With the approval of the L.M. Montgomery Estate, and with the 100th anniversary of the first Anne of Green Gables novel coming up, Budge Wilson set out to paint a picture of Anne Shirley’s life before she reached Green Gables. The result might not be quite what one would expect, but it is very, very good.
While the original Anne books are entertaining and frequently funny, there are plenty of hints of true darkness in the lives of the characters. This is nowhere more true than in the glimpses Anne gives of her early childhood. Those familiar with the story know that Anne lost her parents early, that she was taken in by people who expected her to work very hard helping to raise their large families, and that she seems to have spent most of that time longing for a degree of human connection that never really materialised. Budge Wilson picks up on all of this, producing a novel that feels much heavier than Montgomery’s generally do. Anne’s imagination and dreaminess is still there, certainly, but Wilson appears to be more focused on gaining an understanding of how Anne’s early experiences shaped her into the girl so many love than on extending Montgomery’s approach to storytelling into Anne’s earlier history. Its focus makes this undeniably a book for older readers, but one that stands remarkably well on its own as an exploration of one child’s development under difficult circumstances. Readers coming to the Anne series later, as I did, may find that Wilson’s insights serve as a helpful balance to Montgomery’s rather more exuberant novels.
Check out the book’s website, where you’ll find crafts, activities, and a downloadable bookmark and poster!