Before Green Gables

Thursday, May 28, 2009
Today's book, "Timed to coincide with the 100th anniversary of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, the release of this prequel is sure to cause quite a stir among Anne Shirley fans. A heroine beloved by generations of girls and women, Anne Shirley continues to have a devoted following today. Though purists will object, those who have often imagined Anne’s life before Green Gables will devour this back story. Everyone who ever read the original book remembers hints suggesting that Anne’s prior life was no bed of roses, and Canadian author Wilson paints an appropriately bleak portrait of the orphaned Anne’s early years. Still, she manages to remain true to the optimistic tone of the original book while relating the hardscrabble details of Anne’s first 12 years."

I find the cover of today's book incredibly creepy - and I'm not really sure why. I've always found it creepy when there's a picture of someone where you can't see their face, and the cape Anne is wearing really doesn't help. It makes her look like she has enormous shoulders, which makes her head look even smaller in comparison, and it gives off the impression that the two don't match up. I keep imagining that if she turned around we would see a monster wearing a red wig, like this:

Of course it's also entirely possible that I just have too vivid of an imagination. . . and too much time on my hands.

And now, on to talking about the actual book:

I thought today's book was mediocre. If it wasn't attached to the Anne of Green Gables series than I probably would have enjoyed it more, because it wasn't a completely terrible book. But I couldn't help but compare it to the other Anne books, and L.M. Montgomery's writing abilities are far superior to those of Budge Wilson. Wilson just wasn't able to really capture who Anne is. Of course that could have something to do with the fact that Wilson appears to not even have ever read the Anne of Green Gables books - in the acknowledgments section she thanks others for supplying her with information from the Anne books.

The other problem was that today's book was infused with dialogue that sounded more like it belonged in the present day and not in the 1800's where this story is supposed to take place. There were too many references in this book to things that I don't believe would have been discussed over a hundred years ago. That's a problem that seems to occur frequently with period books - or TV shows: Little House on the Prairie, I'm talking about you. Don't get me wrong, I love all things related to Little House but by the end of the series they were trying to introduce tons of Women's Lib story lines and it started to feel a little too much like the 70s out there on the prairie. If you're going to write something that takes place in another time period then I think you owe it to your audience to write about the time period as it was and not the way that you wish it would have been.

Aside from being inappropriate to the time period, the dialogue was also quite cheesy in places, which isn't really a problem for me because I enjoy books and movies and TV shows that are cheesy (well I enjoy mocking them anyway). But if you don't like that sort of thing then this book might grate on your nerves at bit. I'll give you a quick example, there's a point in the book where Jessie is telling Bertha that she notices the way Bertha looks at her new husband, "Watching him, watching him, like he had wings." To which Bertha sits there thinking He does have wings. I mean seriously dear readers, how am I supposed to read that without gagging.

And now to end with a compliment, because I feel like I've done nothing but complain about the books I've read this week: The part about the book that I enjoyed is that it didn't attempt to rewrite Anne's back story. I realize that I'm probably setting the bar a little low on that one, but my expectations are not very high after watching the third Anne of Green Gables movie that was made a few years ago. Did you see that movie dear readers? If you're an Anne of Green Gables fan and you haven't watched the movie then save yourself the trouble because the movie will only serve to irritate you. They changed EVERY detail of the story, with the exception of Anne and Gilbert's names, and I'm kind of surprised that they didn't change that too. In the movie they changed the time period and set the movie during World War 1, burned down Green Gables, killed off Marilla, had Anne and Gilbert move to another country, then Gilbert went off to fight in the war and Anne became a war correspondent, and finally Anne and Gilbert decided to adopt a baby. I was tempted to write an angry letter to the network, but I had already written one angry letter to People magazine that month and I thought that two might be setting a unhealthy pattern.