Looking for Anne:
An authoritative and surprising biography of
the world’s most beloved redhead.
Looking for Anne

Canadian Edition
U.S. Edition
 By Irene Gammel
Key Porter (CND), St. Martin’s (US), 2008

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Critical Praise
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Reading Guide
Little Known Facts
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"Looking for Anne takes a bold new look at Anne of Green Gables. If you have loved
Anne of Green Gables and wonder how the novel came about, I recommend that you read
Irene Gammel’s book."
Kate Macdonald Butler (L. M. Montgomery’s granddaughter)


By any standards, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is a stunning success. Published in 1908 (and not once out of print), Anne has sold more than 50 million copies, been translated into more than 17 languages (including Braille), and become the focus of international conferences devoted to its interpretation. Anne has remained, as Matthew sings in the musical, ‘forever young,’ no small feat for the spunky, in-your-face redhead who, in 2008, celebrates her 100th birthday!

But why Anne? How does Montgomery’s classic work pull so many international readers into the vortex of Anne’s freckled face and carrotty braids? How does this little book create such enduring interest around the world? The answer is far more intriguing than any story even Anne could have imagined. In her journal, Maud’s quick pen would froth up the tiniest details of her life into dramatic events, but that same pen never revealed a word about Anne until years later. As a result, the novel’s secrets have remained sealed for over a century.

Looking for Anne is the untold story of a literary classic and a writer who found inspiration in many places including the popular images of the era, such as beauty icons, fashion plates, and advertisements; a writer who quietly quarried her material from American mass market periodicals; who consciously imitated formula fiction to create marketable stories for juvenile periodicals, religious newspapers, and glamorous women’s magazines and who ultimately, in the storm that brewed up the novel, also transcended these influences to create a twentieth-century literary classic that would conquer the world.

Blending biography with cultural history, penetrating and uncensored, this is the definitive book on Anne of Green Gables. Looking for Anne captures both the spirit of Marilla’s critical probing for ‘bald facts’ and Anne’s belief in the infinite power of the imagination. It is a must-read for anyone who has ever fallen under the spell of Anne with an ‘e.’

RIGHTS SOLD: Canada: Key Porter; United States: St. Martin’s
STATUS: Manuscript available (publication CND April 1, 2008; US July 8, 2008)
AGENT: Hilary McMahon, Westwood Creative Artists: 416-964-3302


IRENE GAMMEL is the Canada Research Chair in Modern Literature and Culture at Ryerson University in Toronto. In addition to numerous works on Montgomery, in 2002 she published the biography Baroness Elsa, which sold internationally, was critically acclaimed, and was selected as one of the Top 25 Books of the Year by The Village Voice.

Read the NEWSWEEK article, “It’s Still Not Easy Being Green: ‘Anne of Green Gables’ turns 100 this year but she’s the most modern girl in the bookstores”
Click here for more information on the author and for author interview

Click here for an audio interview on Looking for Anne.

Praise for Looking for Anne 

To celebrate Anne’s centennial, there are two new reissues of the original book, yearlong celebrations on Prince Edward Island (where the story is set) and, for those who can’t get enough, two prequels.
Perhaps the most interesting addition, however, is Irene Gammel’s “Looking for Anne of Green Gables,” a well-researched... dual biography of Anne and her creator. Much has been written about Anne’s enduring appeal, by academics and critics debating her proto-feminist status or unpacking her influence on children’s literature. Less known is her genesis, and it’s this ‘perfect storm of inspiration’ reconstructed by Gammel. 
— New York Times Review (click here for the full review, "Chick-Lit Pioneer")

Looking for Anne of Green Gables dismantles the legend [of how Anne was born] exhaustively and lovingly. Gammel’s conclusion, that Anne Shirley was created as a kind of sacred repository for all of Montgomery’s fondest memories, is compelling and surprisingly moving.

Looking for Anne will captivate those interested in the behind-the-scenes of Montgomery’s breakthrough novel. A highly readable, top-rate study that [provides] a new spin on Montgomery’s text.

Globe and Mail (click here for the full article, "Eternally Anne")

Anne fans may be startled and delighted to discover that...the name ‘Green Gables’ may have been inspired by the name of Grover Cleveland’s summer White House at Cape Cod in Massachusetts named ‘Gray Gables’. From page 158 of Irene Gammel’s new book Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed up a Literary Classic
— The National Post

When it comes to looking for the origins of Anne of Green Gables, Ontario author Irene Gammel has been searching in all the right places. Fascinating findings have come to light in “Looking for Anne: How Lucy Maud Montgomery Dreamed Up a Literary Classic.” This book, published by Key Porter, is the first to explore the real story behind the imaginary Anne.
The Guardian (Click here to read the full article “New book uncovers the surprising truths behind the creation of the classic character Anne of Green Gables”)

Looking for Anne is a painstaking and intriguing look at how Anne came to life; her red hair and freckles, her yearning for a new name, for puffed sleeves, pussy cats and a "bosum" friend ... Gammel’s richly detailed, thoughtful treatise on the phenomenon of Anne is a book most Montgomery fans will want to own.
— The London Free Press (Click here to read the entire review)

Irene Gammel is a cross between an inspired forensic detective and a quilt maker. In her newest work, Looking for Anne, Gammel brings intuition, perseverance, years of research and a detective’s detail to investigate the creation of the Canadian literary classic, Anne of Green Gables. Then, having found startling new facts, Gammel weaves many disparate and fascinating pieces of information into an insightful and compelling biography of a book and of its author. Gammel has vastly enlarged our understanding of the creative process that fueled the conception and making of Anne of Green Gables. Thankfully she takes away none of the magic of Anne — in fact, she brings Anne closer to us.

Halifax Chronicle Herald (Click here to read the entire review)


Noted biographer Irene Gammel brings us Looking for Anne (Key Porter Books), a brilliantly researched, in-depth and charming biography on both Lucy Maud Montgomery and her Titian-haired creation. [The book] brings us more than a few surprises.

January Magazine

Looking for Anne (…) sets out to uncover the [mystery] of how the novel and the character came into being. … a meticulously researched and referenced work, [tracing] the path of the intensely private Montgomery’s life and character in conjunction with the "bends in the road" that brought Anne to life...

 — National Post

Gammel brings a sure hand to the massive task of combining a study of contemporary culture, biography and the raw material that led to the creation of Canada’s best-known heroine.
Ottawa Citizen

Looking for Anne… (explores) the fascinating inspiration Montgomery found in the myriad of current magazines and journals that made their way into her hands via the desk of her grandmother, the town postmistress.

Quill and Quire

I am truly amazed at the depth and scope of the research for this project and book. Looking for Anne opens a person’s eyes to a whole world we don’t often think about or see. This book is a gift for all the more mature women out there discovering the real Lucy Maud Montgomery and her passions in life at that time period.  
Dawn Falls, Norval  

Looking for Anne is a very important addition to serious L.M. Montgomery scholarship.
Mary Henley Rubio, Co-editor, The Selected Journals of L.M. Montgomery

"Looking for Anne is a fascinating and wonderful book. It brings forward an amazing wealth of new information, filling in many gaps (some of which I didn’t even know existed!), and is presented in a captivating narrative that is very well organized and a great read. The research is fabulous. It’s rather like the Road to Xanadu.
” Carole Gerson, Simon Fraser University and co-editor of History of the Book in Canada

"... The material is incredible, the interpretive work unsurpassable. "
— Holly Virginia Blackford, Rutgers University-Camden.

Read The Barris Beat article, “The star in our backyard”, Oct. 25/07

 Read this review of Looking for Anne on Suite101.com

Letters from Anne fans
I really enjoyed your book Looking for Anne of Green Gables.  I have been an Anne fan for 40 years, since I was 11.  Your research was fascinating and prompted another reading of Anne of Green Gables.
Laura Hanaford, San Clemente, CA USA

Reading Guide for Book Clubs and Students

Questions for Discussion

  1. How does Looking for Anne challenge the conventional wisdom about a beloved children’s classic?
  2. To what extent were Maud’s mother’s early death and her distanced relationship with her father responsible for the trajectory of her writing?
  3. Why did the bosom friends play such a central role in Anne of Green Gables? How do they affect us today?

    For a full set of questions click here.

Little Known Facts

Millions of people know Anne of Green Gables, but how the novel came about has remained a mystery. Looking for Anne peels away the many layers of the mystery and assembles the pieces of the puzzle. Novelists and filmmakers have imagined how Anne came about, but Looking for Anne is the first book to trace the real story of what went into the making of this literary classic. The book’s many discoveries will surprise the Anne readers around the world. It is the definitive story of the making of a world renowned literary classic.

Here are a few newsworthy highlights:

1.Looking for Anne dramatically changes the way we think about Canada’s most beloved literary icon. The book challenges author Lucy Maud Montgomery’s own assertion that Anne was born in a flash, revealing that the character was the result of a complex evolution, which in turn resulted in Anne’s dynamic and multi-layered personality.

2. The book uncovers a stunning new cast of characters embedded in Anne of Green Gables, including colorful New York model Evelyn Nesbit and a group of secret Anns, including ‘Charity Ann’ and ‘Lucy Ann,’ that Maud used to create her character but whose existence she never revealed to her fans. For the first time, readers will be able to meet the Anns without the e and be able to appreciate how much Anne is the result of a slow imaginative distillation.

3. The book takes Anne off of the Island and documents that the character and novel were sparked not just by Cavendish apple blossoms, but by the glossy cosmopolitan magazines of Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Toronto. Looking for Anne traces the author’s rare clues through the Victorian and Edwardian popular magazines to excavate the surprising evidence that is missing in the author’s journals, scrapbooks, and letters.

4.Looking for Anne offers a frank and uncensored portrait of an enigmatic and secretive writer, unraveling for the first time, Maud’s sideways ways of telling the truth, of truncating and evading the truth, of telling the convenient truths only.

5. The book traces, for the first time, the intricate architecture of Green Gables and its mysterious relationship to the old Macneill homestead, while also revealing the extent to which Maud fused Cavendish landmarks with global influences to create memorable fictional sites that draw hundreds of thousands of tourists to Cavendish each year.

6. As the authoritative biography of Maud at the time of writing Anne, the book penetrates the murkiest areas of Maud’s life including her bosom friends, and her sexuality, to show how they fuelled the emotions that gave birth to Anne. The book puts the magnifying glass on the years from 1903 to 1908 to reveal how the birth of Anne coincided with the most fateful decisions of Maud’s life.

7. Researched and written by a leading scholar, the book offers ground-breaking research along with rare photography, and unpublished manuscripts collected in archives and private collections across North America.

 (click here for the full review, "Chick-Lit Pioneer").