Note: Jane at Greenish Bookshelf and Jackie at Death By Tsundoku are co-hosting an Anne of Green Gables series readalong for the remainder of the year. Check out their blogs for more info on how to join the fun!
Having somehow not read any of the Anne of Green Gables series as a child (too busy reading Sweet Valley High and Babysitter’s Club, I guess) I read the first book as an adult in 2009. I remember being quite charmed by it, but I didn’t feel the need to continue with the series for some reason. (I get like that – it usually takes me years to complete series – too many books calling me!) But since I’ve been book blogging, I started feeling left out of the know when it came to L. M. Montgomery’s classics. It seemed everyone was speaking a language that I didn’t understand as I kept seeing posts about the series. So when the #AnneReadAlong came up, I knew I wanted to join and give myself the push I needed to complete the series. I read my library branch’s copy, which is a donation to our collection. It’s a Canadian edition from 1942, and it has some nice illustrations.
On a second reading of Anne of Green Gables, I immediately questioned whether or not I was a horrible person. At first, I felt irritated by Anne’s cheerfulness, her constant chirping about “how splendid!” everything was. Had I grown that cynical and cranky in eight years? I worried, is this a taste of my future as a crotchety old woman?!?
And then, thankfully, I began to let Montgomery’s sweet story work its charms on me. I started to feel envious of Anne and her friends walking to and from school and one another’s houses, enjoying the beautiful natural world of Prince Edward Island. I spend almost no time outdoors on a regular workday, sadly, and I almost never walk anywhere – to the park and back with my son when I’m off, but that’s about it. I do love noticing birds and flowers and trees, so I feel like I connect with Anne in that way. But my experience of modern life is probably true for many other people who live in suburbs, commute to work in cars, and work inside air-conditioned buildings. What it must have been like to be that connected to the natural rhythms of the seasons, to be so attuned to every flowering of buds and beautiful sunset. Yep, I’m jealous.
I was also struck by how different children seem to be now compared to the early part of the twentieth century. When Anne was 12, she seemed so much more innocent and naive than modern twelve year-olds. But when she was 16 she seemed so much more independent and organized than many sixteen year-olds today. Children became “adults” much faster than we seem to now, in that they started working and getting married so much earlier, and yet while they were children they were able to fully be children and indulge their imaginations and be silly and playful.
I fell in love with Matthew Cuthbert, of course, and his devotion to Anne. (“Matthew would have thought that anyone who praised Anne was ‘all right.'”) His quiet determination to let Anne have a dress like the ones the other girls wear and his being flustered in the store is just priceless. I’m so glad that Anne had Matthew’s gentle adoration to counter-balance Marilla’s undemonstrative demeanor. And yet I found myself liking Marilla more and more as the book continued. I especially identified with her once Anne had gone to study at Queen’s, and Marilla came home to a quiet house with a “gable room at the end of the hall (that) was untenanted by any vivid young life and unstirred by any soft breathing.” Any parent can empathize with Marilla’s grief, whether or not their child has left the nest yet.
So many of you have read this series that I’m not going to do anything like a plot summary, but I do want to highlight some of my favorite quotations and passages. Some are funny; some are just highly quotable words of wisdom.
Marilla to Rachel Lynde when she expresses doubts about them adopting a child: “And as for the risk, there’s risks in pretty near everything a body does in this world.”
Anne, anticipating a picnic: “I have never tasted ice-cream. Diana tried to explain what it was like, but I guess ice-cream is one of those things that are beyond imagination.” SO TRUE, ANNE.
Marilla, after Anne’s adventure on the roof: “There’s one thing plain to be seen, Anne,” said Marilla, “and that is your fall off the Barry roof hasn’t injured your tongue at all.” Ha!
Anne, to Marilla at age thirteen: “It’s perfectly appalling to think of being twenty, Marilla. It sounds so fearfully old and grown up.”
Anne: “Look at that sea, girls – all silver and shadow and visions of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds…” Jane: “I don’t know- exactly,” said Jane, unconvinced. “I think diamonds would comfort a person for a good deal.” I like how you think, Jane!
I’m so glad I have an excuse to continue with the series! This is just the breath of fresh air I need to inject my reading life with a little sweetness and wholesomeness. Modern fiction can be so…you know…depressing! I mean, don’t get me wrong, I like depressing as much as the next 21st century bookworm, but this is a nice change of pace. On to Book 2 – Anne of Avonlea!