“The world calls them its singers and poets and artists and storytellers; but they are just people who have never forgotten the way to fairyland.”
--- L.M. Montgomery
A friend once told me that I was “a little bit of an Anne Shirley", but “with that Italian woman flair."
While I have yet to break a slate over someone's head, we are both wide-eyed, expressive dreamers. I was delighted to find someone in literature with not only the same sense of hopeless romanticism, but similar ambitions. And yet I found that such a connection was not limited to the character, but far more encompassing.
As a newly published author, I fondly recall the world of Anne of Green Gables and count Lucy Maud Montgomery among my greatest literary inspirations. Through her books, I found a kindred spirit . . . and I think that was important for me to have, both as a young girl and an aspiring writer. No author---before or since---has ever expressed so perfectly what it is like to be a dreamer. Additionally, I have always been captivated by the world to which L.M. Montgomery manages to bring readers without allowing them to leave their own world. Her books are realistic fiction at its very best, precisely because they are filled with such imaginative insight. The lyricism with which she weaved her stories has a depth and beauty to it that is unmatched. There is no writer with whom she may be compared. She is truly one of the greats.
While it may be said that the Anne books formed an important part of my childhood, the Emily of New Moon trilogy was equally significant. I could always relate to the girl of Green Gables, and yet, despite my talkative and dramatic side, I was less outgoing than Anne. As I continued to read Lucy Maud's books in my teen years, I found another kindred spirit in Emily Byrd Starr, the quieter writer-heroine. The Emily books may not be as well known as the Anne ones, but they are equally beautiful and profound.
"Jonathan truly brought to life the dichotomy of Gil's teasing, sweet ways"
And, yet, it is not simply the “kindred spirit” main characters that remain indelibly imprinted in my mind. Truly, who may be compared to such strong, colorful characters as Rachel Lynde and Great Aunt Josephine? They have L.M. Montgomery’s distinctive mark. And who captures your heart in the same way as the beloved characters of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, Aunt Elizabeth and Cousin Jimmy? They cannot be replaced. Who defines friendship better than Diana Barry and Ilse Burnley? And how many literary heroes are as noteworthy as Gilbert Blythe and Teddy Kent? On a personal note, Gilbert Blythe became one of my favorite characters of all time . . . and no one could have portrayed him better than Jonathan Crombie. The two are so interconnected due to his mastery of the role. Jonathan truly brought to life the dichotomy of Gil's teasing, sweet ways, and legions of fans will always be grateful to him for it. He will be missed.
Without the influence of Lucy Maud Montgomery, it is difficult to say what my debut novel I Thirst would have been like. The lighthouse connection, so ingrained in its storyline and themes, would likely have been absent. As a child, I had fallen in love with the mystery and romance of lighthouses due to the TV show Avonlea, based on the world that Lucy Maud created and inspired by some of her books. Likewise, the Anne films defined my childhood. To this day, Anne of Green Gables and Anne of Avonlea remain my top two favorite movies of all time. They captured the spirit and essence of Lucy Maud's world so beautifully, in a way rarely seen in book-to-movie translation. To watch them now brings a wave of nostalgia, but one that is not rooted exclusively in the past.
It feels more like . . . coming home.
As Anne Shirley once said, "True friends are always together in spirit."