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‘Summer in the Land of Anne’ 25 years in the making, based on sisters’ experiences

Carolyn Epperly and Elizabeth “Betsy” Epperly display the book they wrote and illustrated together, prior to the book launch at UPEI on May 2.
Carolyn Epperly and Elizabeth “Betsy” Epperly display the book they wrote and illustrated together, prior to the book launch at UPEI on May 2. - Katie Smith

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. - Twenty-five years ago, Elizabeth and Carolyn Epperly’s mother fell ill.

Looking for a way to cheer their mother up, the women merged their talents.

“We wanted to have a creative project to kind of bring her spirits up,” Elizabeth said. “So, I wrote a story with the idea that Carolyn would illustrate it.”

Elizabeth “Betsy” Epperly, professor emerita at UPEI and a well-known and respected L.M. Montgomery scholar, was living on the Island at the time, so her sister and niece came up to take photographs that Carolyn would later paint.

She painted a couple of pictures, and soon after, their mother got well and the project was shelved.

Last summer, after someone asked about the book, Elizabeth dug it out.

She made a few revisions, found pictures from the paintings her sister had produced all those years before and brought it to a publisher.

“She called me and goes, ‘Guess what?’” Carolyn said laughing, adding she was then tasked with completing the remainder of the 16 water colours, which she said took a while because her style had changed over the years.

“I probably did four or five of some of these until I finally got to the point where I was satisfied.”

“Summer in the Land of Anne”, dedicated to their mother and father, is the story of two sisters from Virginia, aged six and 11.

“Because of Montgomery, my sister became a writer, I became an artist but my poor brother, who just fell asleep every time the book was open, became an attorney.”
-Carolyn Epperly


At a glance

  • “Summer in the Land of Anne”, published by Acorn Press, is now available.
  • For more information, visit Acornpresscanada.com/book/summerland-anne

In the book, the girls’ mother reads them the story of “Anne of Green Gables”. One day, she takes them on a trip to Anne’s land, and they arrive on the Wood Islands ferry.

Once they go to the places L.M. Montgomery talks about in the books, they “have an epiphany about what reading and writing and imagining can mean”, Elizabeth told The Guardian prior to the book launch at UPEI on May 2.

The story isn’t a far stretch from reality.

The sisters grew up in Virginia, but it was their father who introduced them to Montgomery’s vivid imagination.

Described as a “very serious, sombre person”, their father took reading very seriously and read sophisticated literature to his children, including “Ivanhoe” and “David Copperfield”.

Then one day, he brought out the “Anne of Green Gables” series, Carolyn said.

“What really got me was the death of Matthew – my father cried,” she said. “He didn’t just have little tears, he cried. And I thought, ‘who’s this person? I got to find out who can make my father cry’. So, we all became hooked and addicted.”

However, it seemed it was only the two girls, and not their brother, who soaked up Montgomery’s words.

“Because of Montgomery, my sister became a writer, I became an artist but my poor brother, who just fell asleep every time the book was open, became an attorney,” Carolyn said laughing.

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