Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Anne of Green Gable by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
Originally published in 1908
Source: I listened to the Librivox recording

Brother and sister Marilla and Matthew Cuthburt live and farm at Green Gables, in the village of Avonlea on the Prince Albert Island in Canada. When they decide to adopt a boy from an orphanage to help on the farm, they get instead Anne Shirley, a precious eleven year old girl. Marilla is more than ready to send her back immediately but Matthew is charmed and soon Anne finds herself a part of life on the farm. For her part, beyond being thrilled with the idea that she will finally have a home, Anne is overwhelmed immediately by a love of the natural setting of Green Gables. By the time Marilla gets a chance to find Anne another home, she has made the decision to keep Anne. A decision she will question again and again as Anne fumbles and stumbles her way through life. Because Anne is so prone to daydreaming, she is also prone to making careless mistakes. But she is also enthusiastic, loving and tries so hard to improve. The reader follows Anne through her life in Avonlea, her friendships (she is always looking for kindred spirits), and on through her days in high school where she excels.

My book club reads a "classic" every year and this year we choose "Anne of Green Gables." One of our members is a playwright who incorporated several classic girl's books into a play that some of us heard a reading of which prompted us to revisit our childhood. Of the five books incorporated into the play, this was the only one I had never read and I was eager to see what makes it so beloved. When I finished, I was still wondering.

I found the book excessively wordy, although Montgomery does a lovely job of describing nature. I quickly grew tired of Anne's daydreams and found much of the book repetitive. Further, I found it odd that Montgomery spent whole chapters discussing some situations then, as the book neared the end, condensed entire school years into a single chapter.

I did like the juxtaposition of Anne, who is all imagination, and Marilla, who is no nonsense and watching them gradually grow on each other. Although it often annoyed me how hard Marilla was on Anne even after she has warmed to her. But then I also felt sorry for Marilla when Anne would proclaim how fond she was of other people without ever really showing any fondness for Marilla.

The book is clearly of the time that it was written. On the other hand, young people today are every bit as concerned as Anne was about their appearance and having the right clothes. At one point, a couple gets married in a home because no one gets married in a church--and don't people still worry all of the time about what other people will think of them?

When I got to my book club meeting last month, I found that I wasn't the only one that was unimpressed with this book and when our playwright, who loves the book, arrived, we were quick to ask "why?" Her defense did make some of us reconsider the book. One of the things that still appeals to her about this book is that it does not preach, as do almost all other books written for children in this time period. True enough--it does not. And she loves the way Marilla allows Anne to make her mistakes and learn from them, a way of childrearing that was unheard of at the time but a way that most experts now recommend.

So, I'm left wondering...if I had read this book as a child, would I love it?


  1. I loved it. I agree that it can get really wordy though. You might like the movie better. It stays very true to the book but there's a lot going on to balance the wordiness! :--)

    I also agree by the way, that it's very frustrating not to be able to know how I would like a book as a child now that I am not. It makes me appreciate the many children and YA authors' skills all the more!

  2. My older two read Anne and its sequels as children. Both of them loved all the stories.
    Lu our baby didn't like them, she was more into sword and sorcery type stories.

  3. I started reading the Anne books at about age 10 and I count Anne as one of the primary role models of my youth (along with Laura Ingalls Wilder, Elizabeth Bennet, and Scarlett O'Hara). I've talked with others who have read Anne only as adults and missed the magic as well. She is wordy and dreamy, but when I was reading her as a pre-teen and then teenager, I was the time period, the idyllic village of Avonlea, her capacity for friendship, and her ambition. She made me want to be the smartest girl in the class--she made me want to read books and poetry and get lost in the world of imagination. And her relationship to Matthew--I don't think I've cried as hard over a literary death as when Matthew died.

  4. I always enjoyed the movies as a kid, but never got around to reading any of them. Now I'm really curious to see whether I'll enjoy them now that I'm older. Hmmm...great review and leaves me wondering!

  5. I loved it when I read it in junior high, which was the perfect age for me to read these books (and I quickly devoured the whole series). In recent years I have flipped through the books, and I agree that they are pretty wordy (although I remember the later books in the series being less so). It's funny how I loved the wordy descriptions when I was in junior high, but am less enthusiastic as an adult. Usually it's the other way around. So yes, I think you probably would have loved it more had you read it as a child.

    I do still love the books though, and I'm sure that part of it is nostalgia about how much I loved them back then. Anne's House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside are my longtime favorites.

  6. I read it as a child. I loved anne's spunk. I loved the lessons she learned and the trouble she got into. I loved her adventures. I loved words and expressions she used when she was thinking about the world she was about to enter and the way she dreamed about it. I loved her relationship with matthew, which was so sweet and pure and separate from marilla, as if they were more like siblings. It wasn't about the writing, the way we look at books as adults. I think L Maude was able to approach the book through a child's eyes, and that is the charm of it. (Can you tell I have always loved this book?)

  7. I emailed you this morning but I'm still trying to understand where I went wrong... I thought Marilla and Matthew were married - ha!

    I wanted to stop reading this book long before the half way point, due to the repetition. I am glad to cross another classic off the list and to be able to have an opinion (rather than confessing "never read it").

  8. I loved Anne of Green Gables. I did read it when I was a teenager and then I read it again a few years back. I don't remember thinking it was wordy - I think I just assumed it was a product of the times. I still want to read the whole series and the movies are quite good.

  9. I read everything by L.M. Montgomery that I could get my little hands on when I was a child/adolescent. I absolutely loved them at the time. The names of all the female characters really appealed to me as well as the settings. I used to write down my favorite names that I found in her books so that I could name my future kids after them. I ended up naming my two girls Lillian & Elise. I know Lillian was a character from one story or another, but I can't remember if Elise is in any Montgomery books.

    I have not read them as an adult though and I would possibly not love them quite so much now that I have more sophisticated tastes!

  10. I recall being absolutely entranced by Anne of Green Gables as a child.

  11. I don't remember the wordiness because I read the entire series many years ago, but I remember loving Anne and all of the books. I hope to read them with my daughter, so I'll see whether my opinion has changed over time.