My favourite book growing up was the 1908 Bildungsroman novel Anne of Green Gables by Canadian author L.M. Montgomery. It tells the story of a young orphan girl, named Anne Shirley, who is adopted by siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert on Prince Edward Island. They live in a quaint house called Green Gables, and, immediately, Anne falls in love with the setting. She begins to romanticise even the most mundane experiences on the island. Having lived in miserable conditions her entire life, Anne used to read books and poetry to transport her to different realities. This expanded her creativity, vocabulary and imagination, something she often got in trouble.
Throughout the book, Anne navigates life on the island. From extravagant garden parties where she does not possess the same grace and decorum as the other girls her age, to a feud with classmate Gilbert Blythe which unexpectedly (for Anne) escalates into a blossoming romance, there is never a dull moment.
Growing up, I took joy in reading of Anne’s adventures and used to visit my Grandma’s house to watch the original films as she had them on video. A significant element of my love for Anne of Green Gables was definitely this emotional attachment I developed whilst watching the films with my mum and Grandma. We would have animated discussions about the different plot lines and characters. Equally, it was my mum who gave me the book to read in the first place, establishing a firm and poignant connection from the start.
Aside from this, the character of Anne Shirley resonated with me as she had a passion for words, for creativity, and was she filled with a vivid imagination and untameable ambition. She achieved the highest mark in her class exams and went on to study to become a teacher. For Anne, education was of uttermost importance, and she did not notice romance even when it was staring her in the face. This narrative was refreshing as much of the representation of young girls, especially in 1908, focused on finding a man to marry or learning how to become a lady of society. I often found myself wanting to be at the top of my class or learn to use long words to be like Anne. She expressed her deepest emotions using grand vocabulary throughout, voicing her deepest sadness and most blissful happiness. We all have something to learn from Anne in this sense, using our voices to express how we are feeling at any given moment. She was unapologetically herself and refused to let anyone tell her that her feelings were not valid.
Here are some quotes from Anne that I find especially inspiring:
“Anne has as many shades as a rainbow and every shade is the prettiest while it lasts. “
“Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them–that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.”
“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.”
I truly believe Anne shaped the girl I am today, and I also believe that if we all thought as Anne did, the world would be an abundantly more exhilarating and uplifting place. I will always return to this book when times get tough as Anne makes me believe there is something wonderful in everything. I would definitely recommend this book to those who have not read it and, even if you have, I encourage you to look back to see what else you can learn from this young lady.
Girl Museum Inc.