This month’s 2016 reading challenge item is a book you haven’t read since high school, and I selected Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. To be honest, I can’t remember exactly when I read it last, but I’m thinking it was around grade nine or ten, so it counts for this category! Back then, I read all of the Anne books. I remember being particularly fond of the one where she was off at Redmond college (Anne of the Island), and also the one about the adventures of all her kids (Anne of Ingleside).
Since I’m being so honest, I’ll admit that I was a bit reluctant to pick this book up again, even though I had enjoyed reading it previously. I think maybe I felt like I’d outgrown it. However – I was proven wrong. It charmed me just as much as before.
First published in 1908, Anne of Green Gables was first published as a serial for a Sunday school paper, and became so popular that L.M. Montgomery went on to write several more books featuring everyone’s favourite tempestuous, imaginative red-head, Anne Shirley. Though the book is over a hundred years old now, it’s still immensely popular; Green Gables is a major tourist attraction on Prince Edward Island, and several movies have been made of the book.
When I first read this book, back in my early teens, I remember thinking that L.M. Montgomery’s writing was stunningly beautiful. It is, actually. Her appreciation for the beauty of nature shines through in each of her poetic sentences. However, literary tastes and trends are always evolving, and I think it would be considered a little bit too ‘purple’ of prose if written in modern times.
Anne of Green Gables isn’t a plot-focused book. The plot, in a nutshell, is that an elderly brother and sister, both unmarried, unexpectedly adopt an orphan girl and all of their lives become richer. Anne gets into a lot of ‘scrapes,’ as she would call them, amusing adventures that people today can still relate to. She makes up stories about the forest near her house, calling it the Haunted Wood, and then finds herself too scared to walk through it at night. Haven’t we all done something that, maybe after watching The Ring or reading The Shining? (Just me? Please no. I mean, at least I have Anne). She hates her red hair, and tries to dye it another colour. She struggles to keep up with the fashions of her time (but unfortunately, puffed sleeves are no longer appealing). She strives to do well in school and build a future for herself. She copes with having a temper, and maintains wonderful friendships. Anne could be any person today, and I think that’s partly why it’s so delightful to be drawn into her world, which is also alluring in itself due to its beauty and freedom from terrible shadows. Darkness is glossed over; while alcoholism is referred to, it isn’t featured, and there’s no terrible violence to be found in Avonlea. It’s cosy. It’s a sweet read.
Re-reading this book now that I’m older made a few changes. This time, when I came across Anne describing ‘blackest samite’, I laughed, because I now know that samite a silken fabric sewn with silver or gold threads, popular in medieval times. Black shot through with silver, like a night sky strewn with comets, sounds perfectly appealing to Anne, but it would lighten it considerably. Also, now that I’ve had currant wine, I cannot believe the way Diana guzzled three tumblers of it so quickly, even without knowing it as alcoholic. Slow down there, Diana! This time, Gilbert really did seem like kind of a jerk at first, too. He pinned Ruby Gillis’ hair to her chair, and she didn’t know until she tried to stand up. That’s just mean. Come on, Gil.
I’ve recently discovered and fallen in love with making graphics on Canva, and I’ll seize the slimmest excuse to make a new one. Instead of writing down all my reactions to reading this book again, I put them into a graphic:
I have to share some of my favourite Anne of Green Gables related links from The Toast:
I’m making progress on the 2016 Reading Challenge! I haven’t quite decided if I’m doing poems or a translated book yet for next month.
2016 Reading Challenge List:
– A National Book Award winner– complete, Fifteen Dogs
– One of Shakespeare’s plays– complete, Hamlet
– A mystery – complete, And Then There Were None
– A graphic novel – complete, Bayou
– Book in a genre you usually avoid – complete, The Wild Seasons series
– Book about or set within a culture you’re unfamiliar with – complete, The Moon in the Palace and The Empress of Bright Moon (duology)
– Book you haven’t read since high school – complete, Anne of Green Gables
– A book translated to your native language – next up, Gigi by Colette
– At least three poems – one will probably be Tennyson, due to the above craving
– Non-fiction about a subject you’ve been curious about
– A book that’s at least 100 years older than you
– A classic novel