I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve re-read this book as it has been a favorite of mine for a long time. The book, and it’s follow up books, are classics for a reason. During a recent bout with insomnia I decided to pick it up again and was charmed all over again by Anne and her scrapes.
The plot is quite well known, but just in case here it is. Mathew and Marilla Cuthbert, a pair of spinster siblings who run a farm together on Canada’s Prince Edward Island, decide to adopt a little boy to help out with the farm (and probably to inherit the farm when they’re gone but that’s never really mentioned). However, due to some mix-up the child waiting for Mathew at the train station when he goes to pick up the orphan is a little red-headed girl. Mathew, being quite shy decides it’s easier to take her home and let Marilla deal with the problem. However, on the drive back to Green Gables the little orphan girl charms her way into Mathews heart. Marilla is a bit of a harder sell, but 24 hours later, the siblings decide to keep Anne and the rest of the story is about Anne growing up in the little town of Avonlea and her scrapes and troubles.
This time around I noticed the ages of Mathew and Marilla, they’re mentioned to be in their sixties which is a lot older then I had originally pegged them. I think my younger self skimmed over that particular section and decided they were ‘old’ and thus about as old as my parents, however my parents are in their 60s now so I greatly underestimated that. It does give quite a new spin on the novel to realize that the Cuthberts are old enough to be Anne’s grandparents.
The other thing I really noticed on this read-through is how terrible Anne’s early life must have been. She’s eleven when she finally comes to Green Gables, and her early life is told quite quickly by Anne to Marilla, but those few details are heart-breaking.
The novel is still hilarious and touching, even after all these many re-reads. Anne’s scrapes and speeches are written with charm and wit, and even though you know exactly what’s going to happen the humor shines through. I still laugh when I read about the incident with the raspberry cordial, or the ‘vanilla’ cake. Anne is every little girl who wants so desperately to be grown-up and dignified, and to the great credit of the novel that desire is never mocked.
Though the novel isn’t full of dense prose or deep philosophy, I firmly believe it is one of the great novels of the 20th century. If you haven’t read it then I highly recommend you pick it up and give it a go. And if you have read it, well isn’t it about time for a re-read?