Thursday, March 21, 2013

Back to the Future: Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Welcome to Back to the Future, a newer feature at YAA where we revisit young adult books from back when we were well, young adults.  Sometimes we'll be reading these books for the first time, sometimes we'll be rereading to compare how our adult selves interpret the book and sometimes, we'll be doing a bit of both.  

Noelle read Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery about 100 times during her youth.  (Her mom laminated the paperbacks in a futile effort for book preservation to give you an idea).  Maggie just read it for the first time last month.  Did Maggie appreciate it enough that Noelle is able to remain on speaking terms with her? Only one way to find out---To the DeLorean!


GoodreadsBuy the book (heck, buy the whole set!) • 99¢ Kindle edition (includes all 8 Anne books, 3 more books and 1 books of poetry by Lucy Maud!)

Book Description: 
As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever...but would the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she's not what they expected—a skinny girl with decidedly red hair and a temper to match. If only she could convince them to let her stay, she'd try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables agreed; she was special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables.
Foreword by Noelle:  I could write a million word ode to Anne Shirley (is that a challenge? IS IT?) but I'll try to keep this short and sweet. Basically, Anne is a bright shining memory from my childhood, a personal hero, a lifetime lunch table place of honor holder and one of my favorite heroines of all-time.  I probably would have blog-divorced Maggie (grounds: irreconcilable differences) if she hadn't immediately promised to read Anne of Green Gables after I discovered she somehow never had!  So no pressure, Maggie (heh) but what did you think of Ms. Shirley?

DRAMATIS PERSONAE ...................................... Anne Shirley

It's not often that a book lives up to its public-shaming-if-you-haven't-read hype. This book lives up to its 104 YEAR HYPE. I almost divorced my childhood for not reading this then. So many of the words that describe Anne are ones that too many girls are running away from today -- imaginative, impertinent, outspoken, smart, driven. If you have a problem with them, you can take it up with the slate being cracked over your head. She's a scrappy little hustler who convinces Marilla Cuthbert to keep her at Green Gables, changing both of their lives. 

I absolutely loved this now and would've adored it back in the day. Like Judy Abbott, another feisty orphan, Anne has so much gumption. Gumption seems like such an old-fashioned word... Is it an out-of-date characteristic? Why don't modern characters have more gumption?! Be the badass you wish to see in the world, girls!

One of the reasons Anne grows up to be badass and not just an ass is Marilla. Marilla was old school 100 years ago. Her strict parenting style would probably be crucified along with Liz Lemon's on Urban Baby, but Marilla Cuthbert does. not. care. I admit, my appreciation for Marilla, like my own mother, came in hindsight. While reading, I sympathized with Anne and her non-puffed sleeves. However, Marilla was as fair as she was tough, and her devotion to Anne was unwavering. 

This brings me to another favorite character with unwavering affection for Anne -- Matthew Cuthbert. Matthew, who knew nothing of fashion or puffed sleeves but knew how important they were to Anne, was soft where Marilla was rigid. His kind and gentle manner brought tears to my eyes. 

Now about Gilbert Blythe. Ah, Gilbert. If only you were my boy next door. A love interest isn't someone who completes you or who you have to change yourself for -- it's someone who challenges you and makes you better and, here's the important part, VICE VERSA. Gilbert is Anne's pace car. Whenever she finds herself slacking in her studies, she mentally checks herself against Gilbert to push herself to work harder. I like that though Gilbert isn't in every scene or even a majority of the scenes, he sneaks in through Anne's subconscious.
"But, oh, Matthew, I'm so sleepy. I can't go to school. I just know I couldn't keep my eyes open and I'd be so stupid. But I hate to stay home for Gil--some of the others will get head of the class..."
Gilbert's scenes made me grin so much, and not just because I was picturing Henry Cavill.

I was worried when I started this book because it seemed, well, old timey and nothing makes my attention drift faster.* I ended up picking up the audio version from the library and put it on while I was stuck in traffic. This worked out really well because I could zone out through some slower parts early on and by the time I was home, I couldn't flip through the pages fast enough. I can't wait to follow Anne to Avonlea and beyond. I'm in complete agreement with Miss Barry when she says,
"That Anne-girl improves all the time. I get tired of other girls -- there is such a provoking and eternal sameness about them. Anne has as many shades as a rainbow and every shade is the prettiest while it lasts. I don't know that she is as amusing as she was when she was a child, but she makes me love her and I like people who make me love them. It saves me so much trouble in making myself love them."
If you haven't ventured to Prince Edward Island yet, just open this book. Anne will do the rest.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

*That is until I started Infinite Jest.

1 comment:

  1. Anne! I've loved her for over 25 years and I love it when people find her for the first time. Way to go Noelle! Don't stop reading Maggie (or listening). You've got to make it through Anne of the Island at least. Your review is so great - made me want to re-read these all over again.


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