This is my first port of call, in the Around the World in 80 Books challenge. Canada is such a great place to start – somewhere I’ve always dreamed of visiting. And at the grand old age of 45, I finally got around to reading this Canadian classic. This book edition is one I picked up secondhand and would not have been my first choice for book covers – the girl from the series just doesn’t have Anne’s ‘titian’ red hair. There are some beautiful editions of this book. (See here for some examples and some lovely quotes too.)
This is the story of orphan girl Anne Shirley who comes to live with Marilla and Matthew at Green Gables on Prince Edward Island. She is a vibrant young eleven year old, bursting with exuberance for life and with an overactive imagination that is both charming and gets her into no end of scrapes: from dying her hair green and accidentally getting her school friend drunk on currant wine to falling off her neighbour’s roof!
The descriptions of the natural world might be thought a little purple in places, but they were a favourite part of the book for me:
‘masses of sweet clover white with its delicate, fragrant, feathery sprays; scarlet lightning that shot its fiery lances over prim white musk flowers; a garden it was where sunshine lingered and bees hummed, and winds, beguiled into loitering, purred and rustled.’
It’s no wonder Anne falls in love with the landscape around her home:
‘the frogs were singing silvery-sweet in the marshes about the head of the Lake of Shining Waters, and the air was full of the savour of clover fields, and balsamic fir woods.’
Anne’s personality shines through on every page of the book – I think there is a little bit of Anne in us all. She is presented as a sometimes impulsive, sometimes thoughtful, and often complex young girl who surprises us with the depth of her reflection:
‘There’s such a lot of Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.’
It is a sweet tale, of a sweet girl from a different era, and a very different way of life to what we know today. A way of life I’m not even sure actually existed. But still, it was beautifully told. Although the ending is bittersweet, I know there are many more books in the series of Anne Shirley’s adventures, and I may very well continue my reading journey with L.M. Montgomery sequels at some point in the future.