21/07/2018

Anne of Green Gables (by L M Montgomery)

I wanted something light and undemanding for a lengthy flight, and odd moments waiting at the airport. Scrolling through my Kindle, I realised I had several of the classic teenage fiction books by LM Montgomery, including most of the 'Anne' series. I downloaded most of them free from Project Gutenberg. It's many years since I read any of those, so I decided to read the first of them, which is probably the best known, 'Anne of Green Gables'. This was made into a film some years ago; more recently, I gather, a TV series was made based on the characters in the book.

I last read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ in 2003. While I recalled the general outline of the novel, I had forgotten most of the detail. So I very much appreciated getting to know the crusty, house-proud Marilla and her shy brother Matthew again. When we meet them, they are hoping to adopt an orphan boy of about eleven to help Matthew in his farm work. Matthew is sixty and beginning to feel his age; he's had some trouble with his heart, and is not supposed to do any heavy work.

We also meet the warm-hearted but strongly opinionated Rachel Lynde, their nearest neighbour, who likes to keep an eye on everyone she sees. The opening sentence of the book, which takes up almost an entire page, is a delight in its gentle wry humour, explaining that even the rambling brook has to straighten out when it goes near Mrs Lynde.

Matthew sets out in his horse and buggy to the station, to meet the orphan boy, but when he arrives he finds a girl: the red-headed Anne. He can't leave her alone, so he collects her but doesn't dare mention that he wanted a boy. Anne chats to him the entire way home, artlessly and cheerfully, appreciating everything she sees around her, exercising her imagination in myriad ways, and expressing utter delight that she is to be adopted, and to live in such a beautiful place....

It's no spoiler to say that despite Marilla's reservations, they decide to keep Anne, and that she brings sunshine and happiness to their lives over the next few years. Anne makes some close friends and also a sworn enemy when one of the boys in her class insults her hair. Each chapter is an incident in itself, demonstrating Anne's imagination and often careless ways, as she gets distracted, or forgets what she was supposed to be doing. She has quite a knack of getting into trouble, mostly through no real fault of her own.

I had, of course, recalled the dramatic climax to the book in the penultimate chapter. But I had forgotten the very moving sections that follow. It’s a book with a lot of emotion; as we see Anne’s maturing, and her effect on so many other people in the neighbourhood. Her careless, accident-prone nature and tendency to hold grudges ensure that she is not a ‘too good to be true’ heroine, but a sensitive, imaginative flesh-and-blood girl.

I loved the book as much as I did when I first read it. It was intended for young teenagers, but could be enjoyed by fluent readers of about eight or nine and older, as well as adults looking for a bit of nostalgia. It makes a great read-aloud too for those wanting to introduce their children to some of the classics.

Highly recommended. Though long out of copyright (and thus available free in e-book form) 'Anne of Green Gables' remains constantly in print in paperback, in many different versions. It's often found second-hand too.

Review by copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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