Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery
5 out of 5 stars
Okay, so one of my online crafty friends mentioned this book a while back and how it was her favorite and so good, etc. It intrigued me, since I've never read it, so I picked it up last time we were at HPB. I got bored with Romeo & Juliet (which was supposed to be my November classic) so I started reading this and got totally hooked. By page 11, I was giggling out loud, thanks to this quote: "Matthew dreaded all women except Marilla and Mrs. Rachel; he had an uncomfortable feeling that the mysterious creatures were secretly laughing at him." By like page 33, I was telling my sister it was the best book ever. And when I reached the ending, I was crying and wondering why no one had ever made me read this before. Seriously y'all, I don't know why it took me so long. I can't wait to get the other books, but I'm worried about where it will go after the ending. Oh, I'm getting ahead of myself. What if some of you haven't read it yet either?? Let's start from the beginning and maybe I can convince you to try it! :)
Here's what I knew about this book before I started: there was a red-headed girl. Named Anne. And she lived on/in something called Green Gables. Heh. Oh and it's really old. The book is set in the early 1900s in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island in Canada. I didn't even know it was in Canada. It starts out with Mrs. Rachel, the town gossip, seeing Matthew Cuthburt going into town in his nice clothes unexpectedly. So she goes over to Green Gables, the Cuthburt's farm, and talks to Marilla to find out the news. Now, let me tell you first off, so you aren't totally shocked like I was: Matthew and Marilla are brother & sister, not married. You may be laughing at me, but I was totally flabbergasted. I didn't find this out til after I'd finished the book and was reading other reviews on Goodreads. I just don't understand this, how do they know? It's never mentioned, that I can remember, and I just went back and reread the first 10 pages to see if I missed it. I can't remember the last time a book shocked me like that. Anyway, Marilla tells Rachel that they have decided to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew around the farm, because he's getting older (both are in their late fifties-sixties). Rachel thinks this is the most ridiculous idea ever, mostly because they didn't talk it over with her first. Marilla is just like "whatever, we're doing this, get over it."
Matthew gets to the train station and is dismayed to find a knobby-kneed, red-headed, freckled, little girl where his boy is supposed to be. Wait!! I just found where they say they're siblings...the train guy says it. Okay, I feel better. ;) Alright, so there was apparently some kind of mixup and there's this girl waiting for Matthew instead of a boy. He can't exactly leave her there, especially because he would have to explain what happened and he can't really talk to girls (like Raj on Big Bang Theory), so he decides to just take her home and let Marilla handle it. The girl is Anne (saw that coming, didn't ya?) and she is 11 years old and woo-boy, is she a talker. She talks nonstop nearly the whole way home, about anything and everything. But it's not irritating chatter like some people, at least not for Matthew. He quickly becomes enchanted with the imaginative young girl and decides, in his quiet way, that he wants to keep Anne. I mean, really, how could he not after this:
Oh, it seems so wonderful that I'm going to live with you and belong to you. I've never belonged to anybody-not really.
Marilla, of course, takes a little more convincing. She is a strict, no-nonsense, sensible woman and has no use for a flighty, dreamer girl like Anne. But she is also kindhearted, strong, loyal, and has a sense of humor deep down. And she's eventually won over by Anne's charms and agrees to let the girl stay. But she is going to raise her right, by Gosh, and Matthew has no say in the matter. Which is okay by him, now he can spoil her every now and then without worrying about it. I really love both Marilla and Matthew as much as Anne. Matthew was an instant love; he's just so quiet and shy and dependable, you can't help it. When he decides to buy Anne a new dress with puff sleeves, so she can be just as (if not more) pretty as the other girls, he just about broke my heart with his sweetness. Spoiler for the end of the book (highlight to read): I figured at least one of the siblings would die by the end of the book, but I thought it would be Marilla. So when Matthew died suddenly, I was so sad. I had tears in my eyes for the rest of the book. I grieved with Anne and Marilla, and like Anne says “I can't cheer up — I don't want to cheer up. It's nicer to be miserable!” /end spoilers
I didn't expect to love Marilla too, but she turned out to be such an important character, I'd say second only to Anne, that I started looking forward to her thoughts and actions too. Maybe because I read this as an adult I was able to sympathize with her more and see her side of things. She didn't want this child in her life, but there she was. She was determined to make a decent human out of her, no matter what, and love didn't always equate into that. But Anne's tenacity, dramatics, and love of life all made Marilla love the child just as much as Matthew did.
“She makes me love her and I like people who make me love them. It saves me so much trouble making myself love them.” (Marilla didn't actually say this quote, but it still works for her and me!)
I've talked so much about the characters already, but what about the story itself? It's a simple one: the trials and tribulations of an energetic child growing up in a small country town. Anne is incredibly smart, even with her upbringing, and she obviously loves making up stories. “People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?” I think anyone with a big imagination is bound to be smarter than average, don't you? Anne is sent to the local school and immediately makes friends and enemies. Diana lives on the farm closest to her and the two girls become best friends and "kindred spirits" from their first meeting. Or before their first meeting, on Anne's part. I was so pleasantly surprised to see their friendship last the entire book, with no fights. Maybe that'll change in later books? I hope not.
And then there's Gilbert Blythe. A handsome young man who makes the mistake of calling Anne "Carrots", bringing to everyone's attention the one thing she hates most about herself...her flaming red hair. Anne vows to hate him forever (after smashing him over the head with a chalk tablet hah!!) and she succeeds for a good four years or so. She's got determination, I'll tell you that. They get into a sort of competition over the years for best student, both at the tiny school and at the larger teacher's certification school they both attend at age 16. I'm very intrigued to see where their relationship goes in the future, obviously there will be some sort of romance, but I'm sure it will be fraught with tears, laughter, and dramatic fights. Oh, I can't wait. ;)
“It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”