Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island

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In a sometimes forgotten nation, it’s fitting that a humble farmhouse in Cavendish — a hamlet of 94 people — inspires pilgrimages.

Green Gables is a modest dwelling treasured throughout much of the world, thanks to author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s stories. The Prince Edward Island native fashioned her intimate knowledge of this loving home, owned by elderly cousins, into the fictional setting for Anne of Green Gables and several popular sequels. A century later, Anne — an articulate, imaginative, spontaneous, red-headed orphan — still impresses children with her honesty and enthusiasm.

Wisely, Green Gables is nestled within the confines of Prince Edward Island National Park, so little has changed in the Victorian home immortalized by Montgomery. “Kindred spirits” can still amble down Lover’s Lane, or hazard a journey through the Haunted Woods.

My mother has always cherished Green Gables, remembering Anne’s infectious good humor as the perfect antidote for the realities of the Great Depression. Most Japanese share her passion. For Kumiko Azetsu — a sophisticated Japanese friend researching her PhD thesis at Dalhousie University — our Cavendish trip fulfilled a childhood dream. She spent an hour memorizing the house, every detail lovingly preserved, another hour absorbing the ambience.*

Like many tourist destinations, the island’s north shore has unwanted development. But the elongated 40-kilometre National Park is pristine, boasting lovely white sand beaches, red sandstone cliffs, secluded salt marshes, and thick woodland for the less bookish among us. In 1534, the natural beauty inspired French explorer Jacques Cartier to call the island “the fairest land ’tis possible to see.”

On a warm spring morning, sauntering among red sand dunes, it’s hard to disagree. But my island memories always begin and end with Green Gables. Stripped of symbolism, it’s a simple farmhouse, mildly diverting. But add literary emotion and meaning, and Green Gables becomes a small, enchanting cathedral honoring a fictional girl whose sweet disposition and indomitable spirit still resonate today.**

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* During this visit, Kumiko, my artistic friend Tom Ward, and I were interviewed by Princeton professor William Howarth for his book, Traveling the Trans-Canada: From Newfoundland to British Columbia for National Geographic. Amusingly, Kumiko comes across as brilliant and refined (and she truly is), but he suggests that we’re hardly the sharpest tools in the shed, and perhaps not very well read. “Not exactly literary chaps” might have been the phrase.

**We heading to PEI in September for my godson’s wedding. It will be Kristina’s first visit, and I’m truly looking forward to it.

Other stories in today’s My Town Monday series • US Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, CACannibal Rabbits? A Tale of Two Coffees

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8 Responses to Anne of Green Gables on Prince Edward Island

  1. Sarah Hina says:

    Lovely, Richard. I really enjoyed this step back into my own past. How many countless hours I spent with Anne at Green Gables, wandering those roads and woods.

    I have always wanted to visit PEI. And now I sort of have. Thanks for being our guide.

  2. Barrie Summy says:

    Visiting this house is one of my life goals. I LOVE Anne!!

  3. debra says:

    I’ve dreamed of visiting PEI for a very long time. Thank you for a lovely post.

  4. Will Howarth says:

    Dear Richard,

    What a long memory you have, and please forgive me if my account of our meeting gave any offense. Typically, I was given little space to write about experiences. That book was one of my last efforts for the NGS. I now write fiction and films with Anne Matthews, under the pen name of Dana Hand. Our first novel, DEEP CREEK, was listed by the Washington Post as a Best Novel of 2010. We are now at work on a novel about a safari trek in today’s east Africa. Best wishes to you and yours, from Will Howarth

  5. Richard says:

    Dr. Howarth:

    Oh, we took no offense at all because we were trying to tease Kumiko mercilessly, so we really were acting like fools! It was just hilarious to see it in print. Tom and I both laugh really hard at the memory, and so does Kumiko (who got married and settled in Halifax… I see her often).

  6. Jan Stanfield says:

    Love, love, LOVE! I sense a kindred spirit in ya, ol’ boy :)

  7. Susan W says:

    What makes Wuthering Heights an eternal classic and a favorite in many modern literary circles? While there is true Romance here it is no kitschy soap opera.
    Wuthering Heights for Kindle

  8. Susan W says:

    I really enjoyed this set and once on my kindle it was ever so useful to be able to jump to any book and any Chapter.
    Anne of Green Gables : Four Books In One Set

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