I grumbled when I picked up the book at the library. I had to read this classic novel for my book club. A classic! I don’t like to read classics; they are so often hoity toity with their fancy language. And not only a classic, but a children’s book. Double ugh! A classic children’s book that is very long—500 pages—and very heavy (two pounds); I actually weighed it when I got home. I have arthritis in my right elbow and holding a heavy book in bed, where I do most of my reading, can be uncomfortable.
My thoughts were: “How will I ever read this long, heavy children’s classic? Mumble, mumble, mumble. I enjoy my book club that has been meeting for 22 years and I like all the members, so I will go ahead and read the book so I can take part in the discussion.”
When I got home and looked closer at the book—Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maude Montgomery—I was struck by the sheer beauty of it. The copy I borrowed was an Usborne Illustrated Original and I was the first one to borrow it, so it was nice and clean. (Why would I mention this? Someone who borrows books from the library and has the same taste in books as I do, seems to enjoy eating Cheetos while reading.)
The cover is lovely with an image of a young girl wearing a straw hat atop her long braids. She’s sitting on a bench and looks somewhat apprehensive. When I opened the book I saw the pages were thick and glossy and the many illustrations absolutely charming. Montgomery wrote the book in 1908; the story takes place on Canada’s Prince Edward Island. Once I started reading, I could hardly put the book down.
The main character is delightful. Anne, who would prefer to be called Cordelia, says if she must be called Ann it should be Anne with an “e.” When asked what difference it makes how it is spelled, Anne explains that to her it makes a big difference. That Ann is just plain old Ann, but Anne with an “e” is so much more distinguished and if she could be called Anne with an “e,” she’d give up on the idea of being called Cordelia.
Anne is 11 years old when the book begins. She’s an orphan who has lived here and there and finally in an orphanage. Although Anne is utterly charming, she does have a few flaws. For example, she is outspoken to a fault, she chatters nonstop, she can be overly dramatic, and she acts without thinking and gets into many predicaments (which she blames on her red hair.)
The next character we meet is Matthew Cuthbert, a reticent farmer who lives with his sister, Marilla, in their farmhouse called Green Gables. The couple, who is starting to slow down with age, decides to adopt a boy to help Matthew with chores on the farm. Somehow there is a mix-up and Matthew does not come home with a boy, but with Anne. Matthew is immediately taken with Anne; however, Marilla, a stern woman who has not been blessed with a whole lot of maternal instinct, does not want to raise a daughter. Marilla agrees to let Anne stay for a short time. Anne finds her new home wonderful and eventually wins Marilla over.
Anne, an incredibly curious child, finds joy in all things. She sees beauty in each tree, rock, leaf, and flower. If something is not perfectly beautiful, like the stark bedroom she’s given at Green Gables, she imagines it has paintings on the wall, a rug on the floor, and a chair in the corner. She is content to live in her plain and simple bedroom because she can imagine it otherwise.
(She never utters, as I have so often lately, “Boy it’s a gloomy day.” For in this black and white January we’ve been living in, it can be difficult for me to see the beauty. The other day while driving all I could see was gray sky and dirty snow. I was actually happy to see a red traffic light so my eyes could enjoy a spot of color!)
The author paints beautiful pictures with her words. She describes the land around Green Gables in the fall as having birch trees as golden as sunshine, maples as royal crimson, and the wild cherry trees wearing lovely shades of dark red and bronzy green. Anne delights in the world in October. She asks Marilla if she doesn’t get a thrill (or even several thrills) from looking at the maple boughs. Anne is overcome with the beauty of the world in every season. There is so much we can learn from Anne—to open our eyes and see the beauty all around us, to see goodness in people, and to enjoy each day that is given to us.
The numerous illustrations by Sophie Allsopp in this book are very special. I usually just glance at pictures in a book, but I have carefully studied each of these illustrations over and over again. What pleases me most is how accurately the pictures match the author’s descriptions.
Oh how pleasant it was to read about Anne, Marilla, Matthew and all of Green Gables’ neighbors and how they interacted with one another. Sometimes it was heartbreaking to read about people calling Anne unattractive because of her skinniness, red hair, and freckles. However it was heartwarming to read about Anne and her best friend and how loyal they were to one another. And it was pleasing to see Anne grow into a responsible young lady.
It was a joy to read Anne of Green Gables and I’m looking forward to our upcoming book club meeting when I will announce that I thoroughly enjoyed this book and the other members will breathe a sigh of relief because I am often the member who least likes a book. I am very reluctant to return the book to the library and plan to hang onto it until the due date. I highly recommend this book to anyone who would enjoy an uplifting, wholesome, and delightful book
Betty Pond lives in Mt. Iron, MN. She is a frequent contributor to Hometown Focus.