Thursday, February 16, 2012

Classy Classics: Anne of Green Gables

In my rebound from The Hunger Games, I picked up L.M. Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables and its sequels.  Like many girls who pick up these books, I loved Anne from the moment I met her.  And I love her still more now.   These are great reads for young girls and adults alike, so let me show you why you should pick up this classic series if you haven't already. (Yes, I know I tend to migrate toward girly classics, but I assure you I've got tons more with wider appeal to pull from my bag of tricks).

The Basics
Lucy Maud Montgomery was born on Prince Edward Island in Canada in 1874.  She began publishing short stories in 1897.  She first published Anne of Green Gables in 1908, but didn't complete all installments in the series until 1839.

Like Montgomery, Anne grows up on Prince Edward Island.  The series opens with Anne Shirley's adoption by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, an older brother and sister, who initially mean to take in a little boy to help with the farm work.  Anne quickly wins their hearts with her imagination and sweet nature.  The series follows Anne from the moment of her adoption into adulthood; along the way readers watch Anne grow into a young woman, get an education, find love, settle down, and become a mother. The books are, in order (though not order of publication), Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne's House of Dreams, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, Rilla of Ingleside.

Why You Should Read These Books
I guess I can hardly avoid starting off with our titular heroine Anne.  Anne is unlike any other character. She's full of life and so vividly drawn I feel as if she must have been real.  As a young girl, I identified very much with Anne and her vibrant imagination full of fairies and a love of nature.  It also helped that she had an enormous (and hilarious) capacity for getting herself into "scrapes." Whether she's dying her hair green, falling from rooftops, or extolling the loveliness of a tree in bloom, Anne can't fail to warm your heart. (Unless, of course, you don't have one.  You do have one, right?). One of the best parts about the series when you're reading it as a young girl is that you can almost grow up alongside Anne.  And, when you revisit the books at a later date a new stage in Anne's life will have opened up to your further understanding, meaning that whatever your age, you can identify with the heroine.

You really can't beat L.M. Montgomery on her prose.  Her style is warm and engaging, at times hilarious and at others tear jerking depending on what a scene calls for. There's a certain genuineness to Montgomery's writing that engages readers' emotions as well as their interest.  I also really appreciate her versatility in tone.  Much of each book is dedicated to simple, everyday Canadian life around the turn of the century, and Montgomery imbues these scenes with a level of realism that pulls me in so much that I feel I might look up at any moment and be surrounded by Avonlea.  At the same time, Montgomery is capable of some of the most florid flights of fantasy, experienced most often when Anne freely indulges her powerful imagination.  Believe me, you'll never get bored.

A unique aspect of the books that I enjoy is that the plot of each novel is wholly focused on Anne's life stages and her passage through them.  There are many little plot threads that run throughout each book, but there isn't really a dramatic overarching plot line like you see with most (if not all) series today.  The books are truly character driven rather than plot driven in a way that is rare today where readers demand a defined story to follow.  I like the meandering snapshots we get of Anne's life; it's nice to read something just a little bit different and less modern.  As a result, the Anne books make for quick, light hearted reads that will nevertheless leave a lasting impression.


L.M. Montgomery

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