I cannot remember reading Anne of Green Gables in my own childhood, but it came into consciousness when acquiring it, probably from the Beaudesert Library, for then 10 year old daughter, J. It has been a delight to now read it myself at the age of 66 years. Daughter, J, read several of the sequels, and the Emily books, as well.
Once again, I made an effort to get a lovely version of the book – this time, when unaccostomedly being in New York, trekking down 5th Avenue to the Barnes and Noble bookstore. There was a lovely pastel yellow leather-bound version with gold-embossed pages with ribbon bookmark, and beautifully laid out quality pages with some of the original illustrations. Having read this book, it is now dedicated to J’s little daughter, A – another generation of kindred spirits.
Lucy Maud Montgomery brings us orphaned Anne who arrives at Green Gables, the home of Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Anne is vibrant and optimistic and forthright, fully embracing her new life, inspite of her harsh earlier childhood years. We go on her adventures and misadventures, her growing up, her forging of friendships (and frenemies with Gilbert) and an invaluable family with Marilla and Matthew. She would be exciting and inspiring to the young reader.
Montgomery was able to draw on her own childhood which had many similarities, having lost her own mother very early in her life, and grown up happily with her grandparents, in a green gabled house in the village of Cavendish on Prince Edward Island. Montgomery was raised mostly by her Aunt Emily Macneill until Emily was married (when Maud was about 10 years old), and left the Macneill farm. Maud lived with her “grandmama”, Lucy Macneill, and grandfather, Alexander, except for ages 16 – 24: she lived with her father for a year in Prince Albert in 1890, took teacher training at Prince of Wales College and taught in Bideford, PEI, took classes at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, and taught school in Belmont and Lower Bedeque, PEI. When her grandfather died in 1898, she returned to the Homestead to take care of her grandmother until her death in 1911. Her later marriage to a parson bore three children, Chester, Hugh (died in infancy), and Stuart; however the marriage itself was unhappy over a lifetime for both parties, both suffering from significant depression, and with the pall of the possibility of suicide over the ending of her life at age 67 years.
Outstanding features in the book for me are the deft use of the spoken word in conversation, of which there is much, especially from Anne! and the lovely, frequently very sensory descriptions of the surroundings, e.g.:
“I’m so glad my window looks east into the sunrising,” said Anne, going over to Diana. “It’s so splendid to see the morning coming up over those long hills and glowing through those sharp fir tops. It’s new every morning, and I feel as if I washed my very soul in that bath of earliest sunshine. Oh, Diana, I love this little room so dearly.
Anne was bringing the cows home from the back pasture by way of Lover’s Lane. It was a September evening and all the gaps and clearings in the woods were brimmed up with ruby sunset light. Here and there the lane was splashed with it, but for the most part it was already quite shadowy beneath the maples, and the spaces under the firs were filled with a clear violet dusk like airy wine. The winds were out in their tops, and there is no sweeter music on earth than that which the wind makes in the fir trees at evening.
– a glorious October, all red and gold, with mellow mornings when the valleys were filled with delicate mists as if the spirit of autumn had poured them in 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 woods to run crisply through. The Birch Path was a canopy of yellow and the ferns were sear and brown all along it.
No wonder the island has become a tourist Mecca a hundred years later, as Montgomery evoked the beauty of the island through her books. Anne felt very communal with nature, as did Montgomery herself.
I have always loved Marilla in all her iterations – the book, and both the major film versions.
“Marilla was a tall, thin woman, with angles and without curves; her dark hair showed some grey streaks and was always twisted up in a hard little knot behind with two wire hairpins stuck aggressively through it. She looked like a woman of narrow experience and rigid conscience, which she was; but there was a saving something about her mouth which, if it had been ever so slightly developed, might have been considered indicative of a sense of humour.“
Marilla was born in 1824 in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island, to Mr. and Mrs. Cuthbert. She was raised there along with her older brother Matthew. A few years later after her birth the family moved to Green Gables, a farmhouse which was built by Marilla’s father.
In September 1830, Marilla attended Avonlea School. There she met John Blythe who was said to have been interested in Marilla once, and people called him Marilla’s beau. Unfortunately, they had a quarrel and Marilla never forgave him. She eventually came to regret it and likely would have forgiven John Blythe if she had another chance.
I have enjoyed the Scottish connection. On Prince Edward Island, the largest ethnic group consists of people of Scottish descent (39.2%), followed by English (31.1%), Irish (30.4%), French (21.1%), German (5.2%), and Dutch (3.1%) descent.
On Lucy Maud’s maternal side, following the maternal McNeill side, on WikiTree, her great-great grandfather came in Prince Edward Island in 1780. He had been born in Argyll, Scotland.
My own ethnic origins include widespread Scottish connections in Scotland, the Orkneys and the Western Hebrides, on my Ancestry DNA. There are also many of my connections on both Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, no doubt some arriving with the Scottish Highland clearances after Culloden………..no wonder I have always felt so Kindred Spirit with Pince Edward Island and the Anne stories……..
The website of the L. M. Montgomery Literary Society is very Interesting. It includes a paper regarding ‘A Hundred Year Mystery’ of who did the original illustration on the front cover. It is regarded as now proved that the depiction of Anne is by George Fort Gibbs, an American author and illustrator. The internal book illustrators are credited as W. A. J. Claus and M. A. Claus, husband and wife, for the seven illustrations in the book. This paper also draws attention to that fact that there are collectors of various editions of Anne of Green Gables, and that Canada celebrated the famous novel in 2008 with a 100 year Anniversary edition, a fac-similé of the original in 1908……..I might have to acquire one…….