Pub. Date: April 1982
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Format: Mass Market Paperback, 308pp
Age Range: 10 and up
Series: Anne of Green Gables #1
I just adore Anne of Green Gables! Avonlea is such a beautiful location for an imaginative getaway!
While not a fantasy, the world in which the characters of Anne of Green Gables live is brought to life through vivid descriptive passages. The setting is king, becoming a character in itself. Montgomery’s vivid portrayal of the idyllic natural landscape is as large a part of her storytelling as Thomas Hardy’s poetic descriptions of his fictional Wessex or Dickens’ careful descriptions of filth, wont, and squalor in London streets and workhouses. Whether seen through the eyes of the narrator or described by Anne, there is no doubt that Avonlea is a beauty to behold:
“Anne came dancing home in the purple winter twilight across the snowy places. Afar in the southwest was the great shimmering, pearl-like sparkle of an evening star in a sky that was pale golden and ethereal rose over gleaming white spaces and dark glens of spruce. The tinkles of sleigh bells among the snowy hills came like elfin chimes through the frosty air, but their music was not sweeter than the song in Anne’s heart and on her lips.”
Besides the setting, another thing that immediately impresses me about Anne of Green Gables is Montgomery’s facility for creating characters that seem as alive as can be. At the novel’s opening, it’s appropriate that we should be introduced first to the meddlesome Rachel Lynde, who with her “all-seeing eye” spies on the goings and comings in the town of Avonlea. From the get-go, we feel that we know and understand Rachel, Marilla, and Matthew. And we look forward to getting to know them better, as well as meeting other townsfolk. Each character has a unique voice, especially the loquacious Anne who speaks her own language with words and phrases like “the depths of the despair,” “kindred spirit,” “bosom friend,” and “tragical“.
From the moment when Anne Shirley arrives in Avonlea nothing and no one will be the same. Just as her imagination reshapes her reality, this small, wiry, orphaned “freckled witch” of a girl will transform the world around her. Her presence at Green Gables alters more than just her small gable room — Anne changes the residents of Green Gables, Matthew and Marilla. While Marilla and Matthew teach, guide, and love Anne, she in turn teaches them. While we see this unlikely family take shape and watch Anne grow, we find that she not only impacts the hearts of friends and families whose lives she touches, including the cantankerous Aunt Josephine Barry, but she makes readers love her, too. Indeed, even Mark Twain, creator of his own rapscallion, Huck Finn, adored Anne Shirley. In a letter to Montgomery, he writes that she is “the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.”
At the novel’s beginning, eleven-year-old Anne is a bit like a young, untamed horse. She’s full of more spunk, zest, and joie-de-vivre than one body can reasonably accommodate. This unbridled spirit, combined with a limitless imagination lands her in a great many scrapes and escapades. But luckily, Anne learns that each dawn brings “a new day with no mistakes in it“. We watch her grow, both physically and emotionally — by novel’s end she is over sixteen — learning lessons from each of her amusing and touching adventures and from her own foibles.
We see in young Anne a spark of childhood imagination and energy, but more than that, a vigor that does not fade as she ages. Anne is the embodiment of spirit. She knows what it is to be alive. As such, she takes nothing for granted. She loves mornings and soaks up not only the beauty in the world around her, but also any morsel of learning or knowledge that she can. As she grows, Anne becomes as reflective as she was impulsive. She never loses sight of the many blessings she has been given, and is grateful for all that she has. Her gratitude and enthusiasm is as infectious as her charm. She makes you laugh and cry. She helps you dream and imagine right along with her. But most of all, Anne leaves you grateful to have, as she does, your own little slice of heaven on earth. It may not be Avonlea, but it’s home. And who better to teach us gratitude for the simple pleasures and blessings of a loving home, than Anne Shirley, the most beguiling and loveable orphan you’ll ever meet!
Alas, the only thing wrong with Anne of Green Gables is that the story has to end. As Anne says:
“The worst of imaging things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.“
But luckily, there are seven more books in the Anne of Green Gables series!