I got acquainted with Anne Shirley through the 1985 CBS television Series. I was instantly hooked and started hunting for my own copy of Anne of Green Gables. I first read the book at the age of 12 and it instantly became my all time favorite children’s book. I eventually read all the other books through the rest of my teenage years. However, for several years every summer I went back and re-read Anne of Green Gables. As a child, the book had this fascinating hold on me about this magical place called Avonlea with this really interesting and delightful creature called Anne Shirley. I completely related to her growing pains, her passionate friendships ( haven’t we all sworn undying friendships in our childhood and have we have ever found anything like that again! ) her flights of fancy and her struggle to find a balance between what was right and good to what she desired. As Anne grew up and went to college, so did I. Again, I could relate to endless college studies and revelries , of love lost and found and of new bonds of friendships. Then somewhere I drifted away from the books and had not touched them for ages.
Recently, I saw some discussion on LMM and some reviews on Anne of Green Gables in the blogging world and decided to reread this book again. I decided to listen to the audio version that LibrivVox offers. As I “re-read” the first five book of the series I noticed things that as I child that I had missed. I knew for sure that LMM was brilliant in creating engaging and interesting characters but its only now that I notice the slight nuances that she gave to each character. She had a genius for character development. And I never noticed how hopeful the stories were – and I don’t mean romantically over optimistic in a very typical novel kind of way. It was more real somehow. Anne’s hope of going to college, her hopes of being a teacher, her hopes of being able to give back the love and happiness that Marilla & Matthew had given her, her hopes of being married – these were not over ambitious or unrealistic but just ordinary hopes of an extraordinary person. Whenever I read the “Anne ” books I am suddenly filled with a joy for living !
Another thing that I noticed was LMM’s genius in understanding the man-woman relationship. The books are peppered with wisdom on friendship, love and marriage. LMM definitely believes that a man and woman cannot be lovers unless they are good friends. And a relationship with laughter is more satisfying than a relationship with lofty ideals and bookish romances. It only takes our heroie “Anne” some 5 years to figure that for herself !
Gilbert and Anne are definitely my favorite relationship of the book , closely followed by that of Anne and Marilla. That is one of the most beautifully understated yet strong maternal relationship in any piece of literature ! And then Anne and Diana – because their friendship reminded me of unselfish innocence of childhood where our mind has not yet learned to make prejudices.
I thoroughly loved the first four books of the series. I also enjoyed Anne’s House of Dreams as it was about her early years of marriage with Gilbert but I have to confess that after that I just could not enjoy the series as such. My sentiments can be described from an expression from the “Anne” series. When Anne refused her suitor of two years, Roy, in Anne of the Island, moaned “”I want some one who BELONGS in my life”. That is the kind of feeling that I get when I started reading Anne of Ingleside. All the books before had characters that we have known from the first book and that we have grown to like and love. Anne is still the central character and this is truly her story up to that point. However, Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside is no longer about her but her kids. She is often referred to as “Mother” or Mrs. Blythe and though the books are about her family – it is no longer about her. Its as if suddenly there are no new dimensions to her story. All the Avonlea characters fade away – Gilbert , Marilla , Diana and Mrs Rachel Lynde were all central to Anne’s story till book 5 but they all fade away. The last three are good books but they are not really about Anne and I rather treat them as separate novels not connected to the series.
However, Anne of Green Gables and the other “Anne” books will always be for me about living and loving and hoping and dreaming!