Yes, I finally read the beloved childhood classic Anne of Green Gables by H.M. Montgomery for the first time just after my 50th birthday! I don’t know how I missed it all these years, but I absolutely loved this warm, funny, clever novel. It may have been written for children, but it is a wonderful novel for all ages.
In case, like me, you’ve never read it either, Anne is an eleven-year old orphan who goes to live with an old brother and sister, Matthew and Marilla, on their farm called Green Gables on Prince Edward Island. Anne has been through a lot in her young life, shuttled from one home to another, where she is typically seen as household help. She is a surprise to Matthew and Marilla because they had asked for an orphan boy to help out with their farm.
Anne soon finds her way into their hearts, though, and they decide to let her stay. She is a lively girl, full of energy, with a head of bright red hair, and a vivid imagination. She talks a mile a minute, completely upending Matthew and Marilla’s normally quiet routine life. Here is how she greets Matthew, when he comes to pick her up at the train station, expecting a boy:
“I suppose you are Mr. Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables?” She said in a peculiarly clear, sweet voice. “I’m very glad to see you. I was beginning to be afraid you weren’t coming for me and I was imagining all of the things that might have happened to prevent you. I had made up my mind that if you didn’t come for me tonight I’d go down the track to that big wild cherry tree at the bend, and climb up into it to stay all night. I wouldn’t be a bit afraid and it would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don’t you think? You could imagine you were dwelling in marble halls, couldn’t you? And I was quite sure you would come for me in the morning, if you didn’t tonight.”
Matthew, who rarely speaks to anyone but Marilla, is so bowled over by the child’s sweet disposition and bright energy that he doesn’t tell her about the mix-up but brings her home for his sister to sort out. Marilla is soon similarly enchanted by Anne. As for Anne, she is stunned by the natural beauty of Green Gables and thinks it is the most beautiful place she has ever seen. She gladly makes it her new home – the first real home she has had in a very long time.
Anne begins to attend church and Sunday school, settles into life at Green Gables, and makes her first friend. She is nervous as she and Marilla head out to meet the girl next-door: “Oh, Marilla, you’d be excited, too, if you were going to meet a little girl you hoped to be your bosom friend and whose mother mightn’t like you.” She needn’t have worried, as she and Diana quickly become friends, and she gains the “bosom friend” she’s always dreamed of. In the fall, she and Diana attend school in the little town.
Sometimes, Anne’s high energy and imagination get the best of her; she often finds herself getting into trouble in one way or another. Marilla is determined to “bring her up” right and correct her frequent mistakes, though Anne’s warmth and bubbling personality soon win her over, too (Matthew was won over the moment he met her). Anne’s adventures continue over several years, as she grows up at Green Gables.
I loved every moment of this classic novel, from its very first pages, and fell in love with Anne just as Matthew and Marilla did. She has to be one of the best characters in the history of literature: exuberant, kind, and well-meaning, even if she is often getting into trouble without intending to. Montgomery’s story is clever and witty, with plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and a few sad ones, too. I turned down many pages so that I could come back and write down quotes: Anne has a way of capturing the essence of life beautifully. I devoured this book quickly and was left wanting more – lucky for me, Montgomery wrote a whole series of Anne books!
440 pages, Aladdin
P.S. My copy was a new hardcover edition published by Aladdin; last year, they re-released all of the Anne books in these lovely new hardcover editions.