All about Anne
Lisa Doucet was just six-and-a-half years old when she received a boxed set of the first three books in the Anne Of Green Gables series by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Already a passionate and voracious young reader, the gift sparked a life-long connection to the author and all things Anne. From that first introduction and the discovery that there were more books by L.M. Montgomery, she’s made it her personal goal to collect them all.
“My collection is very broad and it includes more than books,” says Doucet. “I have my Anne of Green Gables dolls, my Anne of Green Gables figurines, things that speak of Anne to me. I have an Anne dress collection that I’m working on, dresses to match a particular series of book covers. The collection is very wide-ranging. But, of course, it began with and is most importantly books.”
Despite a massive purge of her personal library, Doucet brought 127 boxes of books with her when she moved house last May. Over 20 of those boxes held her L.M. Montgomery collection.
Within her larger category of books, she has subcategories of book collections. Books about Montgomery specifically, for example, where some of those books may be a collection of women authors from Canada with even just a section about Montgomery within.
Doucet also collects different editions of the 1908 classic Anne of Green Gables.
“At one time in my life, I had aspired toward collecting every edition ever published of Anne,” she says. “That is a very daunting task.”
Nonetheless, Doucet collects as many different editions of Anne as possible.
“I also collect early editions of Montgomery’s books. I do try to collect as many of the different covers through the years of all her different books as possible.”
One of the most satisfying and exciting aspects of the collection, according to Doucet, is her editions of Anne of Green Gables in other languages. This was inspired by a display at the visitor’s information centre in Cavendish many years ago.
“They had a small area, maybe one cabinet. It was enclosed and it featured different editions of Anne from various countries of the world. Looking at the cover art, I was commenting on how it is so fascinating to see how different countries imagine Anne. It made me think, 'Ooh, this would be interesting and fun to collect'.”
Doucet says she’s had young friends point out to her she could just order editions in other languages online.
“That never felt like it was in keeping with the spirit of the collection. The way I wanted to do it was so that each book would have a story," she said. "That it would come to me in some way that made it special. Every book in that collection has come from someone who visited somewhere or somehow wanted to make it a point to find a book to add to my collection. I have some really heartwarming stories from that collection.” Doucet has received editions in Hebrew, Hungarian, Greek, Italian, French, Danish, Swedish, and a Dutch version of Anne of Avonlea from friends who have travelled near and far.
“All of the other aspects, collections within the larger collection are books that I get myself, that I acquire,” says Doucet. “Certainly, some of them have been presents from people who know of my collection, and those are special too.”
When it comes to her collection, Doucet says there are no rules.
“This is all entirely personal. This is all for me. It’s extremely important to me that everything related to Montgomery is first and foremost for pleasure," she explains. "That it never feels like a work thing, that I’m doing it because it’s required. It always has to be just for me.”
Over the last 23 years, Doucet has had the added benefit of working in a bookstore, immersed in the book world. She is currently the co-manager at Woozles, Canada’s oldest children’s bookstore in Halifax.
“If it’s an English edition of Anne, or a book about Montgomery, I can get it. Sometimes publishers, knowing of my collection, will ensure I get a copy. That’s lovely, too, but they don’t have the same kinds of stories that my Anne’s in other languages do.”
Lori Cheverie is the manager at Bookmark bookstore in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, the land of Anne. She’s been bosom buddies with Doucet for nearly 20 years. She says she’s not sure if she’s helped Doucet on her quest, but has certainly enabled her.
“Every second year, the Montgomery Institute has an international conference. Lisa has come over on her own free time to help us with that because we do the book sales," Cheverie explained.
"While she’s there, she gets to meet other Montgomery scholars and listen to lectures. They have a silent auction that sometimes has some rare Montgomery items or Anne-related items that have helped her with her Montgomery collection.”
Cheverie says she keeps her eyes peeled for certain editions she knows Doucet is on the hunt for.
“When Lisa is passionate about something, she is very passionate about something,” says Cheverie. “That’s just Lisa as a whole. All the messages that are in Montgomery’s writing are in Lisa. The friendships, love of nature, love of books, love of reading, relationships. That’s just Lisa. She’s from the pages herself, really.”
Doucet says no other book has felt as personal and as meaningful to her as the Anne books have.
“I don’t even know if I identified with Anne, or I wanted to identify with her,” says Doucet. “I admired her.”
Like Anne’s love for her home of Avonlea, Doucet’s special place is Cheticamp, N.S., where her family is from.
“What Avonlea meant to her spoke to my heart of what my home meant to me. And even though my family situation was very different than hers, the importance of family to me, and the importance of family in a very different way to Anne and to Montgomery, those things just really powerfully affected me,” says Doucet.
“Although there are other books that I loved and wanted to have on my bookcase, it was never a question that those books and later that author were special in a way that nothing else was.”
Doucet says she is only one example of thousands of people out there who have found a connection with Montgomery’s work.
“In the same way that for me it is very personal, for so many others they have their own personal connection. Which might be different than mine but is no less important and meaningful to them. I don’t think there will ever be an end to the days in which people respond to her work and in doing so it means there will always be more coming out, either about her or about her characters.”
As Cheverie points out, “our whole tourism industry here has been centered around her. I’ve been told we’re the only ones with a Montgomery section. It’s not just Montgomery’s writings, it’s writings about Montgomery as well. If it’s in print we try to have it.”
Doucet says there will be no end to her collection.
“If I were ever so lucky as to be able to say I have one edition of Anne in every language that’s ever been published, I’ve managed to acquire every English language edition that’s ever been published, there's always going to be some other aspect that I could explore. It’s the joy of adding to this collection," she says.
"The pure, personal joy of it that’s driving me to do it. Normally, I’m a very goal-oriented individual and I want to know this is what I’m working towards. This is the only example I can think of in my life of something that I consciously made sure has no particular end. Because I don't want it to end. I want it to be this forever.”
You should never judge a book by its cover, but coordinating your outfit is cool for this avid fan Anne of Green Gables.
A few years back, Tundra Books, Canada’s oldest children’s book publishers, released two new series of books with new cover art - all eight Anne books and three Emily books by L.M. Montgomery. The hardcover editions have stylized covers.
At the time, Doucet says, Tundra was doing a blog called Fashion Friday.
“They did a post featuring those book covers, each side-by-side a dress that matched the cover. Everyone in the universe who knows me forwarded that blog post to me," she said.
"Of course, the first thing I did was click on every one of those dresses to see if I could order them. I could not.”
It inspired Doucet to start her own collection.
“I have been, over the years, trying to acquire dresses that in some way to me, when you hold them up alongside those book covers, they represent or they match those book covers.”
Sweet Pea Boutique in Halifax, N.S. is the source of many of the dresses in Doucet’s collection.
“I actually brought Joey [the boutique’s owner] a copy of the poster with all those book covers and she has it posted out back. As she gets new shipments, she’s able to look and pick out dresses that might match.”
While Doucet does not crack the spine of a new book, her coordinated dresses are lovingly worn—and flaunted.