Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I am definitely something of a mood reader. Some people carefully plan out their reading and decide in advance what books they will read for the following month. My instagram feed is full of beautiful images of a stack of books that an avid reader has carefully curated and planned out. I am just not that organised. Instead I'll usually get an inkling of what genre I want to read next when I'm finishing up the previous book. At the end of 'Back to School' and still recovering from the the bleak 'Stone Diaries', I knew I wanted to read a children's classic. Anne of Green Gables it was! I am ashamed to say that I have never read this charming book before, but my sister-in-law adores this book and with such a high recommendation it was back to Canada for me.
Like the Stone Diaries, this too is set in Canada, on Prince Edward Island, off the East Coast of Canada around the turn of the century. Unlike the Stone Diaries it is a thoroughly joyful book.
This is the first novel in the series about Anne Shirley. Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert want to adopt a boy and are surprised when Anne ('with an e') arrives instead. She is a red-headed girl, always positive who never stops talking. She quickly enchants the Cuthberts and their neighbours with her 'vivid imagination' as we follow her adventures.
Well this is just a lovely book. The novel moves at quite a pace as we follow Anne through the ages of 11-16. She has many fun adventures. I loved it when she managed to get her best friend, Diana, drunk. Anne herself is positively enchanting. She is never precocious but chatters constantly and is very funny. With her vivid imagination she imagines many scenarios such as ghostly activities in a local forest to the point where she she finds it impossible to walk there.
The novel is also fascinating as it provides a snapshot into life in Canada at that time. I loved reading about the minutiae of daily life, the lessons at school, the work and the food that is eaten and prepared. Alongside the various social activities this feels semi autobiographical and indeed L.M. Montgomery based much of the island where she lived.
I adored Matthew and Marilla and how Anne comes to mean so much to them. Matthew is quiet and shy of most women. (The chapter where he buys a spade and 4kg of brown sugar instead of a dress for Anne is comical), but he goes from being amused by Anne and her honesty to a deep sense of love for the girl, leaving the 'bringing up' to Marilla, but stepping in when he feels Anne deserves a treat. Marilla is different again. She only realises the depth of her feelings at certain key points. Turning on a neighbour who criticises Anne and is utterly devastated when Anne goes away to school. For me Marilla and Matthew are at the heart of the book. Marilla deals with Anne firmly and fairly, but turning her head to have a giggle at Anne's actions and Matthew's kind and gentle ways.
The book is emotional but it ultimately sings with celebration. It provides a fascinating, historical snapshot of a time in a far-off country. Fun adventures with an enchanting girl who makes mistakes, is far from perfect but moves on from her errors not to repeat them again. I loved Anne's sheer joy in life. I'm delighted to learn there are 9 further Anne books and I look forward to catching up and learning more about Anne and her life.
This book came in at #41 on the BBC Big Read list. If you enjoyed Little Women and haven't tried this yet, then please do give this a go. My Sister in law and I thoroughly recommend it.