You may recall in the land before time, I mentioned a Project Montgomery, starting with LM Montgomery’s classic Emily series…I posted maybe once…or twice, and then life etc happened and it all fell by the wayside.
Despite my best intentions, I’m still late with my review (apples falling super close to trees and whatnot) but I DID finish, which is the MOST important thing…
So Anne (with an ‘e’); You are magical and splendacious and I think you were probably my first friend.
I KNOW we would have been kindred spirits and I definitely have been riddled with jealousy that Diana was your bosom friend…
I haven’t read your adventures for a good 15 years, and I did honestly approach this re-read with a little trepidation…but my goodness, you delivered and in spades. I learnt, I reminisced, I fell back in love with Avonlea, Green Gables, Rachel Lynde, Diana Barry, Marilla and Matthew. I was once again tangled up in their lives and their fortunes and how Anne ended up changing them all.
Best scene EVER.
It WAS different though, and not in a bad way – but like every book that impacts childhood, re-reading it once you are an adult, is a very different experience.
For those of you that haven’t ever read it, I give you a synopsis (you heathens (!) 🙂 )
Anne Shirley: orphan, red headed, freckled and opinionated is sent to brother and sister Marilla & Matthew Cuthbert by mistake. They wanted to adopt a boy, to help them around the farm. They got eleven year old Anne. Anne instantly wins over reserved and thoughtful Matthew, but Marilla has her doubts.
What follows is fabulous. Marilla is won over, despite her best intentions to the contrary, and indeed, the best parts of the story are between Anne and Marilla. Anne stays at Green Gables, grows up and forges her own path, with mishaps and adventures galore.
So. Things that I noticed differently this time:
1. The chapter headings are SO GOOD (and also quite explanatory…)
From the initial 3 chapters which are headed:
- Mrs Rachel Lynde is Surprised
- Matthew Cuthbert is Surprised
- Marilla Cuthbert is Surprised
- Tempest in a School Teapot
- Diana is invited to tea, with Tragic Results
- A Concert, A Catastrophe and a Confession
- Matthew insists on Puffed Sleeves
They are lovely. And clever. And show a rather dry, droll sense of humour from Montgomery, that I didn’t remember before.
One of the most interesting things was the way the story seemed to be more stories about Anne, and the things that happened to her. I didn’t remember it that way at all. All my memories of Anne, were of her escapades and being right there in the centre of it WITH Anne.
But, actually, a lot of the the time, these stories are often filtered by other characters, particularly Marilla: observing it, or being told about it afterward. It probably changes throughout the series, but this first Anne book, you don’t really get a complete sense of Anne’s essential character – everything is more from an external perspective. We are witnesses to her growing and changing, her joys and sorrows rather than inhabiting them.
2. Anne Talks:
Lordy does that girl TALK. She goes for pages without drawing breath. It was kind of like gaining an immunity to something…
at first it seems horrifying, but exposure builds resilience and you stop feeling exhausted and start paying attention to what she is actually saying, and in the midst of it you discover some really fabulous ideas and thoughts:
‘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?’
‘There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting…’
‘It is ever so much easier to be good if your clothes are fashionable…’
‘I’d do almost anything in the world for you, Diana,” said Anne sadly. “I’d let myself be torn limb from limb if it would do you any good. But I can’t do this, so please don’t ask it. You harrow up my very soul.’ (on Diana asking Anne not to leave school forever, after the Slate/Gilbert Incident)
‘I’m not a bit changed–not really. I’m only just pruned down and branched out. The real ME–back here–is just the same…’
Marilla is far more developed and interesting than I remember – she is dry and acerbic and reluctant to express her feelings, but I felt like she was very deeply attached to Anne. And it’s the little things that showed it:
‘I never in all my life say or heard anything to equal her,” muttered Marilla, beating a retreat down to the cellar after potatoes. “She is kind of interesting as Matthew says. I can feel already that I’m wondering what on earth she’ll say next. She’ll be casting a spell over me, too…’
‘Marilla looked at Anne and softened at sight of the child’s pale face with its look of mute misery–the misery of a helpless little creature who finds itself once more caught in the trap from which it had escaped. Marilla felt an uncomfortable conviction that, if she denied the appeal of that look, it would haunt her to her dying day…’
“Anne, you shouldn’t say such things” rebuked Marilla, striving to overcome that unholy tendency to laughter which she was dismayed to find growing upon her.
‘But am I talking too much, Marilla? Does it hurt your head?”
“My head is better now. It was terrible bad this afternoon, though. These headaches of mine are getting worse and worse. I’ll have to see a doctor about them. As for your chatter, I don’t know that I mind it–I’ve got so used to it.”
Which was Marilla’s way of saying that she liked to hear it.’
‘Are you sorry you kept me, Marilla?”
“No, I can’t say I’m sorry,” said Marilla, who sometimes wondered how she could have lived before Anne came to Green Gables, “no, not exactly sorry…’
4. Weird change between quirky chatterbox Anne with an ‘e’ and grown up dreamy, beautiful Anne.
Literally in the space of 2 chapters, Anne seems to go from making a mess of something for some reason, because of some person, to a grown, less chaotic, much more mature person. There seemed to be so much time spent languishing in the depth in Anne-insanity, and then all of a sudden. Boom. Grown up and proper Anne:
‘There were other changes in Anne… For one thing, she became much quieter. Perhaps she thought all the more and dreamed as much as ever, but she certainly talked less. Marilla noticed and commented on this also.
“You don’t chatter half as much as you used to, Anne, nor use half as many big words. What has come over you?”
Anne colored and laughed a little, as she dropped her book and looked dreamily out of the window…
“I don’t know–I don’t want to talk as much,” she said, denting her chin thoughtfully with her forefinger. “It’s nicer to think dear, pretty thoughts and keep them in one’s heart, like treasures. I don’t like to have them laughed at or wondered over. And somehow I don’t want to use big words any more…’
Irregardless, Anne has imprinted herself on my psyche and I don’t think she will ever go away. She was the person I always wanted to be: optimistic, light-hearted and a shrewd determiner of character. She has imagination and is official best namer of THINGS (Violet Vale, Lover’s Lane, Dryad’s Bubble…)
Her start in life was less than opportune, but she made the most of it, and then some. If I end up with 1/16th of Anne’s character (when I eventually grow up); I will count myself fortunate indeed.
Anne & Diana…second only to The Golden Girls…
Next up: Anne of Avonlea (which I have ALREADY started and currently, am not in the least bit behind on!)
Valancy: a little bit sad SHE was never Ophelia, on a raft, in the water…Le Sigh.
Header: Wallpaper: William Morris: Bachelors Button’ (1892)