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I read this book when I was in my young teens and thoroughly enjoyed it. Since then I have read it with my daughter and we have also watched the serialisation on television as a family. It is such a lovely story and has lots to offer both children and adults.
I recently replied to an advertisement for a free audio book trial and whilst looking on the website searching for inspiration I noticed the unabridged audio book of Anne of Green Gables. I was immediately interested and decided to use my free book token to buy this. On this website (Audiblebooks.co.uk) you download the "book" to your computer and can either listen to it from there or transfer to an ipod or mp3 player. I like listening to audio books in bed or whilst travelling and they are great for on the beach when I usually find that reading a conventional book causes all sorts of problems with aching arms whilst holding the book up, sun in eyes, sand in book etc, etc.
Anne of Green Gables is set on the Canadian Prince Edward Island in the fictional village of Avonlea and was written by Lucy Maud Montgomery and published in 1908. Montgomery based the book on her own upbringing as she was abandoned by her father when her mother died and was brought up by strict grandparents.
Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert are a middle aged brother and sister living together on their farm, Green Gables. They decide that they need a young boy to help with the farm as Matthew has health problems and ask a friend to arrange for them to adopt an orphan boy. Unfortunately the message does not get through correctly and the friend arranges for a girl to arrive at the local railway station. Marilla Cuthbert is all for sending Anne back to the orphanage as she will be of little help around the farm; however, Anne is a girl like no other and her constant chatter and grown up turn of phrase soon work its magic on Matthew. Now Matthew is a shy, quiet man usually deferring to his sister in all decisions but he is also clever in his own way and after he has told Marilla that he thinks they should keep Anne because "she is an interesting little thing" he keeps quiet and Marilla, who is not used to Matthew voicing any particular opinion, gives in and tells Anne that she can stay.
Anne Shirley soon settles into life at Green Gables and enchants Matthew and Marilla along with the other Avonlea residents keeping them equally amused and exasperated with her escapades, of which there are many, as she grows from child to teenager. She changes the Cuthbert's' lives in ways that they would never have guessed just by being herself. She also brings fresh life to the village and wins round the stern, no nonsense Rachel Lind and in Diana Barry Anne finds a "kindred spirit" and the two little girls become firm friends. For Anne this is wonderful as she has never had a best friend before.
Due to Anne's vivid imagination and awareness of the world around her there are lovely descriptions of the Prince Edward Island countryside, flowers, trees and sunsets. As these things are seen through the eyes of Anne, I don't think they would be boring to children as they are entwined in the story in the way Anne sees the world. Of course, as an adult I loved the descriptions and listening to it on the audio book enabled my own imagination to take over and really feel as though I was there in Avonlea.
**My Opinion Of The Story And Characters*
Anne is obviously the central character of the book and appeals to children because of the amusing scrapes and adventures she gets herself into. As a child I can remember loving the way she got herself into trouble through her irrepressible sense of adventure and quite often because of her day dreaming and vivid imagination. With her red hair and poetic way of speaking Anne is different from the other children who are a bit unsure of her at first but the story illustrates how Anne learns to cope with this and becomes friends with the village children who respect her for who she is. My own daughter really enjoyed watching the "Anne of Avonlea" serial on television and at 15 has recently asked if we can borrow the video/dvd from the library as she would like to watch it again
However, although Anne represents childhood she also represents the difficult relationship between adults and children. Children often feel misunderstood and powerless and the character of Anne portrays these feelings whilst finding ways to overcome them. As a child I liked the way Anne rebelled against things in life she didn't think were fair and as an adult I can admire the way Marilla learns to discipline Anne in a firm but fair way
Although Anne grows up and changes physically over the course of the story, her inner self stays much the same and Marilla is probably the one whose character changes the most. At the beginning Rachel Lind, says that Marilla is "not living, just staying". Marilla takes Anne in out of duty whereas Matthew wants her to stay because he feels an instant love for the funny little orphan girl who has the ability to see the world as good and beautiful despite her unfortunate start in life. As it turns out Anne would be nothing without Marilla and vice versa. Anne lives her life in a way that the uptight and practical Marilla would have liked to have done and Anne gradually learns some of Marilla's restraint. As the story progresses Marilla is forced to confront her feelings and admit her love for Anne although she finds it very difficult to express this in words until the very end.
Matthew is a good man going quietly about this business on the farm and although he says very little in the family and is painfully shy with the neighbours he shows that he does have a quiet strength of character that helps him to get his own way when he really wants something. A good example of this is when he makes himself go to the big Town, something he really doesn't like doing, and go into a fabric shop to buy material so that Anne can have a dress with puff sleeves - something she dearly wants and has been dreaming about for ages. He loves Anne simply and completely and she returns that love whole heartedly. Where Marilla often stops Anne's fantasies and gets impatient with her day dreams, Matthew is a willing listener and loves to hear her tales of school and her dreams and thoughts on the world.
I think that this book is suitable for all ages from child to teenager to adult. It is probably more suited to girls and women than men, although my husband did watch the television serial, reluctantly at first, but then admitted that he enjoyed it.
The book is set in a slower paced time in a gentle small community which it would be hard to find now a days. However much of what it has to say is still relevant in the 21st century. The childish feelings and dreams of Anne are still felt by children today and there are many orphaned children around the world, a lot of whom live awful lives through no fault of their own and others, like Anne, who are "rescued" and find a loving family in which they can grow up into well adjusted and successful adults. Similarly the difficulties, heartache and overwhelming love Marilla finds in trying to bring Anne up well are still experienced by parents today.
There are several more books in the series telling Anne's story as she goes from child to young adult and eventually marries and has a family of her own. However, in my opinion, Anne of Green Gables is the best book and the one I will probably read, or listen to, again and again.
***The audio book I listened to is the unabridged version read by Kate Burton.
Eleven-year-old orphan Anne Shirley has red hair, a vivid imagination and cannot stop talking. Quite a shock for old Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert who wanted a boy to help them on the farm. Anne is soon the talk of the town with her funny ways and endless adventures, but it is not long before she has won the hearts of everyone. This classic story is set in Canada at the beginning of the 20th century and is one of the most enduring favourites of children's literature. With music by Copland.