As soon as Anne Shirley arrives at the snug white farmhouse called Green Gables, she is sure she wants to stay forever . . . but will the Cuthberts send her back to to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected—a skinny girl with fiery red hair and a temper to match.
If only she can convince them to let her stay, she’ll try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes and blurting out the first thing that comes to her mind. Anne is not like anyone else, the Cuthberts agree; she is special—a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreams of the day when she can call herself Anne of Green Gables.
There’s always a danger when you go back to read a beloved childhood favourite because you may end up falling out of love with it, however I had no such problem with Anne Shirley since she’s never been away from me. I first fell in love with Anne when I was a pre-teen and I devoured the entire series within months because I just could not get enough of her adventures. I always think of Anne as balm for the soul and since the world is a tough place to be in just now, I decided it was time to return to Avonlea and experience it all over again.
When Anne arrives at Green Gables, she brings a breath of fresh air into the farmhouse shared by the Cuthbert siblings who are getting on in years. We are told Anne was a mistake because they wanted a boy to help Matthew with the chores but it turns out to be the best mistake ever made as Anne brings joy into their lives. The gentle and kindhearted Matthew falls under Anne’s spell straight away as she never stops talking from the moment he collects her at the station to her arrival at the farm which amuses him greatly. Matthew is not comfortable around females but there is something about this redheaded moppet that seizes his heart and doesn’t let go. However, the stern Marilla is a whole different story and Anne has to work much harder to win her over if she is to be allowed to stay.
There is no denying Anne has had a hard life as it is hinted at more than once throughout the novel but what makes Anne so loveable for me is her ability to see the light through the darkness and I really wish I could learn to be as optimistic as her. Anne prefers to see the world around her in a romantic way, prompting her to give places fantastical names, which probably stems from the disappointments she endured at such an early age. Anne’s enthusiasm is delightful though and you can’t help being drawn along for the ride.
However, what I love the most about Anne is her lack of perfection and the fact Montgomery avoided making her a goody two shoes. Anne has a temper which rises quickly to the surface if her appearance is criticised and she is particularly sensitive about her red hair. When Gilbert Blythe commits the ultimate sin by calling her Carrots, Anne holds a grudge against him for several years afterwards. When an older and wiser Gilbert tries to make amends after rescuing her from drowning, Anne continues to rebuff him so Gilbert gives up trying to gain her friendship even though he is clearly in love with her.
As Anne settles into Green Gables permanently, Marilla and Matthew find it increasingly hard to remember what life was like before her arrival and she is a constant source of joy for them even if Marilla sometimes gets tired of her incessant stream of chatter. Marilla does her best to smooth down Anne’s rougher edges, however it is obvious Marilla loves Anne exactly the way she is and wouldn’t have her any other way. Anne gets into a lot of mishaps but there isn’t a mean bone in her body despite what some of her critics think. There can be no doubt that life in Avonlea changed for the better the day Anne Shirley arrived at Green Gables but some people are still a bit too stubborn to admit it.
Anne of Green Gables was first published in 1908 and is set in the fictional community of Avonlea based on New London, Prince Edward Island. The first book follows Anne’s growth from being a lonely eleven-year-old orphan to a sixteen-year-old young woman with a promising career as a teacher ahead of her. Anne achieves her ambition of having a best friend when she meets Diana Barry within days of arriving at Green Gables and the two become lifelong friends. While Anne’s joie de vivre becomes a little more tempered as she matures, it never entirely goes away and she is always seeking out kindred spirits. Yet, Anne also endures heartbreak as Matthew dies toward the end of the book and Anne gives up her scholarship to Redmond College so she can stay at Green Gables to take care of Marilla who is losing her eyesight. However, the situation is neatly resolved when Gilbert Blythe gives up his position as teacher at Avonlea School so Anne can have it. Gilbert’s act of kindness redeems him completely in Anne’s eyes and their friendship blossoms as a result.
Anne of Green Gables ends with an optimistic note despite the sad loss of Matthew and we can look forward to reading more about Anne’s adventures in the sequels.