Today I am so very excited to share some great news with you. First, I have something new yet classic, old yet original to share with you. That’s exciting in and of itself.
Second, it’s quintessentially Canadian, which you know I love.
Third, it’s a book the world has been needing for a while: a scholarly yet readable copy of the original Anne of Green Gables quite aptly titled: Anne of Green Gables: The Original Manuscript, edited by Carolyn Strom Collins. (Note: The lovely people at Nimbus sent it to me to review, which I happily undertook to do on condition they knew I’d only review it if I liked it. They agreed, I loved the book, so here we are.)
So, what is this book?
This is a transcription of the original manuscript of Anne of Green Gables, with marginal notes, additions and deletions, etc., all noted carefully and clearly. It presents, in short, the text as it sprang from L.M. Montgomery’s mind, before she even settled on Diana’s name! If you think that books came into being as they are found on bookshelf walls, this book will challenge you. It will make you rethink how books happen, and it will give you a fresh appreciation for the editorial process.
This is a book written for people like me: passionate lovers of Anne of Green Gables and Lucy Maud Montgomery, especially ones with a strong love of manuscript history. That said, while it shows rigorous academic work and is meticulously edited by Carolyn Strom Collins, it is also both beautiful and accessible. Let me count the ways:
First, the introduction gives a coherent narrative of the manuscript history, how Montgomery worked, and why we should care about the manuscript.
Second, there is a beautifully clear guide to how to use the text in your hands. The guide to the symbols and notes Collins uses is presented at the front (not hidden at the back) makes the whole book usable by both academic readers and the rest of us.
Third, even if you want to ignore the marginal notes, the text itself is laid out nicely and readably so you can just scan the main text, only glancing at the margins if you really are curious.
Granted: I have been an academic for years. So I didn’t trust myself to judge clarity. I therefore trotted myself over to my local book shop to gloat– sorry, to lend the book shop people this book (I may also have gloated a bit, sorry, it’s a really special book and I was just so glad to have it!) and see what they thought.
The report was exactly as I thought: it is a smart book, yes, but it’s also transparent. It’s usable on many levels. You can flip through to find your favourite scenes and see how they evolved, or you can read from the beginning and meticulously follow the careful scholarly work that’s gone into it.
I highly recommend it as a gift for any lover of Anne. It does have a more “grown up” feel to it, as the presentation is distinctly suitable for a nice mahogany book shelf, but I think it’s understandable by any smart reader of Anne’s life (think how Anne herself would feel knowing she was in such a “grown up” book– and now think about a smart 12-year-old getting a lovely book like this!). It would be a great companion to House of Dreams, or is a lovely gift on its own.
So here’s that link again: but note that online it says it’s coming out in the USA on January 28.