While 2014 was the year of the Harry Potter (re)read, where my good friend Lindsey immersed herself into the Hogwarts world for the first time, she is now playing host in 2015 to the Green Gables readalong, where I finally take the journey to Avonlea. For being such an avid reader since I was a kid, I cannot believe that I have never read a single one of these books in 30+ years. Not only have I never read them before but other than the knowledge that Anne was a red-haired girl in pigtails, I knew absolutely nothing about the series. I didn’t even know there were that many!
How little I knew about this series first published in 1908 was evident right from the get-go. I placed a hold on (what I thought) was the first book and was very surprised when picking it up at the library that it was only 55 pages long. My first thought was, if it’s so short – why would Lindsey schedule the readalong to be a book a month? At this rate, you could read the whole series in a day!
Much to my amusement, and thanks to friends on Twitter, they informed me that that was probably a young kid’s edition that I picked up. 😳
@JustALilLost Hahahaha best tweet ever!!!
— Lindsey Reeder (@reederreads) January 12, 2015
Finally with the correct book in my possession I jumped right in and was completely surprised to have all my preconceived notions of this series dispelled immediately. (Being that I’m probably one of the only people who hasn’t read this book, I’ll still put a spoiler warning on the rest of this post but I’d say after 107 years, the spoiler warning should be long expired!)
- Anne is feisty! | THAT was the biggest surprise of all. For some reason, all this time I thought she was a quiet, well-behaved meek little Canadian girl who lived on PEI. With that description in mind, it’s no wonder that I had no interest or inclination to pick up a book like that. Snooooooze. I was astonished and delighted to see how wrong I was when Anne’s precociousness and cheekiness constantly showed itself. I love her passion for everything and she’s so unabashedly thrilled at the simplest of things. That being said, I do agree with Marilla Cuthbert a bit in that she’s a tad too chatty sometimes.
- Felt dated… | Obviously with it being written in the early 1900s, it can be expected that the vocabulary and some of the ideas may be a bit dated but I still found it off-putting at times to constantly get reminded that it was the woman’s job to raise the girl, and that girls should be this and shouldn’t be that. There was even one passage I had mentioned in my Goodreads/Twitter update about the homeboys and “no London street arabs”. Clearly it’s of no fault of anyone given the original time period this was first published and it didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book whatsoever. It was more an interesting observation to see just how different the way of thinking was like. In all honesty, I don’t often read old classics. So while I’ve read historical fiction that’s set years and centuries before this one, there aren’t many that I’ve read which were actually written that long ago. To me, there’s a definite difference in reading a book written in present day but set long ago versus a book that’s actually written long ago.
- .. and yet also ahead of its time | All that being said in my previous point, there are still a number of forward-thinking ideas brought forth. Anne’s outgoing and boisterous personality is not “typical” for young ladies at that time, which many of the women in the story were eager to constantly point out. But with that kind of joie de vivre, it paints a picture of such a vivacious and smart girl that when she succeeds in her education it didn’t even initially strike me as out of the ordinary. That turn of events would almost seem expected in books nowadays, but thinking back to that time period (and I’m by no means an expert whatsoever of the 1900s), I can’t imagine girls would have been offered the same opportunities that boys would let alone win any kind of scholarship.
- Delights & heartbreaks | One of the dynamics that entertained me quite a bit was Anne’s inner conflict with her thoughts towards Gilbert Blythe. Right from the start when he first teases her, it’s evident that there’s a story that will develop from that. Her absolute disdain for him yet constantly having his name on the tip of her tongue “Gil- everyone”s were aplenty and I found great amusement in those conversations where she’s so obvious yet unaware. The other dynamic that both made me smile and sad was her relationship with Matthew Cuthbert. He seemed like such a sweet old man who was charmed by the chatty orphan that he picked up at the train station. I knew something was up when mentions of both Marilla and Matthew not feeling well kept coming up. To be honest, I thought something was going to happen to Marilla since her headaches were mentioned from so much earlier on. A hardworking grandfatherly figure in Anne’s life, who started all his sentences with “Well now…”, Matthew was the source of some of the sweetest moments in this book.
I’m so happy that Lindsey started this readalong and that Anne of Green Gables was nothing like what I expected. Actually, I’m very curious to see where the rest of the books go considering this first one spans so many years. I would have thought the books cover a year or two at a time as she’s growing up but this first one covered a lot of ground already. Yep, I’m hooked. Onto the next!