Review: Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery

Author: L.M. Montgomery
Title: Anne of Green Gables
Format/Source: eBook/library 
Published: June 1908
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Length: 320 pages
Genre: General fiction/young adult
Why I Read: Quintessential Canadian children’s lit, wanted a taste of PEI
Read If You’re: Looking for a light but lovely read that gains weight as it progresses
Quote: “The Barry garden was a bowery wilderness of flowers which would have delighted Anne’s heart at any time less fraught with destiny.” (105)
Rating:  ★★★★ [ratings guide]
Links: GoodReads | Gutenberg | IndieBound Chapters 

Anne of Green Gables is children’s literature classic, and Canadian to boot! I had to read the first chapters in university and I thought they were alright, but I wasn’t in the mood to continue on. Being in Japan finally pushed me to a place where I felt like reading the book. I wanted a lighthearted story with a natural Canadian setting – something that would give me a sweet taste of home. Also, Anne is very popular in Japan so I didn’t want to be caught looking unknowledgeable 😉

Young Anne isn’t the perfect child I excepted. She’s certainly no Pollyanna. She has terrific mood swings and she is indeed chatty. Even I emphasized with Marilla at times! But for me, this is part of Anne’s charm. Despite her imagination, she’s still a child whose mood can be crushed by careless words. I didn’t know the story would follow her as she aged (she is 12-16 years in the book). I thought the entire book was a collection of amusing mis-happenings about a little girl. The reader truly does get a sense of Anne growing up, which I don’t think you usually see in a single novel. Usually the protagonist remains a child or a teen (perhaps progressing within those labels).  If a character does age a number of years, I find they’re largely the same, just in different circumstances. With Anne, I understood how Marilla and Matthew felt. Anne grows to a proper young lady, one who doesn’t chat as much but still has imagination. You might wish she had stayed a little girl, or at least not grown up so quickly.  I thought the transition from schoolgirl Anne to Queens Anne was sudden and quick. However, I’m not sure if this is awkward storytelling or excellent writing that captures the feeling of your little baby growing up too fast!

As Anne grows up, so too does the story. I thought it was going to be all fun and games, but the book takes on some gravity near the end. I was nearly in tears. Yes, for the most part, Anne of Green Gables is a lovely light story but it’s got a lot of heart and it will pull you in if you let it.

Finally, I was also surprised to find I really enjoyed the prose. I wasn’t expecting much from it. I heard Montgomery captures the beauty of PEI in this novel, but I never gave a thought as to how it shows in the story. Her prose reads like she’s just describing what she saw. There isn’t a lot of embellishment, but it’s not necessary. Sometimes a scene is beautiful enough to just describe as is. As I’m sure everyone feels after reading an Anne story, I want to visit PEI even more now!

That bridge led Anne’s dancing feet up over a wooded hill beyond, where perpetual twilight reigned under the straight, thick-growing firs and spruces; the only flowers there were myriads of delicate “June bells,” those shyest and sweetest of woodland blooms, and a few pale, aerial starflowers, like the spirits of last year’s blossoms. Gossamers glimmered like threads of silver among the trees and the fir boughs and tassels seemed to utter friendly speech. (Chap. 9)

The Bottom Line: Anne of Green Gables was took me unprepared in a number of good ways. If you have considered giving it a go, please do so! Now I understand her lasting appeal for thousands of readers – and it goes beyond Anne’s delightful childhood imagination.

Further Reading: