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Anthology book reimagines Anne of Green Gables in junior high, steampunk dystopia

Writer Hope Dalvay is pictured with an Anne of Green Gables doll as a child. Dalvay is one of several authors who contributed to the ANNEthology. (Source: Acorn Press) Writer Hope Dalvay is pictured with an Anne of Green Gables doll as a child. Dalvay is one of several authors who contributed to the ANNEthology. (Source: Acorn Press)
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Hope Dalvay, originally hailing from Prince Edward Island, spent several years living overseas before she eventually moved to Cape Breton. Like so many people from P.E.I., Dalvay was familiar with the story of Anne of Green Gables, but she was always surprised to see how far the tale of the spirited redhead travelled.

“I lived in Saudi Arabia and people asked where I’m from, and they would say, ‘Oh, Anne of Green Gables,’” Dalvay said. “It would shock me. I met a nurse from New Zealand who knew Anne of Green Gables.”

Dalvay first encountered Anne of Green Gables through a musical in Charlottetown. She soon read the books and became a lifelong fan. She said the secret to the books’ popularity is their ability to appeal to different people for different reasons.

“Some people like her imagination, some people like the love story with Gilbert, some people like that she makes mistakes,” Dalvay said. “A lot of people read Anne of Green Gables every year. I think It’s a comfort read for them.”

Dalvay and a group of fellow writers are taking their interpretations of Anne to a new level with an anthology (or rather “ANNEthology”) book that imagines the titular heroine in wildly different scenarios, genres, and settings.

“I thought what Anne would be like in junior high, would she fit in?” Dalvay said. “It’s a contemporary setting. I’m hoping people laugh when they read the story.

“I like writing with humour. With L.M. Montgomery’s novels, there’s a lot of humour, but I think people forget about it.”

The ANNEthology book is pictured. (Source: Acorn Press)

Judith Graves, who pitched the idea for the anthology, first became a self-described “big Anne nerd and fan” when the Kevin Sullivan-directed television films based on the books came out in the 1980s. In 2013 she submitted a story about Anne in a steampunk dystopia to a contest and won.

“It was always simmering away in my mind,” she said. “I wrangled author friends and I pitched the idea to Acorn Press and here we are. I sought out authors I knew were super talented and would take Anne to new places. They weren’t purists.

“I was thrilled they were able to take it where they did.”

Deirdre Kessler, who has taught a course on L.M. Montgomery at the University of Prince Edward Island, decided to write a story about a character like Anne, but without one of her defining features.

“Anne is very articulate and verbose, she talks a mile a minute,” Kessler said. “I figured I’d have a character who couldn’t or wouldn’t speak. I thought that’d be a good character. I set her in the not too distant past of P.E.I.”

Kessler thinks L.M. Montgomery’s books have deeply resonated with millions of people because of her ability to tap into the psychology of childhood.

“L.M. Montgomery created a character who understands beauty, who understands the essence of loneliness, and a character who embodies that human curiosity and delight,” Kessler said.

Susan White, who wrote an Anne story in a modern setting, said the books touch on important issues that still impact people today.

"As I was developing as a young woman, L.M. Montgomery had written each stage for Anne," she said. "In a lot of ways it mirrored her development. She’s still very timely. I think the struggle is still there to find your voice."

The authors of the ANNEthology book are pictured. (Source: Acorn Press)

Graves said she moved to different towns a lot as a child so she found a personal connection to Anne’s story of finding your place in a new environment.

“There was the new kid syndrome and that’s what Anne embodied for me,” Graves said. “She was boldly herself, she wasn’t afraid to be smart and quirky. It’s a universal theme of belonging and finding your people and being true to yourself.”

The other authors for the book include:

  • Paul Coccia
  • Matthew Dawkins
  • Natahsa Deen
  • Shari Green
  • Mere Joyce
  • Susie Moloney

The ANNEthology: A Collection of Kindred Spirits Inspired by the Canadian Icon” is available for purchase online. There will be a book launch at The Guild in Charlottetown at 7 p.m. on June 23.

For more Prince Edward Island news visit our dedicated provincial page.

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