with Anne’s life. . . . This will be a welcome keepsake in my home.” —Bridget Beth Collins, creator of Flora Forager

    “There’s something deeply satisfying about seeing gorgeous pictures of sunsets, shores, and gardens alongside snippets of Montgomery’s musical, flowery prose. Reid’s love letter to Anne of Green Gables, Montgomery, and Prince Edward Island is sure to delight. Anne enthusiasts will learn more about what inspired Montgomery, while nature lovers will find a kindred spirit in Reid, who clearly has a passion for all things green and growing.” —Booklist starred review

    “This is not just a book filled with beautiful photos; it’s a satisfyingly rich and layered combination of the visual and intellectual. Readers will gain a new appreciation not only for Montgomery but also for the landscape that meant so much to her.” —Library Journal

    “In L. M. Montgomery’s beloved book, Anne of Green Gables, Prince Edward Island, Canada, played a role that is arguably just as important as the series’ protagonist, Anne Shirley. Wanting to bring the island to life years later, author Catherine Reid explores the very places that inspired Montgomery and became immortalized in her prose.” —The Smithsonian Magazine

    “Evocative. . . . compelling. . . . The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables is a sweet book. . . for those who wish to take a visual journey through PEI or learn more about a beloved childhood book.” —NYBG’s Plant Talk

    “Wait until you see the real Prince Edward Island. This lush, vivid, and beautifully executed book takes you to all the storied locations. Having walked these in person, I can vouch for this book’s authenticity.” —Book Riot

    “Whether you read the Anne saga growing up (particularly popular with young girls) or are brainstorming now for a summer vacation jewel, this new The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables is certain to delight. Author Catherine Reid exuberantly jumped into Montgomery's archives—her journals, scrapbooks, photographs—to create this lush tribute to Montgomery, Green Gables and PEI. It is graced with positive quotes, poems and anecdotes; festooned with fascinating history; dressed in scores of images from yesteryear and today. . . . Reid herself deserves ample applause for this wet-kiss, well-crafted ode to all that makes Prince Edward Island and its most esteemed native resonate with readers and visitors. Oh, Canada!” —Forbes

    “For a book with so many gorgeous pictures, it is also a delightful read. Reid’s writing never feels like it’s merely ‘copy’ used to occupy space between photos. This book is every bit an illuminating biography of L.M. Montgomery as it is an environmentally minded photo-history of Prince Edward Island.” —Citizen Times

    “A wonderful companion to L.M. Montgomery’s classic. . . . Montgomery’s love for the land and for gardening shines forth in this book.” —The Gettysburg Times

    “For readers looking for a deeper understanding of the book, the author, and how they both came together to create a timeless classic, this is a must-read. Filled with beautiful colour images and original illustrations from the book's 1908 edition, The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables is an easy, enjoyable read, but it is packed with much more fascinating information than your average coffee-table book. . . . readers are prompted to reflect on how the landscapes of their worlds speak to their own internal lives.” —The Cardinal Press

    “You will be immersed into the real locations that inspired her novels . . . Fans young and old will be delighted with this beautifully inspired book.” —The Tribune Chronicle 

    “If you are a lover of the Anne of Green Gable books, you must read The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables. . . . Reid’s book is scholarly, yet has an intimacy that made me feel even more connected to both Montgomery and Anne Shirley.” —Cultivating Wonder

    “A beautiful book!” —The Shining Scroll of the L.M Montgomery Literary Society

    "Liberally sprinkled with quotes from Montgomery's books and journals...filled with beautiful photographs."—The Greenfield Recorder


On Sale
Mar 27, 2018
Page Count
280 pages
Timber Press

Catherine Reid

Catherine Reid

About the Author

Catherine Reid has taught at a number of different schools, most recently at Warren Wilson College, in Asheville, North Carolina, where she served as director of the creative writing program and specialized in creative nonfiction and environmental writing. In addition to two works of nonfiction, Falling into Place and Coyote, she has published essays in such journals as the Georgia Review, Fourth Genre, Bellevue Literary Review, and Massachusetts Review. She has been a creative writing fellow at the American Antiquarian Society in Worcester, Massachusetts, and the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and has received fellowships in creative nonfiction from the North Carolina Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts. She lives and gardens in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Learn more about this author