When Anne Shirley arrives at Green Gables farm on Prince Edward Island, she surprises everyone: first of all, she is a girl. Marilla Cuthbert and her brother, Matthew, had specifically asked for an orphan boy. She has bright red hair that won’t manage and a mouth that won’t shut. Nothing will ever be the same at Green Gables!
A favorite story of generations of girls ever since it was first published in 1908, Lucy Maud Montgomery’s classic story of one girl’s profound effect on a small Canadian community has stayed in print for nearly (*now over) one hundred years and has been made into a popular TV series and even a musical.
Why it’s my type: This is a strong, independent girl after my own heart. I wish I’d known her when I was younger. She has Hermione’s brains but much less practicality, and I love her all the more for it. Montgomery’s writing is the type I will frequently look back on and study, especially how she handles nature. It’s really breathtaking, and I could see everything as if I walked the same paths as Anne herself. This is a great example of really knowing your characters’ setting, and Montgomery had good reason to: She actually lived there. It’s also really impressive and enviable that Montgomery was able to successfully pull off writing Anne from childhood voice to young adult. And the voice does change, while still maintaining those early, core parts of her personality that we never really lose.
Memorable bit(s): “Marilla felt helplessly that all this should be sternly reproved, but she was hampered by the undeniable fact that some of the things Anne had said, especially about the minister’s sermons and Mr. Bell’s prayers, were what she herself had really thought deep down in her heart for years, but had never given expression to. It almost seemed to her that those secret, unuttered, critical thoughts had suddenly taken visible and accusing shape and form in the person of this outspoken morsel of neglected humanity.”
“But Anne, with her elbows on the window-sill her soft cheek laid against her clasped hands, and her eyes filled with visions, looked out unheedingly across city roof and spire to that glorious dome of sunset sky and wove her dreams of a possible future from the golden tissue of youth’s own optimism.”
These are only two small examples of Montgomery’s genius. Her ability to make the words–through a single character’s perspective–express truths about the common human experience reminds me of certain passages from Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God.
Recommendation: For any and all girls (or boys, if they can keep up with Anne and her bosom friends) learning to grow and figure out who they are in this crazy, lovely life. I can’t imagine an age when I wouldn’t find meaning and enjoyment in it.
Publish date: September 11 2008 by Puffin.