Re-reading my favorite book is like being reunited with an old friend I haven’t seen in years. I read all eight books in the Anne of Green Gables series when I was in fifth grade. It was captivating and breathtaking, allowing the ten year-old me to realize just how poetic the power of language could be, and how real life could be just as imaginative as the popular paranormal ghost stories my peers were reading.
Right from the onset, I was able to relate to Anne, not that my life was anything like hers—I was not an orphan, nor did I have red hair—but I was a girl with a humongous imagination, and I was a bit of an outcast, preferring to daydream instead of talking about boys with the other girls and reading at recess rather than playing punch ball.
This past Thanksgiving weekend, the time I didn’t spend with my immediate family, I spent falling in love with these novels again. Here is a list of 10 Things from Anne I will always remember.
1. The Magic without Magic
I think the lesson in this is to appreciate your surroundings, to be thankful for what you do have because there is beauty in where you are at this exact moment in life. You just have to learn to find the magic in it.
There are so many YA paranormal novels out there these days, books about magic, about characters with magical powers and abilities beyond comprehension. But the power of Anne’s world is the magic she finds within the real world. There are no wands, no water or fire blasts, no fairy godmothers, no closets that are secretly time machines unless one imagines they are. Instead, there are just the regularities of everyday life and average people who go through the same daily tasks. However, Anne takes what is typically commonplace and transforms it into something breathtakingly beautiful. And that is the most powerful magic of all. A boring pond becomes The Lake of Shining Waters. The forest isn’t just a forest…it’s the Haunted Woods. A regular dirt road becomes Lovers’ Lane.
“It has always seemed to me, ever since early childhood, amid all the commonplaces of life, I was very near to a kingdom of ideal beauty. Between it and me hung only a thin veil. I could never draw it quite aside, but sometimes a wind fluttered it and I caught a glimpse of the enchanting realms beyond-only a glimpse-but those glimpses have always made life worthwhile.”
2. Kindred Spirits and Bosom Friends
People are all just people, and if you just take the time to get to know them, you can find a connection.
“Kindred spirits are not so scarce as I used to think. It’s splendid to find out there are so many of them in the world.”
3. Scope for Imagination
I’ve always thought this was an incredibly positive way to look at the world. Anne taught me that it’s okay to have an imagination in a world that oftentimes will roll their eyes and criticize the dreamers.
“Isn’t it splendid to think of all the things there are to find out about? It just makes me feel glad to be alive–it’s such an interesting world. It wouldn’t be half so interesting if we know all about everything, would it? There’d be no scope for imagination then, would there?”
4. Depths of Despair
One of the reasons I totally bonded with Anne is the fact that like her, I also have a flair for being dramatic and for feeling things to the utmost maximum. After reading Anne, I’d often quote that I was in the “depths of despair.” It’s a phrase I’ll never forget.
“You’re not eating anything,” said Marilla sharply, eying her as if it were a serious shortcoming. Anne sighed. “I can’t. I’m in the depths of despair. Can you eat when you are in the depths of despair?” “I’ve never been in the depths of despair, so I can’t say,” responded Marilla. “Weren’t you? Well, did you ever try to IMAGINE you were in the depths of despair?” “No, I didn’t.” “Then I don’t think you can understand what it’s like. It’s very uncomfortable a feeling indeed.”
5. The Realness of the Characters
I just love how Montgomery can turn average people into unforgettable characters. It’s as though she just observed the people she knew and wrote them into a story. I think those kinds of characters are the most interesting of all.
There are no evil demons to fight or cursed bad boy princes to save, but there are very real people in these novels. People who very probably would appear in real life. People I feel like I’ve met before or might bump into on the street. Adults like shy, but kind Matthew, gossipy Rachel Lynde, and jaded, practical Marilla. Gal pals like Ruby, who is prone to hysterics, Jane, who is very average, but a good friend, and Diana, ever agreeable, and loyal to the end.
It’s okay to use big words and to be a nerd. And also, words paint such pretty pictures, as Montgomery has proven time and time again. Out of all the authors who have influenced my own writing, it was Montgomery who made me want to paint pictures with words, to find the perfect metaphors and adjectives that would evoke just the right emotions within a soul.
“It was November–the month of crimson sunsets, parting birds, deep, sad hymns of the sea, passionate wind-songs in the pines. Anne roamed through the pineland alleys in the park and, as she said, let that great sweeping wind blow the fogs out of her soul.”
“Look at that sea, girls–all silver and shadow and vision of things not seen. We couldn’t enjoy its loveliness any more if we had millions of dollars and ropes of diamonds.”
“And people laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?”
7. It’s OK to be Weird
Another reason why I bonded with Anne.
“There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.”
“But am I talking too much? People are always telling me I do. Would you rather I didn’t talk? If you say so I’ll stop. I can STOP when I make up my mind to it, although it’s difficult.”
8. The Side Stories
One of my favorite things about this series was the side stories about the characters Anne meets, such as Miss Lavendar, the sweet spinster, Leslie Moore from Anne’s House of Dreams, and Captain Jim. Again, their stories could have been based on real life.
My favorite story actually comes from Chronicles of Avonlea. It’s called “The Hurrying of Ludovic,” in which a man described as very slow in everything—from the way he walks to the way he talks—has taken fifteen years to court a woman named Theodora. In the story, he finally gets a little nudge, thanks to Anne, to propose to Theodora. This short story never ceases to amuse me because one, I know a person who can be described as slow, and two, I also feel like this story could happen to me personally (no details for now).
It was Anne who taught me the importance of names. I’ve been obsessed with naming things romantically ever since.
“I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.”
Gilbert Blythe. Dark, curly hair and hazel eyes. Intelligent and reliable. Can’t say much more than that. He was my first fictional crush. He remains the ideal of what I would like to have in real life. A friend who becomes something more. Such a gentleman. And his boyish charms are the cherry on top.
I could have a whole separate post on my top ten Gilbert Blythe moments, but my absolute favorite scene is the Lady of Shalott scene—when Gilbert rescues Anne as she’s playing Elaine, and her barge springs a leak. That was the moment ten year-old me wished I had a real life Gilbert.
My favorite thing about him is that his feelings for Anne never cease. Even when she refuses to forgive him, he still wants to be her friend. Even when she rejects him, his love never wavers. He’s such a go-getter. If a guy were that persistent in loving me and in wishing to maintain my friendship, there is no way I would let him get away.
Now, where are you, real life Gilbert?
“I have a dream,” he said slowly. “I persist in dreaming it, although it has often seemed to me that it could never come true. I dream of a home with a hearth-fire in it, a cat and dog, the footsteps of friends – and you!” Anne wanted to speak but she could find no words. Happiness was breaking over her like a wave. It almost frightened her. “I asked you a question over two years ago, Anne. If I ask it again today, will you give me a different answer?” Still Anne could not speak. But she lifted her eyes, shining with all the love-rapture of countless generations, and looked into his for a moment. He wanted no other answer.