***Warning: Full-on fangirl ridiculousness below***
Alright, this one's a biggie. Remember my Ramona post, where I explained that two books series and one book were very influential in my life? Well, today, you get another piece of that puzzle because today is the day I profess my profound love for Anne of Green Gables.
How can I properly express how much I love this book? How about if I told you that this book and its sequels were responsible for fostering certain aspects of my personality as a girl that are still some of my distinct personality traits today? Or that I still use Anne of Green Gables terms in my adult vocabulary like referring to (special) people as "kindred spirits"? Or that one of my closest adult friendships was solidified one late chatty night in college when we both realized we felt the same way about the books? Or that I may or may not have subconsciously chosen my wedding venue because the place has green . . . ahem . . . gables.
I know, it seems silly to still care about books you read as a kid (er...have you ever met/read me before?), but let me further explain. Growing up I often felt like the odd one out in my family because I was the only left side of the brain type in my family of seven. Consider the professions they are all in now--medicine, accounting, finance, engineering. Most definitely right-brainers. There just wasn't a lot of flowery talk or elaborate imaginations in my house growing up. I suspected I was different at a young age, but didn't know how to express that difference because I didn't really have any examples of people like me around me. When I first read Anne at 9 years old, I was struck by her behavior. Here she was looking at things the way I looked at things. The difference was she expressed herself in ways that I was too shy to express myself in--and she was universally adored for it. And that helped me to start acting more like me. So you see, this book played a very important role at a very critical point of development in my life, so I can't really let it go. It's pretty much a part of me. This is the power of literature, people.
Now for the story. We meet Anne at a train station on Prince Edward Island, Canada (P.E.I.), a freckle-faced, red-headed orphan girl who is waiting to be picked up by her new adoptive parents. She gets picked up by quiet, shy and elderly Matthew Cuthbert. He and his tough sister, Marilla, whom he lives with, have decided to adopt a boy as a way to get some help around the farm since they are getting older. Matthew, unable to break the news to Anne that she was a mistake, and having no other choice really, takes Anne home with him to Green Gables. On the ride there, Matthew, who is completely afraid of the female kind minus his sister, is entranced by Anne and her babbling about and the audience becomes entranced too.In the end, grumpy Marilla begrudgingly agrees to keep Anne, despite the fact she is unusual; chatty and dramatic--all things Marilla does not appreciate.And that is start of the beautiful Green Gables family unit of Marilla, Matthew and Anne. And also the start of the shaking up of the old-school and conservative Cuthberts, and really the entire town of Avonlea, as a result of the arrival of this spirited ginger.
Anne has a lot of distinct characters traits. First, her red hair and freckles, which she loathes deeply. Which brings us to another character trait--she's actually very vain and cares a lot of about beauty and clothes and fanciness of names (she wishes her name was Cordelia and not just plain Anne). She's not spoiled because she actually never had any of these things, but she's always imagined them in her mind and hoped so hard that one day she'll be able to acquire these things, even if only for a fleeting moment. Her prior life of having-not makes her delight in simple things like a church picnic, having a best friend, the spring coming out, the green of the trees. the sparkle of water. Which was a good reminder that I should appreciate the beauty of my surroundings rather than spend time longing for the new iPhone 5s. Aren't you glad we live in a world where there are Octobers? Why yes I am, Anne!
Anne is very kind and super smart. She often puts her foot in her mouth because she says what's on her mind. Anne is also the whimsy queen. She is always involved in some elaborate imagination game in her mind--sometimes so deeply that it derails her less whimsical activities like washing dishes. She likes to rename things so they sound more wonderful like Dryad's Bubble, Lovers Lane and the Lake of Shining Waters. She can out-whimsy even the best of them, even those of us who have whimsy-based blogs and woodland wedding themes.
The book takes place over the course of a few years, starting when Anne is 11 and ending when Anne is done with high school and getting ready to go to college. She starts off as a bubbly melodramatic little chatterbox and eventually grows up into a lovely young woman (who still has whimsy). Over the course of these years, Anne has many misadventures. Some of my favorites include:
- Breaking a chalk slate over dreamy Gilbert Blythe's head because he called her "Carrots" (how dare he).
- Being dared by bitchy Josie Pye to walk on the roof, falling off the roof and spraining her ankle, but in doing so, having one of her dreams come true -- she faints!
- Pretending to be dead on a floating raft (recreating a romantic Tennyson poem obviously), and then of course becoming stuck on the raft, and getting saved by current archnemesis/future love, Gilbert Blythe, much to Anne's discontent.
- Telling off town gossip Mrs. Lynde the first time she meets her, and then miraculously winning back her affection.
- Accidentally jumping and scaring the bejeezus out of a sleeping old lady, Diana's cranky great aunt Josephine, who of course ends up adoring Anne.
- Accidentally dying her hair green because she hates her red hair so much.
- Accidentally getting bff Diana Barry drunk on raspberry cordial (my favorite part) and their friendship being forbidden by Diana's mother.
- Winning over the severe and strict Mrs. Barry once again when Anne uses her wits to save Diana's sister Minnie May from death from illness when her parents are away.
- Sweet Matthew surprising her by buying a dress with puffed sleeves for her birthday (Best.Scene.Ever.)
- Every time she horrifies Marilla by her behavior but then ends up making Marilla love her more, much to Marilla's own surprise.
At the very end of the book, one of the saddest things to ever happen in all of cihldren's literature occurs-- Matthew dies. It was horribly sad even this twentieth time reading the book. Let's just say I put the book down for two days because I knew what was about to happen and I just didn't want it to happen. I can't even talk about it here because it is just the worst, saddest thing ever.
I am so in love with this book!! I don't see how it doesn't make every person who reads it feel all whirly and magically inside (not apologizing for my ridiculousness). My adult reading was pretty on par with all of my previous readings of the book. But I guess I did have some adult thoughts like thinking that possibly Matthew was so scared of women and wanted to live a life of solitude because he was gay man living on a tiny Canadian island at the turn of the last century. Just a theory. Also, I was surprised how vain Anne was, especially in the very beginning. I kind of wanted to shake her and say "Just because you have red hair doesn't mean the world is foreclosed to you! You CAN wear pink! Just ask Christina Hendricks." I also caught myself thinking that it must be rather tiresome when someone screws something up and when you ask her how it happened, her answer is always I forgot what I was doing because I was imagining. Ah! I hate that I just said that. I take it back! I take it back!
One of the great things about Anne of Green Gables is that the movie based on the book is also amazing.
Even though I haven't seen this movie in what's gotta be 15 years, when I read Anne this time around, I still imagined her looking like Anne did in the movie. In addition to the movie (which had two sequels as well), there was also the series Avonlea that originally ran on PBS and then the Disney Channel, which wasn't about Anne Shirley but about Sara Stanley and the people of Avonlea. A show totally made in kindred spirit fashion.
One day I hope to make it to PEI, maybe with my own daughter, who (fingers and toes crossed) is a kindred spirit herself.