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I’ve re-read this at least once before, but not for years. I was always more of an Emily girl. So I had totally forgotten that the first three chapters are titled, “Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Surprised,” “Marilla Cuthbert Is Surprised,” and “Matthew Cuthbert Is Surprised.” (Later, there is a chapter called “Mrs. Rachel Lynde Is Properly Horrified.”) I had also forgotten how funny it is – not only in incident, like the “getting Diana drunk” chapter or the “jumping on Aunt Josephine” bit, but in the prose itself. Montgomery has a great, wry sense of humor which especially shines in her descriptions of personalities and of village life, and the contrast of Anne’s romantic imagination with the relentlessly down-to-earth people around her is never not funny.

I had not, however, forgotten the classic meet cute in which Anne’s beau-to-be, Gilbert Blythe, calls her hair “carrots” and she breaks a slate over his head. Still a classic scene! But I did forget the equally classic scene in which Anne is punished by being made to – horrors! – sit next to Gilbert in class. He slips her a candy heart. She heartlessly crushes it underfoot.

For those of you who don’t know the story, it was written in 1908, and is set on the lavishly described, rural Prince Edward Island. Aging siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt a ten-year-old boy so they can have someone to help Matthew with the chores. (I was horrified while reading this at how nobody seems to find the slightest thing wrong with that. But then again, the way we treat non-adopted orphans in contemporary America isn’t much better. Or, in many cases, better at all.) But a miscommunication means that they get sent red-headed Anne Shirley instead, a chatterbox who lives largely in an imagination shaped by romantic novels. With some reluctance, they decide to keep her. She proceeds to make Avonlea a far, far more interesting place. Hijinks galore!

Anne was my introduction to L. M. Montgomery, and I read all the books, though I didn’t care for the last couple. (Bored by the later generation, except for Walter, who I adored. Uh-oh.) I also liked Ilse much, much better than Diana, whom I thought a bit dull. Honestly, don’t you think Anne deserved a friend with a bit more spark to her? I also lost interest in Gilbert once their relationship went from sizzling love-hate to dull love. Emily had so many more shipping possibilities than Anne, and I think I sensed that in my little proto-fangirl’s heart. (For the record: Emily/Ilse.)

Still, there’s a bit in which Marilla finds Anne sobbing hysterically for no apparent reason. It turns out that Anne had been imagining Diana’s future wedding (remember, everyone is still ten at this point), and herself as the bridesmaid, “with a breaking heart hid beneath my smiling face. And then bidding Diana good-bye-e-e.” Here Anne again bursts into tears.

The scene made me laugh, and yet… I remember, when I was about eight, suddenly bursting into hysterical sobs in the middle of a playdate. Why? Because at the end of the playdate, Angela would have to go back home and leave me! (Until the next playdate.)

Anne of Green Gables is very, very funny, and the characters are vividly sketched. But maybe one reason it’s so enduring is that Montgomery remembered the intensity of friendship between girls of a certain age.

Anne of Green Gables
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