Anne of Green Gables (Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island)
– L. M. Montgomery
“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
I love this book. I used to watch the miniseries starring Megan Follows all the time growing up, but recently realized I’d never actually read the book (or any of the sequels). While I was in Michigan this Christmas, visiting my sister, I went into a little general store and saw the box set of the first three (and most popular) Anne novels (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island) for something like $3, and bought them. And immediately fell in love the moment I started reading (well, once I hit the second chapter, as the first is kind of dry).
For those who don’t know, Anne is an eleven-year-old orphan girl (again with the 11 year old orphans!) who mistakenly gets sent to Prince Edward Island to live with the aged Cuthbert siblings. I say mistakenly because Matthew and Marilla had asked for a boy, but with the arrival of Anne and her quick tongue and charming imagination, the Cuthberts soon fell in love with this redheaded orphan. Anne changes the world around her, and falls into one scrape as fast as she can recover from the one before, but she is a delight to read. I found myself laughing often while reading, and my dozens of watching of the movie allowed me to remember the scenes and the humor in them. One of my favorites is when Marilla first asks her name:
“Will you please call me Cordelia?” she asked eagerly.
“Call you Cordelia! Is that your name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia. It’s such a perfectly elegant name.”
“I don’t know what on earth you mean. If Cordelia isn’t your name, what is?”
“Anne Shirley,” reluctantly faltered forth the owner of that name, “but oh, please do call me Cordelia. It can’t matter much to you what you call me if I’m only going to be here a little while, can it? And Anne is such an unromantic name.”
“Unromantic fiddlesticks!” said the unsympathetic Marilla. “Anne is a real good plain sensible name. You’ve no need to be ashamed of it.”
“Oh, I’m not ashamed of it,” explained Anne, “only I like Cordelia better. I’ve always imagined that my name was Cordelia – at least, I always have of late years. When I was young I used to imagine it was Geraldine, but I like Cordelia better now. But if you call me Anne please call me Anne spelled with an e.”
“What difference does it make how it’s spelled?” asked Marilla with another rusty smile as she picked up the teapot.
“Oh, it makes such a difference. It looks so much nicer. When you hear a name pronounced can’t you always see it in your mind, just as if it was printed out? I can; and A-n-n looks dreadful, but A-n-n-e looks so much more distinguished. If you’ll only call me Anne spelled with an e I shall try to reconcile myself to not being called Cordelia.”
A lot about Anne reminds me of myself growing up. Looks-wise, I resemble Diana Barry, Anne’s bosom friend, much more than skinny, freckly Anne, but personality-wise, it’s closer to Anne. Like Anne, I have a sharp imagination and a fast tongue. While I’m not an orphan or donned with red hair, I grew up in a broken home and had issues with my curly (brown) hair… not to mention, my middle name is Anne (spelled with an e), after my Grandmother, and I, too, wanted to be called many a different name other than my own. (See the Wendy incident?)
Published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables transports the modern reader back to late 19th century Canada, where there weren’t telephones, much less computers, iPods, cars, or any of the modern conveniences. Life was simple, and entertainment relied on tea parties, calling on neighbors, books, sewing, and imagination. Readers learn what it was like to be poor with only one’s imagination to make up for the short sticks dealt in life, as well as the beauty of childhood and growing up.
The two sequels – Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island – follow Anne as she begins to grow up a bit. The first sees her taking over the Avonlea school, the second follows her at Redmond College and focuses a bit more on her love life (and failure to realize it) than the two previous installments. Although Anne has matured, she still searches desperately for “kindred spirits” and must grapple growing up and watching her friends grow up without her. She also faces the shattering of many of her childhood ideals as she enters the “real world” we cannot escape from forever. As I read her bitter inner turmoil regarding the lack of romance, I saw myself once more in Anne. Anne of Green Gables is about childhood, youth, and imagination; the two sequels are about holding onto that while the world tells you to let it go.
The Anne series is a total of eight books, but I think I’ll stop at three. I read the synopses of the later books and was afraid of losing my dear Anne to adulthood. The first three end at the turning point of the next chapter of Anne’s life, and I find it a perfect ending to the story; any more would just be frivolous.
The front of my book claims Anne is “The most beloved, beguiling and timeless heroine in all of fiction,” and I must wholeheartedly agree.
And, oh, Gilbert! (…swoon…) I think I’d take him over Darcy any day (I know, shocking!)
(Side Note: As for the miniseries, the first one is wonderful – it captures the spirit of Anne so perfectly! The later two, however, I can’t watch. I tried. This morning, actually. I made it over an hour into the “sequel” before I had to stop. The filmmakers decided Anne of Avonlea did not have a sufficient enough plot for a film, so they condensed the books and created this. That would have been fine, except they didn’t really follow Anne of the Island much, save the final scenes. When I realized what was happening, I proceeded to skim through, only stopping for the Anne/Gilbert scenes. And the third? I stopped as soon as I saw they were much, much older… not the Anne I was looking for. Don’t get me wrong, some people may love them, but I’ll stick with the first installment, and the first three books.)
101/1001 : #9
photos not mine – Google search found them for me