Anne with an “e”

April 4, 2009 at 3:59 pm (Obsessions) (, , , , , )

When I was in grade 3, I won a book prize for a poem that I had written for my elementary school’s poetry contest.  The principal took me to a local bookstore to pick out a book-I believe I chose Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm-but when the awards ceremony came the wrapped parcel I was given was much larger than the one book.  Instead I received the first 3 books in Lucy Maude Montgomery’s Anne series: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island.  It turns out that the principal had called my mother as he thought that I’d been too frugal in my choice and she picked out my new prize.

I have read and re-read those book many times in the years since.  I’ve never walked the red roads of PEI anywhere but in my mind, but I feel that I know the hidden places of Avonlea.  I’m not a skinny red-headed little thing, but I identified with Anne in some ways-I also was a girl who wanted to be the smartest and the best.  I did have a tendency to use big words where smaller words would do.  I’ve always wanted to be seen as fashionable.  And deep down, I just want to be loved.

In many ways, Anne Shirley has become a Canadian industry.   There are Anne dolls, a musical, the lovely movies starring Megan Follows, and a Green Gables tourism site.  But the books themselves are almost a Canadian female right of passage.  They are stories that speak of classic themes: the search for identity, love, and family.  They deal with loss, and hope, and striving to fulfill both your dreams and your potential.  And they are utterly charming as well.

Last year to celebrate 100 years of Anne, a new edition was published as well as a prequel: Budge Wilson’s Before Green Gables.  I was nervous about reading it.  I’ve rarely been impressed by sequels written by someone other than the author (Scarlett is no Gone with the Wind, for example) so a prequel made me nervous.  But once I let down my guard I really loved this book as well.  As cliché as it sounds, I laughed, I cried, and fell once again in love with Anne Shirley.  It’s been over thirty years, but we are still bosom friends.

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