Published: June 1908
Series: Anne of Green Gables (#1)
Shelved: Children’s fiction (classic, realistic fiction)
Challenge: Classics Challenge – #12
Buy: The Book Depository
Anne of Green Gables is classic novel published nearly 105 years ago, and one of the most refreshing children’s novels I have ever read, full of energy and vigour (although I read after finishing that it wasn’t originally intended to be a children’s novel, but a novel aimed at all ages). I chose Anne of Green Gables to be my last classic of 2012 because it was one of those novels I felt I had known about forever, but had just never read.
Marilla and Matthew, two siblings living on Prince Edward Island, Canada, decide to adopt an orphan boy to help out on their farm. But when Matthew goes to pick up the boy from the train station, he is shocked to find little red-headed Anne Shirley, and is instantly taken to her, charmed by her enthusiasm and talent for chattering.
Anne Shirley, or as she likes to call herself, Cordelia (‘It’s such a perfectly elegant name’), is one of the most intelligent, witty, articulate and likeable child protagonists I have ever come across. She’s utterly fantastic and made me wish I was as awesome and imaginative as her when I was a child. She fervently disapproves of anything that leaves ‘no scope for imagination’ and is given to colourful outbursts (‘my life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes’). I adored her imaginative, romantic exaggerations, which made me giggle and smile to myself, and her ability to see beauty in everything, which is rather fluffy, but lovely. She is so glad to live ‘in world where there are Octobers’. It’s like a 1900s Tumblr. I love it. Adults are sometimes threatened by Anne’s extensive vocabulary, but she doesn’t dumb herself down for anybody.
Anne of Green Gables is also surprisingly progressive. I was thrilled to read the characters talk of how brilliant it would be if women could vote, and it’s the women who travel miles to the next town to watch a political tour. Out of context, some passages will seem old fashioned to the point of offensive, such as Anne saying she’d ‘rather be pretty than clever’, but the irony is that she’s one of the smartest children at her school. I think this is more of a set up so we can see how much Anne changes over time, especially as Marilla is always encouraging her to care more about being intelligent.
Anne of Green Gables now one of my favourite novels and one I’ll keep coming back to. I wish I had highlighted my own copy since I found it in a used bookshop for only 50p, although I would’ve ended up highlighting the entire book. A Vintage Children’s Classics edition will be published later this year – I may have to add it to my collection. I dare you all not to be enchanted by young Anne Shirley!