Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Series Thoughts: Anne of Green Gables

While I was out on maternity leave, I re-read the entire Anne of Green Gables series. I really enjoyed reading the series but something struck me that I'd never thought of before: these books are kind of sad. Maybe its that I was just recently a mother myself but the shear quantity of dead people (especially mothers and babies) struck me. After my husband found me crying while reading for about the fourth time (granted, postpartum hormones were probably not helping), he asked me "are you sure these are supposed to be kids books?" None of this is to say that you shouldn't read Anne of Green Gables or its sequels yourself or to your child. They really are quite charming and I love Anne as much now as I did when I first read the series.

I was surprised by how much I loved the last book in the series, Rilla of Ingleside. This book focuses not on Anne, but onto Anne's youngest daughter Rilla. It takes place during World War I and has a more serious tone than the early books. Maybe this is just me, but I know so little about WWI that I had to look up many of the references in this book - this could have been annoying, but I enjoyed getting the history lesson. (Per Wikipedia, Rilla of Ingleside is "the only Canadian novel written from a women's perspective about the First World War by a contemporary.")

There's something else that I realized for the first time on this go-round through these books: the chronological order is not the same as the published order. For example, Rilla of Ingleside was published sixth, but is the last/eighth book chronologically. Normally I am a firm believer in reading books in publication order (see Chronicles of Narnia, etc) but I liked reading these chronologically. It was like getting to watch kids grow up. There were some odd moments by reading them this way. For example, the love letters between Anne and her beau (my lame attempt to not spoil something that everyone in the world knows anyway) were published in the (mostly-epistolary) Anne of Windy Poplars. Chronologically, this book is fourth in the series, but it was the seventh book published. Those love letters are referenced in Anne's House of Dreams (book 5) in such a way, I think, to make them sound private, which was weird since I had just read them. But that is a pretty minor point. What do you think? Should you read these books in published or chronological order?

Find books by L.M. Montgomery on Project Gutenberg or Amazon.

1 comment:

  1. I'm a huge LMM fan. I've read the series both ways, and I like both ways for different reasons. As a writer, I prefer reading them in the published order so I can see the author's growth and view of things.

    What's fascinating is reading her journals. Entire passages of Rilla are almost verbatim from her journals written during WWI. You can see a lot of parallels between what she wrote and what was happening in her life at the time she wrote it.

    Another example: One of her sons was having an affair when she wrote Anne of Ingleside--and Anne's fear of Gilbert leaving her for another woman is a central conflict of that one.

    And she had a stillborn baby--something she drew on when writing House of Dreams.

    LMM had a really sad life filled with depression and other issues. A lot of readers think of her books as really happy things--and in some ways, they are (and I think, her "therapy" too), but the undercurrent of dark and difficult things is definitely there.

    Rilla is my favorite Anne book. The Emily series is also great, but The Blue Castle may be my favorite of her books--and one of the few written with an adult audience in mind.

    I'll shut up now. :)

    (Like I said, I'm a total LMM nut.)

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