Anne of Green Gables

January 25, 2014 2:47 pm
anne of green gablesAnne of Green Gables is a book that for me is bursting with childhood memories. I cannot remember exactly how old I was when I first read it, maybe 8 or 9, but I enjoyed it then and I enjoy it now, and I will bet my life’s savings that I will still be enjoying it when I am sitting in a rocking chair by my log fire knitting a hat for my first great-grandchild. For that is the beauty of this particular book – it is not written for children, or adults, but for everyone (I have heard it described as a children’s book but that does not do it justice). The sentimentality and romanticism probably means it is going to be enjoyed by more women than men, but it by no means follows the stereotypical ‘chick-flick-rom-com-women’s-literature’ route. The story follows the life of the sparky, lovable orphan, Anne Shirley. Hot-headed and always getting into scrapes, she seems to have that universal appeal of ‘imperfection’, that same appeal that seems to endear us all to Bridget Jones. It is almost impossible to dislike her, and the added complexity of her having had a difficult childhood before the book begins is yet another ingredient thrown into the mix to ensure that the reader is not turned off by her hopelessly romantic view of the world.
Set in Canada in the 1800s, we first meet Anne as the victim of a mix-up; an elderly brother and sister have asked the orphanage for a boy who can help on their farm, but kind-hearted Matthew nevertheless takes her back to Green Gables after finding her waiting for him at the train station. Marilla is less accommodating and at first wishes for the mix-up to be remedied and for Anne to be returned. However, after a slightly rocky beginning, we begin to see Marilla’s hard exterior begin to be chipped away.
anne of green gables bookL.M. Montgomery makes young Anne accessible through her humorous antics; we see Anne break her slate over a boy’s head at school for calling her ‘carrot-head’ (for her red hair is her biggest bug-bear), accidentally dying her hair green, and unwittingly getting her friend, Diana, drunk. But the story is also beset with tragedy and sadness, the multi-faceted nature of the novel meaning the reader is completely absorbed.
This excellently written piece of literature is a perfect piece of escapism, and I would recommend the seven further sequels just as highly (well, almost as. As with most of these things, the first always seems to set the bar too high for any sequels to match up). In addition, the 1985 adaptation starring Megan Follows as Anne is a perfect complement to the book. If you have read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ you will see that the film brings the books to life in almost exactly the way they are described in the novel and nothing of Anne’s endearing character is lost. The portrayal of Matthew Cuthbert is highly commendable too; Richard Farnsworth not only completely looks the part, but plays the quiet but kind old man so well that even the hardest of hearts are bound to be softened. The sequels to the first adaptation follow the books less closely, and by the last film, it is a completely different story set in a completely different time that is being watched, but they are nevertheless enjoyable. The first instalment, however, is definitely a must-watch. But read the book first! Always read the books first….
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