Sunday, August 4, 2013

Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery

An orphan brightens the life of two lonely old people.

Three great books in a row – I have been fortunate. Why were these past three novels gripping and not mired in tedious mediocrity? What they had in common were monumental characters with a deep unstoppable yearning, set against an elemental landscape. That’s certainly the case with Anne of Green Gables. The simple story is about Anne Shirley, a red headed orphan, who falls into the lonely lives of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert. Instead of the sturdy orphan boy the Cuthberts want to “take in” to help with the chores, only a girl waits at the train station. Anne is a nonstop talker, a spunky eleven year old who charms laconic Matthew on the drive to the farm. She is on the hunt for a “kindred spirit.” Later, Marilla, determined to return the unwanted girl to the orphanage, loses heart, gets squeamish at the idea of sending her into to a life of cruel hardship. And so makes a promise to educate her.

The rest of the book consists of Anne and her entertaining scrapes (accidentally dying her hair green, almost drowning while pretending to be Ophelia). Another plot thread is Anne’s very competitive relationship with Gilbert Blythe who made the mistake of calling her “Carrots” on their first meeting. She freezes him out for seven years (something about that almost moves this book from the children’s literature category). The prose was clear, with lots of nice descriptions of Prince Edward Island.

I cried in every chapter, although it is true I was reading the book on a plane and drinking gin and tonics. Though I would not call this a sentimental book. The heart of it is true – there are spunky orphans and there are lonely old people who have wasted their lives. As Anne grows older, however, and is introduced more to the hard truths of the world, her crazy optimistic charm dissipates leaving behind a strength.

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