Book Review: “Anne of Green Gables”

Well, I missed our “introduction” post (where I introduce what book we’re reading this week…) but this week, for our second “Month of Romance” book for February, we tackled L.M. Montgomery’s children’s classic, Anne of Green Gables.

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Anne of Green Gables tells the story about a young orphan girl who is mistakenly adopted by a couple who wanted a boy to work on their farm. Anne overcomes her many problems – feeling unwanted her whole life, having a bit of a culture barrier due to not having a steady home – by using her vast imagination and great love for learning. In Anne of Green Gables, we see Anne grow, mature, learn, and love. The freckly, skinny, redheaded girl grows into a lovely young woman through the book, as we watch her personal relationships develop due to her spunk.

This book was recommended to me by a good friend (hi Alyssa!), and I have generally agreed with her along the lines of literature. Sorry, Alyssa, but this time, I’m not such a fan. Hear me out…

I did not like Anne. I’m sure there is a collective GASP across the Internet when I insult everyone’s favorite orphan (I’m a fan of Little Orphan Annie myself), but I just had a really hard time trying to like Anne. Am I sympathetic to her trials and tribulations? Of course. It breaks my heart to think of any child feeling unwanted (which was a major theme throughout this book, and a huge problem Anne faced). I couldn’t get past Anne’s superficial notions (her desperation for material possessions like puffed sleeves), as well as her overwhelmingly annoying (sorry, but it’s true) attitude toward – well – just about everything. I just couldn’t feel very loving toward the book’s main character (at least in her youth), and that just put too bad a taste in my mouth to overcome.

That being said – L.M. Montgomery was a fabulous writer. Her portrayal of physical things (scenes, clothing, people) were stunning, and poetic in many ways. Her novel was beautiful to read, even if I had a very hard time getting into the actual story. While I just spent a paragraph bashing Anne, I do appreciate Anne’s ability to adapt and overcome – her ability to imagine better for herself than what she had in reality. I think that is a wonderful and beautiful lesson to impart on children. Anne’s growth (by learning through her mistakes) is also a great lesson for young readers, specifically little girls.

This month’s theme is “romance,” and I did appreciate the budding romance between Gilbert and Anne. I can see why this book was a great launching point to read more about Gilbert and Anne’s romance. More than romance, however, the real love story seems to be Anne’s opening up the hearts of Marilla and Matthew, Marilla specifically. While Anne’s imagination and flightiness drove them crazy at times, they were able to see a little girl who needed their love, and open their home – and their hearts – to her. I think Anne was a great influence on the couple. Matthew’s character was my favorite by far, but it was rewarding to see Marilla open up to Anne’s love throughout the novel.

So, what do you think? Did I totally miss the mark? Do you hate me for not really liking young Anne? Are you going to try to encourage me to pick up the next novel in the series in hopes my mind will change? What are your thoughts?

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6 responses to “Book Review: “Anne of Green Gables”

  1. Kathleen

    I just finished Anne of Green Gables for the first time also. I wonder if Little Orphan Annie was taken from this character- they seem very similar. I thought it was beautifully written. The description of the flower blossoms and the changing seasons on Prince Edward Island were dreamy. I loved Matthew too! It made me feel sentimental for magic of having a child grow up before your eyes. Thank you for that opportunity.

  2. Personally I can relate to Anne. While “puffed sleeves” seems trivial to an adult in the 21st century it is the equivalent of a poor child wearing 20 year old fashion. It’s not that she isn’t grateful for clothing, she just desperately wants to be like everyone else. Being dressed vastly different as the other children is just a constant reminder of how she is different. I remember as a child dreading to go to school because the soles of my shoes had come undone and we couldn’t afford new ones. I was reminded with every step that I was different. I didn’t have Vans which were the puffed sleeves of my time and not only that I had really cheap shoes that literally announced to everyone how different I was.

    In the continuing story not only does Anne continue to grow and mature (I believe she even comments on how silly she was for caring about puffed sleeves) but Marilla grows as a parent. The things we swear we will never do before we are responsible for a child can vastly change when we have said child.

    When I was a child I never read past Anne of Green Gables. I understood her angst. But as a new mother I have read most of the series. A reminder of how young girls think and also to see how change is inevitable.

    • great rebuttal! I can see why Anne’s pettiness has deeper meaning now – I just had a hard time really appreciating the character. But I do remember not having the “in” item and feeling really terrible about it – and as an adult, I understand why it’s something silly to be bothered with.

      Hopefully I can remember this when my kids are older.

      I think I will try another “Anne” book, and hopefully begin to appreciate the adult character a bit more. I really, REALLY liked seeing the PARENTS grow and evolve (poor Matthew). As I said, I also think Montgomery is a fantastic writer – her words are very poetic and you can actually SEE the locations she is describing! It was a very, very well written book – I just couldn’t develop much of a fondness for the title character (again – perhaps I will appreciate her more as an adult!).

      I still REALLY appreciate the recommendation – it was long past time for me to read this novel, and I’m happy I did!

    • Gina McLemore

      I just read Anne of Green Gables and to me the overarching theme was an intense lonliness in Anne as well as Matthew and Marilla. Each of the characters suffered from isolation and each coped with it in his own way. Anne’s “scope for imagination” never came so in handy as when she was dealing with stressful situations and her desire to be called Cordelia resonated with me that at that moment, she would rather be anyone but Anne. Especially “Anne of no place in particular”. The beauty of the story is the amazing descriptions of the landscape, but even more, the growth of the characters to be able to open up and give and accept the love they were missing in their lives.

  3. Haley

    I had a hard time getting into this book (which is why it took me three weeks to read and other books got priority). I didn’t like Anne or the book at first either. The first chapters were agonizingly slow. Too much detail about clothing and going over and over the same stories to different people. I like being able to “see” where a story takes place but this book was too much season after season. I skimmed a lot. After she got to school, past the Christmas recital, and time started going faster and not day by day, I liked it more. Montgomery did an amazing job of realistically showing how she grew and changed from a little annoying-wont-shut-up girl to a poised young woman. I also loved the culture in this book. I look at kids today and it amazes me that we used to be intelligent and respectful and able to help with chores and get a job. I loved Matthew, too.

  4. Pingback: Book Review: “Anne of Green Gables” | The Cheap Reader

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