As quoted by Buddha, “With our thoughts, we make the world.” For Anne Shirley, a young, bright-cheeked orphan brought to the budding beauty of Prince Edward Island, the world cannot be more lovely than she imagines it. From a huge lake that she nicknames the “Lake of Shining Waters” to the multicolored flowers she fashions into crowns, Anne’s imagination knows no limits.
In L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, Anne believes she is being brought to a permanent home—a place called Green Gables owned by siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. Matthew fetches her from the orphanage and she fawns over the gorgeous land the entire ride back to Green Gables, giddy with joy at finally leaving the orphanage. But when they arrive, strict Marilla drops the bomb that Matthew was too shy to expose: they wanted to adopt a boy, not a girl, and intend to send Anne back to the orphanage.
Brokenhearted, Anne cries herself to sleep, but it is not the sight of her tears that moves Marilla: it’s the prospect of Anne being adopted by another cruel old lady instead. Marilla is strict, but she is not wicked. With much reluctance, and to Matthew’s joy, Marilla resolves to keep Anne after all.
Is it just the magic of the beautiful Green Gables? Or is Marilla’s gradual softening of heart for Anne a show of real parental love? Anne begins as an insecure, gangly girl whose temper and absentminded dreaminess land her in all kinds of hot water. But in the grass and flowers on the banks of the Lake of Shining Waters, Anne grows up slowly and surely—and any amount of blunders and mistakes on her part cannot take away from how much she is loved by all.
This book was wonderfully, heart-achingly gorgeous. I love classics because they so often follow one person’s entire life, and it was splendid to live in Anne’s world from childhood to womanhood. She was such a vibrant character, her quirks and dreams and shortcomings truly taking life on the page. I feel as if I’ve grown up with her and loved her just as much as Matthew and Marilla did ever since she arrived at their doorstep. It was bittersweet to see Anne grow into a woman because I adored her starry-eyed youth, but I was so proud of her in the end for always striving to be the best Anne she could be. She grew past her flaws and did her best to protect the people she loved.
The writing style was impeccable—it is marked by many a monologue, as Anne loves to talk for pages upon pages about what she is passionate about, something that endears her to me and everyone around her. There’s something indescribably warm about L. M. Montgomery’s writing that evokes the sweetness of spring, the nostalgia of summer, and the heartache of autumn all at once; reading it is truly an experience I think everyone should have.
And the setting! Green Gables was so lush and natural, filled with little brooks and lakes and forests, mirroring the purity of Anne’s heart. It felt just right for her youthful, carefree soul, but I’ll admit to being a little (and by little I mean intensely) jealous of Anne. I mean, who wouldn’t want to frolic among blooming flowers and old-fashioned white houses with sprawling fields bracketing glittering lakes? Anne made so many stories in her head by simply living there, establishing an ethereal quality about the book.
What I adored most, though, was the omnipresent motif of love. It was executed perfectly in that subtle way that can’t help but pull on one’s heartstrings—Matthew’s openhearted, pure love for Anne, Marilla’s grudging, developing, and eventually wholehearted love, Anne’s love for her parents and friends, Anne’s friends’ playful love for her. Montgomery knows how to add these elements without overdosing on them, and her small but significant ways of showing love were both heartwarming and tearjerking—a perfect combination.
Anne of Green Gables is an iconic book. It has passed through hundreds of years and survived until today because it tells, perhaps, one of the most important stories of all: the story of a child who started out small and grew to be great because she knew how to love and be loved. Mind you, I was bawling my eyes out by the end from the pain of letting this book go, but I always end up loving a book that makes me cry. Even if you don’t shed any tears, I hope you find the same comfort in Anne’s story as millions of other readers have, including me.
Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. Puffin Books, 2014. Buy the book here and help support Stone Soup in the process!