Anne of Green Gables is a novel by LM Montgomery published in 1908. It follows the adventures of Anne Shirley – or Cordelia as she likes to call herself, as she arrives in Avonlea, PEI, and is adopted by two middle-aged siblings, Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, although they were expecting a boy.
It’s a kid’s book and it could be argued that I’m no longer a kid. That said I found the book enjoyable. I might have loved it when I was a child, as I loved ‘Les Malheurs de Sophie’ by la Comtesse de Segur, which also follows the adventures of a girl set on making mistakes whenever. She is however from the upper class so wouldn’t have been relatable to most readers in 1908.
So I’ve wondered what makes this book part of the 100 Books to read before you die, apart from the fact that it’s been translated into 20 languages and has sold millions of copies.
Is it the heroin? I’ve read everywhere that Anne is lovable and adorable. Really? I found her totally annoying! Still, the dialogs (or rather soliloquies most of the time) are really interesting.
But you know what they say: what you dislike in other people’s personality is what you don’t like about yourself. And I’m the first to admit I’m a real chatterbox: but she puts me to shame. Sometimes I thought: ‘is she ever going to shut up?’ and thankfully Marilla would tell her something like ‘you’ve been chatting for 10 minutes, can you hold your tongue just as long?’
Anne’s also proud and holds grudges. As you read, you get to see that it’s in the way kids do. She wants to be the best not because it’s a worthy aim, but because she wants to beat Gilbert, the kid she’ll probably end up marrying. (I’ve only finished the first book but this is one subplot I’m quite certain will be resolved that way.)
That being said, her enthusiasm and imagination are endearing. But I found myself torn between annoyance and laughter at her antics. I might not have had the Cuthberts’ patience with the child.
Her imagination is part of what makes Avonlea and Green Gables such a lovely place to discover with Anne and her friend. She renders the place absolutely entrancing in a way. After reading the book, I’m regretting never visiting PEI while I lived in Canada.
So maybe it gets down to characterization: whether it’s Anne or the other children, they feel real. I don’t know… It was somehow more interesting to see Marilla’s change: from the woman who’s fighting against being won over to the loving person who cries overtly.
Is it the story? I don’t know; it seems more like each chapter could be a story onto itself. There’s no overarching plot. Unless one looks at the overall growing of the characters: as I mentioned, the most obvious to me is Marilla’s.
I know there’s more to that: Anne obviously has gone through several families. But her appeal “nobody ever wants me” seems exaggerated: in every instance, there was a reason for her to be sent away and at least twice she was taken in by people who didn’t have to. Not that her life was easy, not that they weren’t selfish in taking her in. It does however give some idea that Anne’s nature is to live and not survive. That I enjoyed.
Also, in many ways, LM Montgomery’s story is a lot more positive than orphan’s stories of that time. When you think Victorian/Edwardian era, you’re thinking Dickens or Twain: not particularly uplifting fates for the kids even if they pull through. So there’s hope in this story, it’s not grim realism as you would read in Zola or Balzac.
It’s a good book but I don’t know that I would pick it up again. Then again who knows?
Have you read Anne of Green Gables? What did you like the most about it? Or what was your least favourite thing? What do you think are some of the elements that earned it a spot on the 100 Books to read before you die list?