“I am well in body although considerably rumpled up in spirit, thank you ma’am” said Anne gravely.
For those readers who have never met the charming Anne (with an “-e”) Shirley, let me assure that you are in for a treat. I did not find Anne until I was an adult, and cannot honestly remember what made me decide to pick up the first of Lucy Maude Montgomery’s famous Anne of Green Gables series. Many readers begin with the first, but do not complete the series. I have read them all, from Green Gables to Ingleside, with stops at Avonlea, Windy Poplars and Rainbow Valley, in between. Thematically similar to Laura Ingalls Wilder’s famous Little House series, these books take us from Anne’s adoption by Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert through her marriage and motherhood.
There are a total of eight Anne Shirley books. I re-read the first in March, and will be re-reading one a month through October. March was Anne of Green Gables month.
The gift of L.M. Montgomery is in her characterizations. Anne is a headstrong, imaginative sprite of a girl with an indomitable spirit. The beginning of the book, with its descriptions of Anne’s orphanhood and disenfranchisement, is harrowing but never overwhelming. I get the sense that, because this book was written for children, Montgomery chose to pull her punches and failed to describe the loveless life of the orphaned girl as it truly would have been. Even with pulling those punches, though, it is clear that Anne has a resilience of spirit that is unique and remarkable.
Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are brother and sister who adopted Anne, and the moments where they come to love her are tenderly rendered. There are points in this book that unfailingly bring me to tears – the moment, near the beginning, when Marilla wants to return Anne to the orphanage because they had asked for a boy, when Marilla – acerbically – states to Matthew, in essence, “what good will she be to us” since she cannot help out on the farm, and Matthew returns,
We might be some good to her,” said Matthew suddenly and unexpectedly.
and then, nearer to the end, when Anne has gotten herself injured in a scrape, when Montgomery writes, about Marilla,
She would have admitted that she liked Anne – nay, that she was very fond of Anne. But now she knew as she hurried wildly down the slope that Anne was dearer to her than anything else on earth.”
Anne is a bewitching child – she frightens herself with her own overly gothic romanticized imagination, she makes friends passionately, and makes enemies with just as much passion, she is gregarious. She possesses a talent for loving and for being loved. She is not without fault, being a bit vain, and she enjoys the spotlight. And she loves beauty for it’s own sake, being entranced by the sheer physical gorgeousness of Green Gables, and Prince Edward Island, and the natural world around her. Anne takes nothing for granted.
Covering years 11 through 16, Anne of Green Gables is the first of the Anne Shirley books that takes her through adolescence to young womanhood.
I don’t generally find star ratings helpful, but this book is beloved by me. I read it to my daughter when she was around 11 years old herself, and we laughed at Anne’s antics, and cried during the sad parts. I place it in the pantheon of children’s literature with Little House on the Prairie and Little Women. If you have ever been a girl, raised a girl, or loved a girl, there will be something in Anne that is familiar to you.