Summer Reading: Anne of Green Gables

July 15th, 2012

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. ^_^

Ratings:

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

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7 Responses

  1. Cryssoberyl says:

    Likewise, it was hard going for me as well, due to the parochial attitudes of the characters, which were of course a sad truism of the time and place… Anne’s relationship with Diana was certainly enjoyable though.

    Anyway, aside from my standing recommendation of (the sadly non-Yuri-related) A Room with a View, I don’t really have anything that you most likely haven’t already read.

    You could always reread The Count of Monte Cristo, partly for its own prodigious general entertainment value, but also for the glorious Eugénie Danglars and Louise D’Armilly, quite possibly the first lesbian couple in Western literature ever to end up free and together in a happy ending – a doubly amazing accomplishment too considering the book they’re in, needless to say…

  2. @Cryssoberyl – I read Count of Monte Cristo when I was so very young. It was, therefore a very abridged version. I’ll consider putting that on the list. Thanks!

  3. Cryssoberyl says:

    Same here! I read a heavily abridged version in high school, but it was only in recent years that I took in the full version as an audiobook (which considering its length, is good to do while performing other, less interesting tasks.)

    I was amazed at just how much had been left out. The version I read had almost no character descriptions, to the point you couldn’t really form an distinct impression of anyone, even the Count. Imagine my surprise to find that Dumas included lavish and detailed descriptions of pretty much everyone you come across.

    This also extends to place settings, not to mention entire scenes that were cut out…long comment short, the unabridged work is amazing, and totally worth investing yourself into. Just…pace yourself. It’s a lot to get through. :P

  4. @Cryssoberyl – You’re not the first one to suggest I read this book, so it certainly seems like a good choice for my summer reading list. Thank you.

  5. Cryssoberyl says:

    Be sure to get the Robin Buss/Penguin Classics translation. A lot of the older English translations, even supposedly “unabridged” ones, had modifications to protect Victorian moral sensibilities. :P

  6. ArcaJ says:

    I, too, recommend The Count of Monte Cristo. I recently got interested in classic literature, so I thought “why not?” The Count is a shining example of a “Magnificent Bastard.” The things he goes through for revenge…The things he puts people through; even those he intends to help!
    My only complaint is like yours about Carmilla; no adaptation has really done it justice. Gankutsuou came close, but then it went off on some tangents and changed characters (Eugénie) in ways I can’t forgive. At least it stayed as dark as the original story.

    Give the book a read if you ave time. You’ll never look at a telegraph the same way again. ^_^

    ArcaJ

  7. George R. says:

    I also read Anne of Green Gables for the first time last summer, and share your “annoyance” at Marilla and her puritanical attitudes. I understand they’re a product of her time and culture (or more precisely Lucy Maud Montgomery’s), but that doesn’t make my any less pissed. It’s also the reason why I can’t really say I liked the book either. Though I did enjoy Anne’s relationship with Dianna and Matthew.

    I also figured it was also a “safe” book (in Japanese) to take on my trip to Canada right after the “manga at customs” incident. Canadians would give it a pass, and puritanical Americans could sympathize with Marilla.

    I don’t have any literature suggestions, but will look into The Count of Monte Cristo, or for that matter other recommendations from your intelligent readers.

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