Thursday, February 12, 2009

Anne of Green Gables & Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery

Somehow I made it to adulthood without ever reading L. M. Montgomery's infamous Anne of Green Gable series. I did watch the fabulous miniseries back in the day and enjoyed it thoroughly. Remembering the innocent plot, I bought all seven books when I thought I might have a daughter. No daughter, but the books sitting in my basement, I finally decided to pick up the first book. I liked it well enough that I immediately read the second one.

So much current fiction is emotionally loaded in an attempt to force the reader into a particular emotional catharsis having read the book. I find this frustrating as I prefer to choose my emotional tantrums myself. I knew I needed a break from this type of fiction which is in part why I picked up a book that was written 100 years ago. In addition, too much modern fiction feels the need to prove it's modernness by creating asocial, atypical families. Hmm... so I guess Anne of Green Gables family is likewise atypical, but it would definitely not qualify as modern dysfunctional.

What can I say, I fell in love. It's hard not to. There's a reason this series is still being published one hundred years later. The characters are innocent and lovable. The stories are light and amusing but still engaging. I read this book with pure joy and was happy to pick up the immediate sequel and stay engaged in the world for another week. By that time I was ready for a jump back to modern-day reality but I will definitely return to the world of Green Gables soon.

I did read this debating about its appropriateness as a chapter book for my sons. Although there are features that make this a "girl's" book, I think it would be appropriate and interesting for a young boy too. Anne's adventures reek of universal childhood curiosity. There is not an overwhelming focus on girly topics that would bore most boys. Montgomery does use flowery language, usually at the beginning of each chapter, which might highjack a nightly reading in order to define some of her terms. But that would be manageable. Montgomery originally wrote this series as a monthly episodic publication. Each chapter contains a complete short story. For this reason, the book would be ideal nightly reading.

In the first two novels Anne grows from age 11 to 17. Anne appears on Prince Edward Island as a young orphan. She is adopted by the brother and sister team of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Matthew is quiet but loving. Marilla is much more outspoken and stricter. Anne has an uncanny ability to get into scrapes and difficulties, most of which are humorous and bring her to no immediate harm. In the second novel, Anne has returned to Green Gables as a sixteen year old high school graduate to teach at the local primary school. Again, she meets local characters and gets herself involved in social antics. It's hard to not walk away from these stories with a smile. They're engaging and make us remember a much more innocent world.

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