By: L.M. Montgomery
A childhood and teen classic, Anne of Green Gables evokes the image of a little girl with red pigtails. It doesn’t matter if you haven’t read the novel or the following seven book series; even if you don’t know the plot line or the details of Anne’s childhood adventures, the novel title and the Rebecca of Sunnybrook farm type covers (and later TV series images) are a nearly universal icon. It’s certainly one of those classics that elicits much talk (and even more merchandise,) and has become a cultural reference point and a symbolic of idyllic, dreamy eyed childhood.
For me in particular, Anne has a special meaning. Having been an adamant “reader” as a child (i.e. picture books with dinosaurs and Bernstein Bears and what have you), I gave up reading as I become older and books lost the pictures and instead relied on stultifying pages of tightly pressed text. One summer break in my early pre-tween years, I became so bored that when my mother handed me an eight book paperback compilation of Anne’s adventures, I caved and figured that anything was better than staring at the wall. This is when the true addiction for reading overcame me and nothing has been the same since. Going through Anne’s stories, mesmerized by the romance and vivid beauty of Anne’s world, I soon began collecting L.M. Montgomery’s rare works, sending off to Canada to get several special editions. This was the Pandora ’s Box that lead to my undiluted devotion as a bookworm and which transitioned me from the sweet world of childhood into adulthood with a gentle, love-of-life, anticipation of all that is to come.
The story is largely well-known: Anne is a bright, red-haired, spirited girl. Matthew and Marilla Cuthburt (siblings in their sixties) send to town through a mutual acquaintance to adopt an orphan boy who will earn his keep by helping around the house and farm. Instead, a mistake is made and the lively Anne arrives at their doorstep. Determined to send the girl back, her dreamy ways and vivacity eventually capture the Cuthburt’s affections and Anne is finally given love, family, and a quaint farmhouse that matches her grand scope for imagination.
Along the way, Anne describes the beautiful world of cherry trees, sunny brooks, haunted woods, and a new friendship with Diana Barry – her first non-imaginary friend. Growing up with gratitude and more than a little unintentional mischief, Anne’s stories are filled with a pure, homespun atmosphere, similar to the Little House on the Prairie atmosphere. Reading these stories while growing up filled my spirit with a hope and excitement for life and brought an internal peace (and, admittedly, an almost painful desire for romance and mystery). As an adult, the homey atmosphere still appeals, making worries from work and life slide away, showing me once again that it is the simple things which are most beautiful, and the adventures of life that are most compelling. Every time I return to Anne, I feel a peace and happiness, a desire for goodness, and a prolonged all’s-right-with the world warmth that spreads as I turn the pages and visit my favorite characters.
The reading level is quite elevated considering the youth of the targeted audience. Anne’s large vocabulary is a source for teasing among her school mates and a good education for audiences. The descriptions of lush Prince Edward Island populate a world of blossoms and dreams, encouraging young audiences to learn as they envision Anne’s sometimes humorous, sometimes dangerous, and occasionally tragic adventures.
Anne of Green Gables is a classic for a reason, and has influenced me in many ways over the years. It remains one of my fondest growing up memories, and as an adult I find that Anne still wins my heart over with her imaginative ways. L.M. Montgomery has since been a favorite author of mine, and I believe that her novels are an experience no one should be denied – especially in his or her formative years. Highly recommended.
- Frances Carden