Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery is a confection of a book! It is full of sweetness, a little bit nutty, with a really nice aftertaste that makes you want more. And there is more!
The author sets her story in rural Canada during the 1800s. Anne Shirley, mistakenly delivered to the home of Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, who wanted to adopt a boy to help with the farm, begs the middle-aged brother and sister to let her stay. Green Gables, a beautiful farm set back from a road near a wood, is all Anne has dreamed of. Although skinny, awkward, and freckled, she is bright, creative and eager to please. Shy Matthew is drawn to her instantly and Marilla is soon convinced that this unlikely event was caused by Divine Providence.
Orphaned in infancy, Anne has been handed from family to family as a caregiver to younger children. She has received almost no affection or education. Her imagination has been the saving grace of her life, keeping up her spirits when all else was dark. Her keen sense of personal dignity makes her over-sensitive to slights from others. Marilla is determined to give her a proper upbringing, while Matthew delights in spoiling her whenever he can.
From the start, Anne’s imagination and quick temper lead to trouble. She berates Marilla’s friend Mrs. Lynde for pointing out her red hair, but later she makes an elaborate apology that wins Mrs. Lynde’s heart. Anne daydreams while cooking and forgets to put flour in the cake, baking a disaster. She accepts a dare to climb a roof ridgepole and falls, breaking her ankle. She buys dye from a peddler in hopes of getting beautiful black tresses, but the dye turns her hair green! Anne describes all these events in the most elaborate and romantic language she can find, for all of life is so deeply interesting to her. In fact, ordinary-seeming things like ice cream and new clothes seem utterly wondrous to her.
Anne loves school and develops deep friendships, especially with Diana, her “bosom friend.” They are neighbors and spend hours tromping in the woods, writing stories, signaling with candles from their windows and sharing secrets. Anne develops a rivalry over grades with Gilbert Blythe, which makes her excel at academics. She is befriended by the young minister’s wife and the idealistic new school teacher, who encourage her to be her best self. Anne’s flare for the dramatic makes her a favorite at local recitations.
After four years, Anne matures into a much calmer young lady, but still with a flair for getting into unexpected trouble. She has an opportunity to go to college and become a teacher, but with Matthew’s heart condition getting worse and Marilla’s eyesight failing, Anne is torn between her dreams and her duty to the Cuthberts. As sorrows and grown-up responsibilities enter her young life, Anne must make decisions that reveal her heart to those who love her.
There are eight books in the Anne of Green Gables series, all worth reading. However, the first three Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island are the most beloved volumes. In the 1980’s two movies were made based on these books starring the incredible Megan Follows. The first movie closely follows the storyline of Anne of Green Gables. The second movie combines elements of Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne of Windy Poplars, along with some creative script writing that keeps in the spirit of the original stories. However, a later movie starring the same principal actors, departs from L. M. Montgomery’s vision of Anne’s life, creating a new storyline.
L. M. Montgomery uses advanced vocabulary, a hallmark of Anne’s character, in all of these books. The author also records the prejudices of that time and place, revealing the characters’ mistrust of anyone who is not Canadian, such as Americans, French, Italians, etc. And, there are interludes in some books where ladies gossip for pages. You may want to point out the problems with this kind of behavior to your children.
The final two books move into the next generation of characters and away from Anne. Rilla of Inglelside—the last in the series— is set in the time of WWI and has many tragic and sad moments that might be hard for younger children. (Books 5-7 are entitled: Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, and Rainbow Valley.)
Your local library, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com will all have copies of these books and DVDs. They will give you many enjoyable hours as you walk through the dreams and struggles of young people as their ideals and humor guide them on life’s journey.
Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge is available as an e-book at Amazon. The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title.