Friday, July 24, 2009

Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Alright, bad news for Mr. Barca - I'm rereading the Anne of Green Gables series, this year, possibly the antithesis of the 'guy book' ideal that he has expressed an affectino for in the past. This is only the beginning - there are eight Anne books. But, Mr. Barca, you see I've tried so very hard to spare your feelings, so I've rolled up these first three books into one review, so there won't be QUITE so much challenge to your manhood. I will try to make this as painless as possible.

Anne of Green Gables will forever remind me of three people: my mother, because she's Canadian (thoguh she told jokes about P.E.I. folks - they're like the Canada equivalent of redneck jokes, apparently), my sister because she had the row of them on her shelf when I was little, and they looked so pretty there all in a row (right by the Laura Ingalls Wilder books), and my best friend from high school, Sarah Kortemeier, because she's the only person I ever saw wear red hair in pigtails (it was dyed for playing Annie at the time, she was more a ruddy brown, generally) and freckles (not fake, she had a healthy sprinkling of freckles). Anne of Green Gables is just like that last sentence, a series of charming, lovely, gently funny things (though much better written, older, and less given to parentheses).

In the grand scheme of things, these books shouldn't matter after 100 years. I don't mean to say they are bad books, but they aren't meant to be high literature. These books were written at the same time period, generally, as F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Joseph Conrad, after all. They were meant to be fun books, light books. And they are, they most certainly are, all of them, great fun.

But, the thing about Anne of Green Gables is that people DO still remember it. Plenty of books have been written, since, about what it is to grow up, but these ones stay large in the popular mind, despite all of the anachronisms they now carry, despite their imperfections.

The reason for me is the enormous respect that Ms Montgomery has for any soul that proves to be a kindred spirit. Ms Montgomery writes with passionate adoration, and quiet, sincere respect about old maids, young children, teenagers, college students, young newlyweds, middle-aged housewives, rich, poor, flighty and temperamental people, overly practical people, wild-eyed dreamers, quiet hard workers - to her, all these people are equal, and each one of them has their own brand of loveliness. Anne is a wonderful girl because she has the remarkable ability to love people as equals. Diana loves people because she thinks them better than her, Rachel loves people because she thinks they need her, Anne loves people as fellow travellers in her life, with warmth and sincere appreciation for their talents and abilities- and one gets the feeling that the narrator feels the same way.

These are the early books, the ones I know best, going from the orphan Anne being adopted by the Cuthberts, through school, teacher's college, and university, through her accepting an engagement with Gilbert. IT will be interesting to reread the books as she gets older and her cup becomes a little more mixed. The latter half of Ms. Montgomery's life was sad, I know (her husband was mentally ill, and she was frequently depressed and may have, in fact, committed suicide), and it will be interesting to reread the older books, now that I'm older, and know a little (just a little) more abotu what it is to have children, grow up, etc.

10 comments:

Amanda said...

I remember my grandmother trying to force these books on me as a kid. Sorry, but I'm still just not interested...

Jason Gignac said...

I understand. It's all those homespundressesinthefields.

Amanda said...

Hey, Byron's to blame for the homespun-dresses-in-the-field labeling technique.

Marcia Mickelson said...

I never heard of Anne of Green Gables until my college years. I missed out on them as a child. I loved Anne of Green Gables. I should read the rest of them.

Nymeth said...

I read these for the first time last summer and I loved them to bits. Must continue with the series!

Hamilcar Barca said...

arrgghh! the pain, it burns! must ... read ... manly ... guy ... book ... to ... make ... it ... go ... away.

:-)

Jason Gignac said...

Ms. Marcia - If you liked Anne of Green Gables, Ms Montgomery is nothing if not consistent. I also recommend one of her books I reviewed a few years ago, Kilmeny of the Orchard, which was lovely to read
Nymeth - You've only read the first three? I just started Anne of Windy Poplars today - they take about zero time to read. We should read them at the same time, then we can cross-link them! :)
Hamilcar Barca - Like silver bullets to a werewolf. Heh heh heh.

Jason Gignac said...

BTW - I just wnat to point out that the last three commenters before me have names that make a perfect Doo-Dah. Marcia-Nymeth-Hamilcar, Doo-dah! Doo-dah! (Camptown FTW!)

Padfoot and Prongs - Good Books Inc. said...

Oh gosh this has always been one of my hands down most beloved books of all time. I believe it has alot to do with the wonderful extravagance of language that Montgomery portrays. I says I am in the depths of despair about 30 times a day when ever I re-read this book.

Julie said...

I devoured these books in my youth but I haven't reread them as an adult. I think your review captured many thoughts on the overall feel of the book. I like that! I remember wanting to emulate Anne and enjoyed her character.
I've also really enjoyed the movies that were shown on PBS, I think BBC did them.(?) But I really loved the actress who played Anne. I thought she did great!