While listening to the audiobook of this novel over the past few days, I started wondering just how old I was when I first read Anne of Green Gables . I don’t know for sure, but the timing of various events in my life leads me to conclude that I was about eight or nine and certainly no older than ten. Unlike many women my age, I have not re-read it since. I did not develop the passion for Anne Shirley and her life shared by many of my contemporaries and by women up to three generations older than me. This is not because I don’t appreciate girls’ coming of age stories, as I used to re-read books such as Little Women and What Katy Did (and their sequels) relatively frequently. It may be that I was too young for Anne Shirley that first time I read about her life, or it may just be that other books came along that drew my attention away from her.
In any event, it has been very interesting to re-visit this novel. Listening to it read by the very talented Kate Burton*, it felt both familiar and entirely new at the same time. There is so very much to love about this book. I love that it is full of sentiment, but without mawkish sentimentality. I love that it has a message without being preachy. I love that it extols the joys of imagination, of friendship, of love, of learning, of being true to oneself and of belonging in a way which still feels real, even at such a great distance from when and where the novel was written.
What I found particularly interesting was seeing Anne Shirley, not from the perspective of a child, but from the perspective of a woman of around the same age as Marilla Cuthbert. For me, the relationship between Anne and Marilla and the way Marilla came to express her love for Anne was the most touching part of Anne’s story. That and Matthew’s death, of course made me cry.
Looked at objectively, the novel has its weaknesses. One of them is shared with a number of coming of age stories – including Little Women: that is, the early part of the novel covers events in considerable detail and then, later in the novel, years go past in barely a chapter. The result is that Anne’s maturation from turbulent child to calm young woman seems to happen much too quickly. But this is a minor quibble and it didn’t lessen my enjoyment of the time spent with Anne and the others in Avonlea.
But for some of my Goodreads friends, I doubt I would have picked up this book again, so I have something else to thank them for.
*Kate Burton narrated a very wonderful audiobook of [b:A Tree Grows in Brooklyn|14891|A Tree Grows in Brooklyn|Betty Smith|http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51SG563T7EL._SL75_.jpg|833257], which I recently listened to and reviewed.