Book Review: Anne of Green Gables
When my daughter picked up a copy of “Anne of Green Gables,” by L.M. Montgomery, and asked for it as bedtime reading, I was initially hesitant. My concern was that the old-fashioned, rural setting and customs would not translate to my Bombay girl. However, like any true classic, this book really does transcend time and place.
The book was first published in 1908 and is set in a small village called Avonlea on Prince Edwards Island in Canada. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, an elderly brother and sister living together, send for an orphan boy to help them on their farm. However, when Matthew meets this new orphan he does not find the boy he expects, but instead, a young, talkative, and highly imaginative girl. Anne (spelled with an “e” because it seems more romantic to her that way) must stay the night with the Cuthberts as there is no return train that day, and they must decide what to do with her. She begs them not to send her back to the orphanage, and eventually, they agree to keep her on.
Anne settles into life in Avonlea, and eventually, wins over all of its inhabitants’ hearts. Anne’s childhood challenges, set more than one hundred years ago, still ring true today. Anne must find her place in a new school and make new friends. She must befriend the nosy, gossipy neighbors and the boys who tease the new girl, and she must catch up to her peers in school. As she grows older, she must also overcome her first crush, embarrassment over not having the latest fashion in clothing (puffy sleeves), and later, even the death of her father figure, Matthew Cuthbert.
Anne’s charm lies in her honesty, imagination, and her propensity for chatter. Her inner monologue is filled with perceived slights, envisioned romance, and utter humiliation. It’s a monologue that would be entirely relatable to many preteens or teenagers today. And while the details of her story differ wildly from present-day Bombay life, the themes still ring true.
This would be a perfect book to read together with an 8- to 12-year-old. Younger children might find the flowery speech patterns and cultural differences to be too distracting. There are no illustrations, yet Anne’s vivid descriptions would provide lovely visuals for slightly older children. And Anne’s narrations of her emotional reactions to life’s daily mishaps would make for great discussion topics. If you have a sensitive youngster, with an interest in history, do try this book; it’s widely available in most bookstores.