Series: Anne of Green Gables #1
Published: 1 September 2013
When Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew, decide to adopt a child from a distant orphanage, they don't get quite what they bargained for. The child who awaits them at the tiny Bright River train station is not the strapping young boy they'd imagined--someone to help Matthew work the fields of their small farm--but rather a freckle-faced, redheaded girl named Anne (with an e, if you please).
Matthew and Marilla may not be sure about Anne, but Anne takes one look at Prince Edward Island's red clay roads and the Cuthberts' snug white farmhouse with its distinctive green gables and decides that she's home at last. But will she be able to convince Marilla and Matthew to let her stay?
Armed with only a battered carpetbag and a boundless imagination, Anne charms her way into the Cuthberts' hearts--and into the hearts of readers as well. She truly is, in the words of Mark Twain, "the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice."
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 when he calls her Carrots and 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 they 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 which is 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.