Saturday, January 19, 2013

Anne and I both have changed

When I decided to join the Reading to Know book club 2013 over at Carrie's blog, I thought January's reading challenge would be pretty easy. But honestly - it really was a challenge. Now, I hope my Montgomery-loving friends will not disown me after this post, but I really did not enjoy revisiting her books this time around. 

It had been quite a long time since I read Anne of Green Gables, so I checked out the audio CD. I do a lot of driving these days, and it worked out nicely. I didn't have to try and cram reading time in when I was home, and it made use of the hours of driving I put in each week. It wasn't the first time I've reread Anne of Green Gables - I lost count how many times I returned to that book when I was small. But this was the first time I haven't enjoyed it. Rather, I found it a bit annoying, and discovered some issues with Anne that my younger self never noticed. What struck me most is Anne's manipulative ways. Multiple times she looks soulfully up at her elders who are flustered by her mischief and antics, and opines 'How would you feel if you were a little orphan girl, and had never ______?," and she always wins them over. She props up her history book and then has a novel on her lap, "but she never once thought of being deceitful in what she was doing!" She refuses to go to school on account of hurt pride, and is allowed to, and for years is steadfastly unforgiving to the repentant offender. And it's all done in the name of imagination.

 Now, I'm not saying Anne is all bad - she is loves deeply and, for the most part, without reserve, and is loyal to the death to those she cares for. And of course, she is still a child, so I approve of the author giving her faults at all - there is nothing I like less than perfect child protagonists. But Anne's faults, while they are not really glorified, are not properly shown to be faults, either. Frequently an outburst from Anne is smoothed over by a dramatic apology from her, a "There now, that's all right" and a smile from the adult or adults involved, frequently joined with some justification of her wrongdoing - Rachel Lind deserved to be told off. It's true, the reverend's prayers were very dull. Gilbert had been quite rude. Perhaps the author did it to prevent from being overly moralistic, like Marilla's character so often is. But a good author can give their characters faults, know them and show them to be such, without being preachy and moralistic. Montgomery fails to do that. 
So, I'm left wondering what the point of Anne really is. It's a story of a girl with too much imagination who eventually grows up into a young woman ready to set off for college. She has grown up quite a bit over the course of the book, and many of her overtly manipulative ways have vanished. She even forgives Gilbert, at long last, and she is a likable character at the end of the book. (I cannot say so much for younger Anne.) But, on the whole, Anne of Green Gables is a book that I don't really get anything out of. It no longer interests me, it does not move or teach me or give me food for thought. I have no hard feelings against it - really, I haven't many feelings at all towards it. 

There was one other Montgomery book I attempted, Kilmeny of the Orchard. I got about 1/3 of the way through and then did not allow it to encroach upon my time any longer. 


  1. Interesting. I had a totally different experience. Of course, I never read them as a kid, but I thought younger Anne was hilarious! I might argue it's a stretch that she uses the orphan bit as manipulation. I think we are to believe that she's completely serious. When I was a kid I thought Anne was a total phony, which is why I never read the series. I think we have to sort of keep in mind what the author is trying to convey. I would agree that a regular kid who did that would probably be being manipulative. But I think to read in motives that aren't expressly stated isn't exactly fair to the author. I agree with you that it's a bit of a stretch to believe that Anne didn't know reading behind her textbook was deceitful, but readers should assume that is true, since she doesn't do it again.
    Now, I did have that experience with the second book. I had the same problem last year too. I got to the second book, and I kind of expected a little more out of her. I also couldn't stand the characters of Miss Lavender or Paul Irving or Davy Keith. I think the third book is a triumph though.
    Overall, I'm glad I read the series again. Sorry you had such a bad time of it.

  2. I was a little harder than I might have been on this book because I did like it when I was younger and I was disappointed in what I found this time.
    I can't resist a little friendly arguement - in response to "But I think to read in motives that aren't expressly stated isn't exactly fair to the author.", I think an author's job is to be clear on what they are communicating, whether they expressly state it or use more subtle means. I just interpreted as best I could what the author gave me to go on.

  3. I haven't read Anne in years. . . since before I married 13.5 years ago, and probably a long while even before that. I'll be interested to see what I think of her when I finally get around to reading her again.

    I enjoyed reading your thoughts!

  4. Hmm...I'm wondering if Anne's goal was to manipulate or more along the line of just complain.

    Thoughts to think upon...

  5. Finally getting caught up with LMM posts. (Shameful, shameful.)

    I do think you were too harsh, in general. :D But you are entitled to your opinion and it's somewhat inadvisable to argue with a woman "in your condition." (OH, Carrie...) Kids DO act like Anne in many ways. They do the craziest, silliest, most non-explicable things and fail to see the errors of their ways. Then they grow up and their previous mistakes and bad attitudes are made more clear to them. Just as to Anne. She really grows up and mellows out through the rest of the series, as I know you know.

    Still, I know it can be disappointing to really love a book when you are younger and come back to it years later and see flaws.

    I find Anne very believable. Perhaps because I dramatic as a child. (Please focus on the "as a child" part of that last sentence.)