Hello, kindred spirits! Welcome to this month’s classic YA readalong discussion. Today we’re chatting about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, a personal favorite of Wendy’s and Kim’s, and a new read for Kate. Beware spoilers, and please tell us what you think of the book in the comments below!
Stick around at the end for
1. An exciting book giveaway–two sets of six books!
2. The May book announcement
3. Voting on June’s book
Without further ado, let’s begin!
Kim: I am super interested to see the fresh adult perspective coming into this one. I can barely remember a time when I didn’t love this book. It is just such a part of my childhood and my life as a whole, really. Do the words and sentiments thrill me, do I identify with Anne so strongly naturally, or did she make me this way? Am I a person who will stop and gaze dreamily at a flower filled field because of Anne or do I love such things because she was a kindred spirit when first I read of her? I couldn’t even begin to say. I feel like Anne has always been an integral part of me.
Wendy: I wondered the same thing, Kim! I was always a tree-hugging, daydreamer of a child, but when I discovered Anne, it was like I recognized a friend I didn’t know existed. But something in me also thrilled and awakened to her flights of imagination, as well as her beautiful way of looking at the world. She shaped me strongly–and it’s easy to see why she was such a sensation in this quiet pastoral town in the early 1900s.
Kate: I listened to this on audiobook, and I absolutely loved it, although I had to rewind three times to make sure I’d heard correctly when Marilla said she didn’t want a little Arab boy–my breath whooshed out of me like I’d been slapped in the face the first time I heard it. Books written in a different time can be such a bummer when it comes to race and women. And things like orphans.
Also, have you guys seen Dirtbag Anne of Green Gables? It’s pretty funny.
Wendy: The lack of political correctness is where I think books written in their time can be tricky for modern audiences, versus historical fiction written by contemporary authors. I try to remember historical context when it comes to political, racial, and religious content, though certainly that’s a legitimate critical observation.
Conversely, one thing I think often gets overlooked in Anne, however, is the strong feminist undercurrent in her character. The first book was written in 1908, 14 years before women had the right to vote on Prince Edward Island. And yet many of the women are incredibly independent, from Marilla to Rachel to Anne, who most definitely forges her own path in education and a career.
Kim: Yeah, I have to echo what you’re saying about reading a book in the context of the time it was written. I wouldn’t give a book written today a pass in the way that I give Anne a pass. But there’s also my lifelong adoration of this book going into that as well. I have a hard time judging it unbiased.
And I agree even more strongly that there is an explicit feminist undercurrent. It’s not even remotely a question or controversial that Anne should go onto higher education and an independent career. It’s treated as so natural and matter of course. I find it just wonderful.
Wendy: You get such a lively sense of characterization as soon as the novel begins. Busybody Rachel, taciturn Matthew Cuthbert, non-nonsense Marilla, and then the lovely spark that is Anne! I love the scene when Matthew picks her up at the train and takes her back to Green Gables. You learn so much about both of them in that one buggy ride.
Kim: I had the exact same thoughts upon this reread. I really admire Maud’s gift for quickly and effectively establishing character. And Matthew, Matthew is such a clear kindred spirit from the get go. And honestly, I feel like I *am* Anne when I read the scene where she first sees the White Way of Delight. Who wouldn’t be enraptured in the midst of such wonder?
Kate: Starting the story with Rachel was really fun because it set up the whole town rather than just the Cuthberts, and it made me feel like I was getting a bird’s eye view, which I think Anne would really approve of. And I freaking love Matthew. His terror of women is awesome because he’s equally afraid of little girls. He’s such a puppy of a human. And Marilla is just lovely.
Wendy: Anne’s imagining that she would like to go out in a great big field and just feel a prayer is exactly how I would want to do it too, by the way.
Kate: I was a religious child, and my method of prayer was similar to the one Anne wants to employ. Nature made me feel so loved, and as though anything could happen. I still get the same feelings, just without God thoughts attached.
Kim: I wholeheartedly agree. I’m not one to call it prayer but I feel very spiritual in the Carl Sagan sense amidst the glory and grandeur of nature. I feel much the same way when I enter a bookstore.
“Dear old world. she murmured, “you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you.”
This is exactly the sort of “prayer” I would have offered at age 8 when I first read this book and even more so today at 28.
Wendy: Tell me honestly: what do you guys think of the language? I always wonder if contemporary adult audiences will find the language too purple. Anne is incredibly romantic, and her penchant for italics does tend to run rampant.
Kate: I listened to the audiobook instead of reading the book, and I had to listen to it at 1.25 speed at times because the flowery language was driving me absolutely bananas. It was just too much. That said, some of the language is really beautiful, especially, for me, as Anne gets older. The part about the bend in the road when she decided to stay home instead of going to college made me tear up.
Wendy: Yeah, there are parts that I would imagine get to be too much. A product of its time for sure.
Was the term “kindred spirits” was invented by Montgomery? Or are there earlier uses of this term? I always think it’s interesting when words and phrases become part of the lexicon, but we aren’t entirely sure where they originated.
Kate: I’ve read “kindred spirits” in things written in the mid-1800’s, if not earlier, so it couldn’t have originated here.
Wendy: I did a quick search of the etymology online and kept bumping into “origin of the phrase is unclear,” so I should look in our OED when I get a sec. But I give this author the credit for popularizing it, then. :)
Kim: Well, I don’t think it’s possible for me to ever think this book is anything less than perfect. I think the language is so pitch perfect to the character. Is Anne a bit ridiculous? Yes, but that’s part of her charm. We see her quiet down some by the end of the book and it’s actually so bittersweet. There is something so heart clenching about her ability to feel so fiercely and to always so fearlessly announce what’s in her head and in her heart. Even when it’s foolish and overwrought. It seems something capable only by children and it gives my heart a little pang when she grows out of it.
Kate: I don’t know. I think that if an adult behaved the way Anne does as a child, that would be very much not at all charming. I probably would not want to spend time with that adult.
Wendy: She’s also eleven when the book begins. Her tendency to pour her thoughts out in a rushing stream of words is something that I found endearing, because you have to think she was starved for human companionship and affection and wanted desperately to be heard and understood. But yeah, it’s probably best that she grew out of it, as most of us do. My goodness, Anne has a temper, though! I relate to her sense of wounded injustice, but at the same time, I would have been severely LOOKED AT had I ever spoken to an elder the way Anne does to Mrs. Lynde when she says Anne’s hair is as red as carrots.
Kim: Ha, I suppose she does (not to mention she is ridiculously tenacious-poor Gilbert!) but I can’t do anything but love her. Honestly, Mrs. Lynde was being rude. No, it’s not her fault that she happened to hit on one of Anne’s sore spots, but it is impolite to say such things anyway.
Kate: The extent to which Anne obsesses over her looks really bums me out, and I would have been very, very, very punished if I had acted this way as a child. Her apology made me laugh out loud, though.
Wendy: Oh, really? I think it’s kind of natural to be thinking about your looks at that age. I think she also says at one point that she likes to look at pretty things, and so she wished she saw something pretty when she looked in the mirror. And she also says that those who are pretty are often associated with being good, I believe.
Kim: I always took it in stride as part of the natural Anne ridiculousness/charm.
Kim: The grudge is epic and I love it. I mean, she committed to that grudge for years, I admire that. It’s especially amusing when viewed within the context of their future.
Wendy: Reading the book this time around, I felt more moved by it than I ever have been before. I even teared up in a few places! I’ve always thought “it’s just Anne’s way,” but this time I was struck by how Anne seems to create affection for ordinary objects and places and people, perhaps because she was so starved of love herself for so long. She wants to be Diana’s bosom friend before she even meets her, for example.
Kim: Oh yes, certainly. Anne had no one but herself to turn to for comfort, love, and entertainment. It very much feeds into why she is the way she is. But I was a child very much like Anne often given to large flights of fancy and I was not a lonely orphan! I hated to give away old clothes and toys because I thought they would be sad without me. Yes, even my clothes had a consciousness and would be sad without me. It made me quite distraught! So yes, I identify with Anne strongly in the overly enthusiastic/imaginative/ridiculous department. It’s a very fortunate thing that Diana and Anne were bosom friends after all. What ever would have happened? I shudder to think.
Wendy: I’m pretty sentimental about inanimate things, too–and my mother is just like you! On one of her last visits, we took her to the beach, and she claimed that she had to take home a whole bunch of smooth rocks because they would be sad if she left them behind.
Kate: Whenever I read books like this, I am thankful anew that I had four siblings as a child. I cannot wrap my brain around how lonesome Anne must have felt with no one to turn to. Poor Anne. And I was so sad when Matthew died.
Wendy: Anne’s saying that that she could have spared him so much if she’d only been a boy–it gets me every time. :(
Kate: I love Anne’s emphatic belief that some people are naturally good, but that she is naturally a bad person. I just love her.
Wendy: There’s a great quote that comes up later in Anne of the Island that sums up Anne’s way of thinking nicely, and what I like about my own husband. “I wouldn’t want to marry anybody who was wicked, but I think I’d like it if he could be wicked and wouldn’t.”
Kate: I was so relieved when Anne got a nice dress. Just like anyone else with older siblings, I never got new clothes of my own as a child, and I tended to be slightly out of fashion, so I was really excited when Anne got a dress with big dumb puff sleeves.
Wendy: And pearls!
Kim: I adore the drunken Diana incident.
Wendy: Ohhh yes, that was hilarious. I was obsessed with this frozen raspberry juice when I was a child because of the raspberry cordial incident. It isn’t any wonder that Mrs. Barry was so furious.
Okay, closing thoughts? Rating?
Kim: 5 stars, forever. I love Anne. I loved finding someone I thought was so similar to me when I was a child. She meant so much to me and it was such a thrill to read about someone who took as much delight in all things as I did. (Funnily, geometry is the one area of math that I actually have a grasp on but I’ll forgive her our divergence there.) I love the elegant and yet simple beauty of this book. Anne has a way of stating life lessons and philosophies so succinctly and in such a charmingly child like way. I have always loved the detailed descriptions of the era and perhaps I love this time period because of this book. The setting is almost a character unto itself. Prince Edward Island is one of my favorite places on the planet and I have never been there. Midnight Garden road trip??
Kate: I’m not sure how to rate this. 4.5 stars? I would have loved it as a child (I loved anything about orphans, frankly), but there are things about it that just kind of bum me out now, all these years after it was first published. Which maybe isn’t fair. I do very much want to visit PEI though, and will have to convince my friends Caissie and Matt to let us stay in their amazing church/vacation home.
Wendy: 5 stars for me, too. And oh my stars, that gorgeous house on PEI! I’ve wanted to go there ever since I first saw the PBS miniseries, and we’ve been talking about doing a Midnight Garden retreat there for well over a year now. We need to make this trip happen, ladies. Someway, somehow.
As you may remember, we had a tie in our last poll, so A Wrinkle in Time is our next book!
The book should be readily available in libraries, and there are ebook and paperback versions for under $4 available on Amazon.
It was a dark and stormy night; Meg Murry, her small brother Charles Wallace, and her mother had come down to the kitchen for a midnight snack when they were upset by the arrival of a most disturbing stranger.
“Wild nights are my glory,” the unearthly stranger told them. “I just got caught in a downdraft and blown off course. Let me be on my way. Speaking of way, by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract”.
Meg’s father had been experimenting with this fifth dimension of time travel when he mysteriously disappeared. Now the time has come for Meg, her friend Calvin, and Charles Wallace to rescue him. But can they outwit the forces of evil they will encounter on their heart-stopping journey through space?
Do join us for tesseracts and the inimitable Meg Murry!
Vote for the June Readalong Book!
We’re offering up two choices for June: would you like to read the coming of age story A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or the twisty mystery The Westing Game? The links will take you to GoodReads, where you can learn more about the books. Vote for your choice at the top of the sidebar on the right hand side of our site.
Win the Anne of Green Gables set or set of 6 L.M. Montgomery books!
Thanks to our wonderful friends at Sourcebooks Fire, we have two gorgeous sets of books to give away this month! All U.S./Canadian residents who participates in the discussion below are eligible to enter. (Although you must be 18 and older, or 13 and older with parental permission–check our entry form for complete rules!) All you have to do is fill out the Rafflecopter form and leave a thoughtful comment below.
The first set of books includes the first six books in the Anne series. Did you enjoy the Anne of Green Gables readalong? Or tell us why you need this beautiful set on your shelves, if it’s a series you’ve always wanted to read.
We also have a second set of L.M. Montgomery books to give away, for those of you who already have Anne in your library! Please be sure to note in your comment whether you’d like to receive the Anne set or the other set of L.M. Montgomery books, or if you’re open to receiving either. Aren’t they lovely? I really like the illustrations for both sets of books, and these new editions capture the feel of the books so well.
Be sure to check out Sourcebooks’ website for their Anne series, too! They have all kinds of cool stuff, including an event planning guide with crafts and printable invitations, posters, Pinterest quotes, and lots more.
So…that’s it for this month! Did you enjoy Anne as much as we did? We certainly hope so!