Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Anne of Green Gables #GreatAmericanRead

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

It is the late 1800s at Green Gables in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. Geriatric Matthew and Matilda Cuthbert reached a point where they needed help on the farm. So they applied to an orphanage to take on a boy old enough for the job. Instead they get Anne Shirley, a loquacious, dreamy, eleven-year-old girl.

“Isn't it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive--it's such an interesting world. It wouldn't be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There'd be no scope for imagination then, would there? But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn't talk? If you say so I'll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it's difficult.”

She charms them in to letting her stay. As she struggles to adjust to life on the farm and school, she proves a challenge. Both grudgingly fall in love with her and decide to keep her.

“Because when you are imagining, you might as well imagine something worthwhile.”

The story is told by an omniscient narrator in third person. The pace is deliberately slow and the tone lighthearted.

“It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.”

The protagonist is quirky and spunky. Her secret weapons are her imagination and resiliency.

"Nothing could rob her of her birthright of fancy or her ideal world of dreams." 

When her world disappoints, even cuts when Matthew Cuthbert dies, she embraces her fate with courage and determination.

“Anne always remembered the silvery, peaceful beauty and fragrant calm of that night. It was the last night before sorrow touched her life; and no life is ever quite the same again when once that cold, sanctifying touch has been laid upon it.”

The pull, of course, is the orphan finding a home through line. The Cuthberts are decent people, though somewhat set in their ways. There are disapproving neighbors and bullying children to fill in as antagonists, but no one is overtly evil.

“Life is worth living as long as there's a laugh in it.”

Montgomery's attention to detail brings the characters and setting to life.

“Look at that sea, girls--all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn't enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”

“It was November--the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”

Anne finds allies in Diana, an opposites attract friendship, and a budding love interest Gilbert Blythe. Both appreciate Anne for all her pluck and uniqueness.

“Miss Barry was a kindred spirit after all," Anne confided to Marilla, "You wouldn't think so to look at her, but she is. . . Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It's splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”

The book series has remained popular since its publication in 1908 and has spawned multiple film and television versions and stage productions.

I loved this series for its warmhearted characters, the humor, the feisty protagonist, and the thematic struggle to find a home in a world where you've been abandoned.

The only plot hole would be that someone of her background would have the vocabulary and sometimes mature thought processes Anne displays.

“People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven't you?”

If there is a weakness, it is perhaps the romanticizing of life on a farm. It is difficult work with little time for leisure. Irresponsible acts can prove devastating. People set in their ways are unlikely to melt so easily, especially when they need the manpower to run the farm.

“We pay a price for everything we get or take in this world; and although ambitions are well worth having, they are not to be cheaply won, but exact their dues of work and self-denial, anxiety and discouragement.”

Still, it is a story of hope and finding one's way and I need that from time to time: a little light in the darkness.

Forty years on, I still love Anne and enjoy the different iterations of her story. I hope she continues to touch hearts for many generations to come.

"Dear old world', she murmured, 'you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”

You can pick up a copy of her story here. Or download a Gutenberg ebook or audio book for free.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. As a former farm kid, accustomed to chores and summer field work, I still think of farm life as the best way to grow up. That might be one of the reasons I enjoyed Anne of Green Gables so much.

  2. We often think of the time in which Anne lived as a much simpler time, one where people didn't face the problems we face. True, in many cases they didn't. Nor do we face the problems they did. Yet the parallels are sufficient to keep the story relevant. Funny how that works.

  3. There are several universal themes that every reader can relate to: belonging, leaving or returning home, reunion, finding love, healing hurt, revenge, justice, etc. You can use them in any genre or plot.

  4. What a great recap of some of the best parts of Anne and those lovely stories. I remember being enthralled at the picturesque descriptions when I read the books. That kind of descriptive detail works so well in a series of this type, and makes me savor the words.

  5. The Anne stories are superb. I still treasure my copies which I’ve had since childhood. Just a note though, the first two books take place in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island. Prince Edward Island is a province, Nova Scotia is another province,


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