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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Prince Edward Island: What Other Island is There?

“When I’m on Prince Edward Island in the summer I always understand an old Scotch Islander I met once in Winnipeg. He was always talking of ‘the Island.’ Somebody once asked him, ‘What island do you mean?’ He simply looked at that ignorant man. Then he said, ‘Why, Prince Edward Island, mon. What other island is there?’”

Lucy Maud Montgomery's Birthplace
Not many authors can claim to have single-handedly put their home on the map. But when most people hear the name Prince Edward Island, the first thing likely to come to their minds is Lucy Maud Montgomery. Her Anne of Green Gables series made her famous around the world and made Prince Edward Island one of the most beloved literary landmarks ever. Is there anyone who hasn’t longed to live in Avonlea after reading those books?

But Anne was by no means Montgomery’s only heroine to have an Island home—altogether, nineteen of her twenty novels were set on Prince Edward Island. Kilmeny of the Orchard, published in 1910, is also set in a country village by the sea, similar to the ones featured in the Anne series, and is filled with beautiful descriptions of the lush woods and farmland surrounding it:

The distant hills and wooded uplands were tremulous and aerial in delicate spring-time gauzes of pearl and purple. The young, green-leafed maples crowded thickly to the very edge of the road on either side, but beyond them were emerald fields basking in sunshine, over which cloud shadows rolled, broadened, and vanished. Far below the fields, a calm ocean slept bluely, and sighed in its sleep, with the murmur that rings forever in the ear of those whose good fortune it is to have been born within the sound of it.

Silver Bush Farm
After reading passages like that, it’s no wonder that so many of Montgomery’s readers wanted to go and see the Island for themselves. Ever since the publication of Anne of Green Gables—her first novel—in 1908, thousands of tourists have visited Prince Edward Island every year to enjoy the beautiful scenery and see the places that inspired Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books. Nearly every spot where she lived and worked has become a tourist attraction—her birthplace in New London, the Montgomery family farm that inspired ‘Ingleside,’ her aunt and uncle’s farm which she used as the setting for her novel Pat of Silver Bush, a parsonage where she boarded while teaching school, a one-room schoolhouse where she once taught, the manse where she lived after her marriage, and of course the Cavendish farmhouse that was the model for Green Gables, which is part of Prince Edward Island National Park.

It’s easy to see why she loved these beautiful spots! Her talent in capturing their charm on the page is such a big part of her books’ appeal. I know Prince Edward Island has always been on my list of places I’d love to visit someday because of it. (And a country farmhouse is my idea of a dream home!) Reading a book like Kilmeny of the Orchard which takes you to the Island in imagination for a little while is the next best thing to actually being there.

POSTED BY:  Elisabeth Grace Foley

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Kilmeny of the Orchard by Lucy Maud Montgomery
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