Oh, Anne. Spelled with an e, mind you. It looks so much more distinguished, as the girl herself says.
Anne of Green Gables is a book I’ve read probably ten times. Out of all the Anne books- there are eight- it’s my favorite. Next would probably be Anne’s House of Dreams or Anne of the Island.
The book starts with Mrs. Rachel Lynde, one of those “capable creatures who manage their own troubles and those of other folks into the bargain.” Rachel is puzzled by her neighbor Matthew Cuthbert driving by in his buggy, dressed in a collar and headed out towards Bright River when she knows he should be sowing seeds. Where is Matthew GOING? Rachel is a terrible old busybody, so she runs right over to ask Marilla Cuthbert what’s up. Marilla shocks Rachel to rare silence with her answer.
Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are brother and sister who manage Green Gables, their family farm, together on Prince Edward Island, Canada, during the Victorian age. Marilla is sharp, often sarcastic, with a hidden sense of humor. Matthew is mortally shy and rarely ever speaks. Women especially terrify him, and none more than little girls.
Matthew is every day of sixty, and as Marilla informs her friend, the Cuthberts have decided to take in an orphan boy to help him on the farm. Rachel is flabbergasted. The Cuthberts! Raise a child! An orphan!
Rachel will be even more flabbergasted yet, though.
Matthew drives into the train station to pick up the child. He expects a boy, about ten or eleven, like he and Marilla sent word for by a neighbor. But sitting and waiting patiently for him is a very different child: a little girl, with hair as red as red hair comes. Matthew is surprised, but sees no reason to leave the poor child there, and leaves Marilla the unpleasant task of revealing that she is not wanted at Green Gables.
The girl, blissfully unaware of the tragedy coming for her, quickly finds a “kindred spirit” in Matthew, who listens happily to fanciful and almost never ending chatter all the way home.
Marilla has no such qualms about the little girl’s feelings and promptly demands to know where their boy is. Marilla manages to wrestle the girl out of the beginnings of hysteria and learns while she’d rather be called Cordelia, her name is Anne. Marilla insists Anne must be sent back. But Matthew, a man who rarely puts his foot down, quietly tells Marilla: “I think you ought to let her stay.”
And Marilla eventually decides to do just that. Provided, of course, Matthew keeps his oar out and lets her handle the bringing-up. An old maid might not know much, but she certainly knows more than an old bachelor.
This first book follows Anne from age eleven to age 16. Anne is imaginative, bright, talkative, always getting into trouble, vivacious, and wonderfully entertaining.
Anne Shirley is not beautiful, exactly (yet, anyway). Here, I quote L.M. Montgomery on the matter:
“An ordinary observer would have seen this: A child of about eleven, garbed in a very short, very tight, very ugly dress of yellowish-gray wincey. She wore a faded brown sailor hat and beneath the hat, extending down her back, were two braids of very thick, decidedly red hair. Her face was small, white and thin, also much freckled; her mouth was large and so were her eyes, which looked green in some lights and moods and gray in others.
So far, the ordinary observer; an extraordinary observer might have seen that the chin was very pointed and pronounced; that the big eyes were full of spirit and vivacity; that the mouth was sweet-lipped and expressive; that the forehead was broad and full; in short, our discerning extraordinary observer might have concluded that no commonplace soul inhabited the body of this stray woman-child of whom shy Matthew Cuthbert was so ludicrously afraid.”
I have this cover of Anne that I will try to find an image of; it’s perfect. Every other cover I see is somehow wrong, but that one is just right. It was my first copy’s cover and maybe that’s why I’ve got a soft spot for it.
I love Anne. I love her when she’s eleven and overjoyed at finding a loving home at last. I love her when she’s a Redmond girl. I love her when she gets married, and I love her when she is 53 at the end of Rilla of Ingleside. Somehow, Anne can change, but she’s always so Anneish.
I won’t spoil anymore for you, but the series takes you through Anne’s childhood to Anne’s middle age, and facets into the lives of her six children. Montgomery’s writing is gorgeous. She had a real knack for describing golden Octobers and mellow Junes. She also had a skill in creating those characters that seem very alive…none more than Anne Shirley.
Lindsay’s Verdict: 5 stars
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Pages: 429 (according to Wikipedia)
Genre: Children’s, I think, but everyone can enjoy it.