PEI may be the home of Confederation, juicy oysters and tasty lobsters, but even the most jaded travellers spend a couple of hours paying homage to Anne of Green Gables. The heart-warming tale of a red-haired, pigtailed orphan girl that Mark Twain dubbed the “most lovable childhood heroine since the immortal Alice” has become a phenomenal worldwide sensation since it was published in 1908, and the vivid descriptions of rural PEI, handsomely captured in the 1985 TV miniseries has undeniably inspired many a trip here. Thousands of Japanese tourists visit every year; the book has been on school curricula there since the 1950s and remains extremely popular.
Many visitors find it hard to separate the fictional life of Anne Shirley and the real life of her creator Lucy Maud Montgomery, one of Canada’s best-selling authors. In 1876, when Montgomery was just 2, her mother died and her father migrated to Saskatchewan, leaving her in the care of her grandparents in Cavendish. Here she developed a deep love for her native island and its people, and although she spent the last half of her life in Ontario, PEI remained the main inspiration for her work. Completed in 1905 and published three years later (after being rejected five times), Anne of Green Gables remains her most popular book. Today, many Islanders remain conflicted over her legacy, hating the commercialization of the novel but deeply proud of the author’s success.