Sunday, May 4, 2014

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
Summary (from Wikipedia):
Written as fiction for readers of all ages, the literary classic has been considered a children's novel since the mid-twentieth century. It recounts the adventures of Anne Shirley, a young orphan girl mistakenly sent to Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert, a middle-aged brother and sister who have a farm on Prince Edward Island and who had intended to adopt a boy to help them. The novel recounts how Anne makes her way with the Cuthberts, in school and within the town.

Since publication, Anne of Green Gables has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 20 languages. Numerous sequels were written by Montgomery, and since her death another sequel has been published, as well as an authorized prequel. The original book is taught to students around the world.

It has been adapted as films, made-for-television movies, and animated and live-action television series. Plays and musicals have also been created, with productions annually in Canada since 1964 of the first musical production, which has toured in Canada, the United States, Europe and Japan. Others have been produced in Canada and the United States.


Cover provided by girlebooks.com. It has been altered in size to fit the overall look of my blog. 
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Finished my first classic for the Classics Club Challenge!

I think I'm going to do the review for this one a bit differently – Not that I have a lot to compare to at this point. I feel a bit weird doing a point by point review for something that is over 100 years old.

Edition Read:
Girlebooks (free)
-Yes, I read two different versions. The content is the same, but there is a little bit of difference in the formatting. I ended up switching to the Timeless Reads version because I preferred it.

Thoughts:
I enjoyed this book, but I won't lie. There were parts where I just did not feel like picking it back up right away. It starts to become formulaic in the middle. I can see why some people might be turned away from it. There are a few arcs that go beyond more than one chapter. It was during these where I found myself not putting the book down. I've heard a rumor this was originally published as a serial. I haven't been able to find proof this is true, but if it is the case, it makes a lot more sense because the book wouldn't have been intended to be read all at once. I could see this being a good one to just read a chapter a night.  

It's only around 300 pages long (according to my kobo) and manages to cover a span of 4 years. I wasn't expecting that, but it does work for the story. It's one of those books where nothing ever happens. Very slice of life. Each chapter is self contained, so it's very easy to put down, if you are so inclined. I like that the framing of the story mirrors childhood (and parenthood). Most of the book takes place within Anne's first year at Green Gables with Anne getting up to various antics and mischief. As Anne gets older, she matures and focuses more on what she feels is important to her.

The characters are wonderful and rich. The relationships were engaging. I loved how Matthew (and other "kindred spirits") just instantly took to Anne, while Anne and Marilla had to hash out their relationship over the years. Matthew's doting on Anne was perfect. I also liked Anne's relationships with her friends. Diana deserves a mention as they are best friends, but she was friends with a number of other girls. It's nice to see a book with good, solid female relationships all around. 

I was pleasantly surprised at how modern some of the attitudes are. Not everything, mind you, but Anne is not only encouraged to continue her education – Matthew and Marilla are adamant that Anne be able to provide for herself. There is also very little discussion of boys, courting/dating, getting married. There is some of it, but it's more mentioned in roundabout ways. Anne is very imaginative and at times could be a bit flighty, her character could have easily gone a completely different route. 

Verdict:
8/10
I initially found it really hard to give this one a rating. It's a really charming book and I do think I'll reread it at some point. Reading this book was like a walk on the beach. Simple, enjoyable, and relaxing.

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Parental View
(Warning: The following contains mild spoilers.) 


Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery
religious overtones (only one chapter)
mild racism/culturalism*
death


(Possible) Concerns:
  • If you are non-religious/not Christian (like my household), there is mention of praying, church, and God(Christian). The entire book isn't based around it, but there is an entire chapter in the beginning dedicated to Anne learning to say her prayers. (It's titled “Anne Says Her Prayers”.) I was put off by that one chapter because of Marilla's reaction to Anne not praying.
    It should be noted that I did not find this offensive or overbearing for the book as a whole - just that one chapter. I also found it to be very in-character for Marilla.
"I never say any prayers," announced Anne.
Marilla looked horrified astonishment.
Marilla tells Anne to say her prayers and go to bed.
  • There is some mild racism/culturalism*. Anne purchases something from a peddler and Marilla's response was that she told Anne not to let “those Italians” in. Admittedly, that's pretty minor, but worth a mention.
    *I have no idea what the appropriate word to use here is.
"Anne Shirley, how often have I told you never to let one of those Italians in the house! I don't believe in encouraging them to come around at all."
Marilla to Anne after finding out Anne has purchased from a peddler.
  • I don't want to give away any major spoilers, but there is a death in the book. I found it to be handled very well. 
Positive Messages:
  • Anne is quite vain and critical of her own looks in the beginning of the book. She is told on more than one occasion by more than one person that there is more to life than looks.
    She (mostly) gets over her vanity at a very specific – and quite funny – scene in the book.
"[Diana] is good and smart, which is better than being pretty."
Marilla to Anne when asked if Diana is pretty.
  • There is a lot of emphasis on doing well in school, continuing education, and getting a good job to provide for oneself.
"I believe in a girl being fitted to earn her own living whether she ever has to or not. You'll always have a home at Green Gables as long as Matthew and I are here, but nobody knows what is going to happen in this uncertain world, and it's just as well to be prepared."
Marilla to Anne when asked if she can take the entrance exam to the Queen's class.
  • It shows the true value of love and friendship. No quotes here because it gives away the ending. I found it to be very touching. It's an everybody wins scenario, but it's done well and works here.
  • I didn't find there to be a lot of negative competition between any of the female characters. No competing over boys or bad mouthing each other behind their backs. I find this is a good thing, but also surprising because the majority of characters are female. 
Conclusion:
I would absolutely let my daughter (and son) read this book. Anne is a wonderful character and a great role model for young girls.

I do think for her that it would probably be better to read it to or with her given her age, but I wouldn't have a problem with her reading it on her own either. (She does own two copies; one physical and one digital.) 

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