I had never heard of Anne of Green Gables until after I graduated from college. A friend of mine convinced me to watch the (original two) movies. I enjoyed them so much, I purchased copies for myself. (Of course they’re in VHS format…a lot of good that does me now.)
But I never got around to reading Anne until now. I’m so happy I finally did!
Actually, I didn’t instantly fall in love with the book. While I preferred the levity of Anne to the bleakness of Anna, at first I found Anne a bit too light, too fluffy. Kind of like cotton candy: sweet to the taste, but ultimately unsatisfying. But I read on anyway, thinking my daughter at least would love listening to the stories of Anne-with-an-e getting into all of her scrapes.
And then the tone of the book seemed to shift in the last 75 pages or so. What began as a lighthearted collection of childhood antics developed into a truly touching, poignant coming-of-age tale. I found myself very glad to be reading the last act while home alone because every few pages I burst into tears!
I felt Montgomery captured so well the thoughts and feelings of a girl who’s becoming a woman:
“The east gable was a very different place from what it had been on that night four years before, when Anne had felt its bareness penetrate to the marrow of her spirit with its inhospitable chill…The velvet carpet with the pink roses and the pink silk curtains of Anne’s early visions had certainly never materialized; but her dreams had kept pace with her growth, and it is not probably she lamented them.”
I also loved many of the passages describing grief and loss, like:
“Anne always remembered the silvery, peaceful beauty and fragrant calm of that night. It was the last night before sorrow touched her life; and no life is ever quite the same again when once that cold, sanctifying touch has been laid upon it.”
Something else I appreciated in reading Anne’s story in middle age—as opposed to young adulthood when I first encountered it—is that I identified much more with Marilla. I loved the interior view of her heart that Montgomery provided.
Whereas previously Marilla had chosen order and safety for her life, as a precaution against heartache, after adopting Anne we see her slowly opening her heart again and allowing love—in the form of Anne—to transform her:
“Marilla appeared in the doorway, a gaunt figure with grayer hair than of yore and no fewer angles, but with a much softer face.”
This theme struck me when I watched the movies two decade ago as well. I often think about the scene in the second movie when Anne’s fellow teacher Katherine accuses Anne of having a sunshine-y outlook only because she had led such a charmed, easy life. Of course we know that not to be true. But even under fire, we see Anne respond in love and grace. And she’s not pretending; Anne truly believes she has been blessed beyond measure. Which she has, but she has also encountered more than her fair share of pain and loss. I believe the difference comes from having a heart of humility instead of entitlement. I have often thought: As I grow older, I really want to cultivate a heart like Anne’s.
I read that Mark Twain, upon reading Anne of Green Gables, sent L.M. Montgomery a letter of praise, congratulating her on writing “the dearest and most moving and delightful child since the immortal Alice.”* I might have to agree!
Thanks to my friend Angela for loaning me her copy of Anne. But now I think I’m gonna need to purchase a copy of my own!
How many of you are Anne fans? Have you read the whole series? Are the other books as awesome as the first? Which character(s) did you identify with most? Am I the only one who cried my eyes out during the entire last 1/4th of the book?
*Source: Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings, Mary Henley Rubio