Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Blast from the Past (2): Anne of Green Gables

Author: L. M. Montgomery
Publisher: L. C. Page & Co.
Original Publication Date: June 1908
Pages: 429 (Hardcover)

Summary (taken from Goodreads):
When Marilla Cuthbert's brother, Matthew, returns home to Green Gables with a chatty redheaded orphan girl, Marilla exclaims, "But we asked for a boy. We have no use for a girl." It's not long, though, before the Cuthberts can't imagine how they could ever do without young Anne of Green Gables--but not for the original reasons they sought an orphan. Somewhere between the time Anne "confesses" to losing Marilla's amethyst pin (which she never took) in hopes of being allowed to go to a picnic, and when Anne accidentally dyes her hated carrot-red hair green, Marilla says to Matthew, "One thing's for certain, no house that Anne's in will ever be dull." And no book that she's in will be, either. --Emilie Coulter (review of an abridged version)

Okay, it's kind of unfair to choose this, because it's such a hit.
It's been consistently selling since
the book came out. But, I just had to do a post on this book. Truth be told, I was obsessed with this entire series. I read the books, watched the movies (the ones with Megan Follows, who is a gorgeous, perfect Anne Shirley -- shown on the right), and even made up online book clubs just so I could talk about it. People consider it a children's book nowadays, but when it was written, it was supposed to be for all ages (rightfully so!).

So what makes this book so timeless? What makes it transcend age levels?

1) Strong characterization
2) Beautiful setting
3) Problems EVERYONE can relate to

The characters in this book are real. They're people. It's not only what you see on the surface, but they all have layers, wants, needs, fears. Montgomery gave them personality. At the same time, she made them familiar. I saw my friends and my family in these characters. What's more, I could relate to them.

As for setting -- I suggest all writers read at least a chapter of any of Montgomery's books. She brings places to life. The only way I can think to show this is through a quote:
They had driven over the crest of a hill. Below them was a pond, looking almost like a river so long and winding was it. A bridge spanned it midway and from there to its lower end, where an amber-hued belt of sand-hills shut it in from the dark blue gulf beyond, the water was a glory of many shifting hues--the most spiritual shadings of crocus and rose and ethereal green, with other elusive tintings for which no name has ever been found. Above the bridge the pond ran up into fringing groves of fir and maple and lay all darkly translucent in their wavering shadows. Here and there a wild plum leaned out from the bank like a white-clad girl tip-toeing to her own reflection. From the marsh at the head of the pond came the clear, mournfully-sweet chorus of the frogs. There was a little gray house peering around a white apple orchard on a slope beyond and, although it was not yet quite dark, a light was shining from one of its windows. (Chapter 2)
That one is straight description. A lot of the time, the setting is weaved in through action.

And as for the problems, that one is easy. Anne is a regular girl. She wants to be more beautiful; she wishes her hair weren't red; she has a temper; she's stubborn. So she tries beauty remedies (I'll just let you guess how that plays out) and she blows up at people when they tease her. It all amounts to some awkward, embarrassing moments sometimes. But really, who hasn't been there? Being embarrassed and doing stupid things is a huge part of growing up. Also, it isn't only Anne who goes through embarrassing moments. You see other characters mess up as well.

So, if you somehow haven't read this series yet, at least read the first book. You will laugh out loud, cry, and be amused and frustrated (in a good way). I promise you, this book is WORTH IT.

Until later,