Next to Alice in Wonderland and Little Women, there probably isn’t another piece of western girls’ literature that has been as picked over in anime and manga as Anne of Green Gables, by Lucy Maud Montgomery. And after reading it, I think I know why. I’ll get to that in a second.
Anne of Green Gables occupies a space smack in between The Little Princess, which is a purely wish-fulfilling Cinderella-like fantasy and the Little House series in which a smart, hardworking young lady makes good by being smart and hard-working. The story starts off as a bit of fantasy and ends with Anne succeeding through hard work and smarts.
But that’s starting from the end, let’s start from the beginning. Anne of Green Gables is about an orphan girl, Anne Shirley, who is mistakenly sent to a brother and sister in rural Canada. After some initial problems, Matthew and Marilla decide to keep her. The story follows Anne from 11 years old, when she arrived on the Cuthbert’s farm, to 16 years old, when she makes a decision to not leave to go to college, but stay and teach in a local school.
There were some tough bits at the beginning of the story, as Anne tries to not tell Marilla of any neglect or abuse she might have suffered, and there were some bits in the middle when Marilla, particularly, was pissing me off with her puritan stance on life, but of course, as this is a girls’ book, Anne comes out okay in the end.
As I said, I was able to see why Anne of Green Gables is (relatively speaking) so popular in Japan. It has all the qualities of Class S Japanese literature. A young girl, forging a deep emotional bond with another girl and, through the use of her own wits, skills and perseverance, rising to the top of her class and her society. For those of us interested in Yuri, although the book made light of it, the scenes where Anne and Diana vow their friendship to one another could be as romantic as anyone could wish.
This book was the last of the holes in western lit that I needed to fill for myself. If you have a suggestion of any late 19th – early 20th century western literature, that is relevant to Yuri or shoujo, go ahead and suggest it in the comments. I may well have read it already, but if I haven’t I’ll consider it. ^_^
Overall – Really hard to say, I didn’t hate it, it wasn’t badly written, but I can’t say I liked it, either. Let’s go with my default average – 7