by L. M. Montgomery
“Avonlea little girls had already heard queer stories about Anne; Mrs. Lynde said she had an awful temper; Jerry Buote, the hired boy at Green Gables, said she talked all the time to herself or to the trees and flowers like a crazy girl” (Montgomery, 80).
I read this because someone recommended it prominently as a good book for my writing, to cultivate it better and to encourage my personal style. And I can see why. The style and description is very lush, and the characters are very strong in propelling the plot (as aspect of storytelling I’m beginning to feel I lack).
To start with the description, I’ll say it it was a really pretty book, word wise (I feel like I say that all the time). So much beautiful writing. I can’t write down every lovely description, but have some:
“Overhead was one long canopy of snowy fragrant bloom. Below the boughs the air was full of a purple twilight and far ahead a glimpse of painted sunset sky shone like a great rose window at the end of a cathedral aisle” (17).
“The 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 fir boughs and tassels seemed to utter friendly speech” (63)
“a glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of autumn had poured them for the sun to drain—amethyst, pearl, silver, rose, and smoke-blue. The dews were so heavy that the fields glistened like cloth of silver and there were such heaps of rustling leaves in the hollows of many-stemmed to run crisply through” (190).
Secondly, there were so many wonderful characters.
Of course there’s Anne Shirley. She’s imaginative, vibrant, relatable; she has a love of learning, love of stories, and love of nature. Basically, she was very inspirational. I adored her attitude.
I’m sure if I had read this around the same time I read The Song of the Lioness quartet by Tamora Pierce (11-ish), Anne would had a big impact on how I viewed the world and creativity. Her abundant imagination would have fueled a healthier sense that stories were okay and fostered a more imaginative approach to the world. It would have let my mind be a little more fluid when it came to creating stories and ideas.
Additionally, she might have taught me that just having a wonderful idea isn’t the same as actually making a good idea or story, as Anne learns from her teacher, Miss Stacy.
“‘She makes us write all our essays as simply as possible. It was hard at first. I was so used to crowding in all the fine big words I could think of… I never thought my compositions had so many faults until I began to look for them myself. I felt so ashamed I wanted to give up altogether, but Miss Stacy said I could learn to write well if I only trained myself to be my own severest critic. And so I am trying to'” (255).
It would have been a greatly useful lesson to learn that good writing takes critique and attention, and simply using whatever you want does not guarantee it’s any good. Also, with some work, one can learn to be a good writer.
And her studious nature would have been nice encouragement, especially in retrospect considering I had such a sense of belonging when I discovered Classics in college (which I didn’t get a full degree in cause I’d already switched majors once; I was also actually happy in an English class that discussed books, plot, stories, and characters).
Aside from all that, there’s just something very engaging and likable about Anne. Take for example, her attitude on her first day at Green Gables:
“‘Oh, I don’t mean just the tree; of course it’s lovely—yes, it’s radiantly lovely—it blooms as if meant it—but I meant everything, the garden and the whole orchard and the brook and the woods, the whole big dear world. Don’t you feel as if you just loved the world on a morning like this? And I can hear the brook laughing all the way up here. Have you ever noticed how cheerful brooks are? They’re always laughing. Even in wintertime I’ve heard them under the ice… Isn’t it a splendid thing that there are mornings?'” (31-2).
Life (and nature) are just be wonderful. I love the sense of that. It’s just positive and beautiful.
And few other characters I liked were:
- Matthew Cuthbert, who’s nice, but shy so he felt sympathetic. He’s also supportive and positive, especially in regard to Anne. Also, I suspected he was gong to die. I ended up being right.
- Marilla Cuthbert, his sister. I actually liked her, too (or is that implicit?). She’s stern but not uptight. I respected how she wants to do what’s right, but does love Anne
- Diana Barry, Anne’s bosom friend. (Anne was very into having a special female friend). She’s nice, a bit more sensible than Anne, a bit (apparently) more fashionable, and just generally likable.
And lastly, there was so much wonderful plot development. Even though a lot of the story was composed of daily events, they showed off Anne’s character and subtlety build up the characters’ personalities and relationships. There were a lot of mini disasters of different sorts throughout, but when I finished it, I felt that there had been a subtle but very definite progression. It wasn’t just random events happening; there was definite sense of focus and conclusion to the book.
In particular, after Matthew’s death and the verdict that Marilla will go blind unless she stops straining her eyes, Anne decides to forgo her scholarship at Redmond and stay at Green Gables and teach instead. Marilla protests, but Anne interjects:
“‘Nonsense!’ Anne laughed merrily. ‘There is no sacrifice. Nothing could be worse than giving up Green Gables—nothing could hurt me more'” (393).
When Anne arrived at Green Gables all she wanted was to count it as her home, and by the end of the book, that’s just what she’s done. It is her home and she can’t lose it now that she’s found it. Besides, her home includes Marilla, too, and she can’t leave her alone to her fate.
It’s just…I know that it’s too bad Anne has to give up a potential education to stay at home, but somehow writing it now and when I read it, it really strikes me. I feel very emotionally moved by it, you know?
Overall, I loved it. It was an easy, relaxing, envigorating, and inspirational read. Good times! And like The Tale of Hill Top Farm, it re-enforces that I’d like to write a story stylistically like this, but in a completely fantasy setting. Daily life fantasy with strong characters and growth. It’s like a dazzling, wonderful idea in my head. (I’m totally reading the rest of The Anne Novels)
source edited for better definitions
- none: (I’m almost sure there were some, but I didn’t mark them as I read)
Browning: “The good stars met in your horoscope,/Made you of spirit and fire and dew” (title page).
This is an actual quote, not one from a character
Montgomery, L. M. Anne of Green Gables. New York, NY: Bantam Books, 1998. Print. 2nd Bantam reissue