Allison's Book Bag

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Posted on: July 17, 2010

Lucy Maud Montgomery is one of my absolute favorite authors. She is Canadian like me and situated her stories in her beloved province of Prince Edward Island. Her first book Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908, has sold more than 50 million copies and become a classic orphan story. For these reasons, I felt nervous about reviewing her book. However do I critique a book which has so strongly won the heart of myself and so many people worldwide?

For those unfamilar with Montgomery’s book, this is the story of a red-headed orphan girl sent to Marilla Cuthbert and her brother Matthew by mistake. They had requested a boy from a nearby orphanage to help with the farmwork but by providence received a girl. Anne Shirley was no ordinary girl either. For one thing, she wanted her name spelled with an E. Actually, she would rather be called Cordelia. For another, she had hair as “red as carrots” and a temper just as furious. She was a girl of moods and imagination, both of which landed her in no small heap of trouble.

English: Actors at the Anne of Green Gables mu...

English: Actors at the Anne of Green Gables museum in Cavendish, Prince Edward Island (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

To name only two examples: One day in a fit of temper Anne whacked a slate over a boy’s head at school. In her defense, he did taunt Anne about her hair–the one thing she could never imagine away and moreover viewed as a curse because it supposedly kept her from being happy and good. Another time, she and her bosom friend imagined that a host of murderous ghosts lived in the nearby wood. Anne later faced a terrifying walk when ordered to take that very route, the woods being the shortest and most direct path, to fetch an apron pattern from their neighbors.

When rereading the book for this review, certain aspects stood out. The first chapter is from the viewpoint of an adult in the community, not Anne, and so might confuse readers. Those who make it to the second chapter will finally discover and fall in love with Anne. I was surprised at how strongly Montgomery’s voice, her opinions and passions, come through Anne and the folks of Avonlea. I had never noticed her grown-up undertone in earlier readings, being caught up with Anne’s plight as an unwanted orphan, but it helped me still appreciate the book as an adult. The book is far more than just a classic orphan story, being also about imagination and emotions, piety and faith, growing up and changing, friendship and love. Last, Montgomery impressed me with how well she handled writing about not just one year but several years of Anne’s life. In so many books, authors rely so heavily on summaries to show passage of time that the books bore me. In contrast, because Montgomery selected mostly main events to depict from Anne’s life, I continued to adore Anne.

Perhaps few children’s books have influenced me as much as Anne of Green Gables. As a starry-eyed avid reader, I ironically craved red hair like hers. In my early adulthood, I even made good on that wish by dying my hair auburn–with far less disastrous results than Anne experienced when dying her hair. Like Anne, for most of my childhood I too ached for a kindred spirit. For me, this meant finding someone who loved to read and write children’s stories. I found one such bosom buddy in college. The two of us spent hours swapping episodes from our favorite books and whole days acting out those adventures. Anne’s own dramatization with friends of a poem left her stranded in a sinking boat. My friend and I thankfully merely ended up with colds after tramping through streams and woods. In her adult years, Anne faced a difficult decision when awarded with a college scholarship that would take her even further away from her home. Although I did not achieve quite the academic success in my undergraduate years that Anne did, I did face choices similar to hers.

Since first reading about Anne, I have yearned to visit Prince Edward Island. This past summer, my husband and I visited Cavendish–the real life counterpart to Avonlea. I saw Green Gables and many other places which meant so much to Anne and to Montgomery herself. Montgomery and I are both island girls and storytellers, as well as individuals of moods and imagination. I wish I could have met her. Alas, we are generations apart, but her books will live forever in my heart–as I hope they will in yours too.

My rating? Bag it: Carry it with you. Make it a top priority to read.

How would you rate this book?

4 Responses to "Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery"

Like you, I am a long-time fan of Anne of Green Gables. And now, as a result of Anne of Green Gables’ being our reading reading selection for August, all of my family is.

We liked the book so much that three of us, my two children still at home and I, read its first three sequels–Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne of Windy Poplars. I must admit that I read the first two primarily to see what would come of the friendship that had finally come about between Anne and the boy whom she’d whacked over the head with a slate, Gilbert Blythe. But I liked them so much that I went on to read the next sequel. We and my wife also watched the Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of Green Gables The Continuing Story videos.

Mark Twain described Anne as “the sweetest creation of child life ever created.” Despite the multitude of books that have been written since his time about children and youth, I think that Anne is still one of the sweetest. Thus I heartly endorse your review.

Lucy Maud Montgomery being one of my favorite authors, I loved that this summer my husband and I were able to spend a day in Prince Edward Island visiting all the Anne spots. One day I hope we can return to visit sites related to her other characters such as Emily and Pat, but suspect that Anne will remain my favorite character. She inspired me to want freckles and red hair and a bosom buddy. Anne seems to be written about the most joyous time in Montgomery’s life, despite all the disappointments that Anne endures, and the early Anne books reflect it.

The book was pretty good I found except for the first chapter of the book which I found a bit of a slow read. Other than that it was a very nice book!

I’m glad you liked Anne of Green Gables! You might also enjoy the initial sequels: Anne of the Island and Anne of Avonlea. In them, Montgomery reveals what happens between Anne and Gilbert and updates readers on the lives of other beloved and not-so-beloved characters.

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