This is Anne.
And this is the House of Green Gables.
The former is a fictional character; the latter is an actual house on Prince Edward Island. We visit it next year on our Canada’s Historic Cities and Waterways and Canada’s Maritime Provinces: A Fall Foliage Cruise. And today, Anne of Green Gables, the wonderful young-adult novel by L.M. Montgomery, is 100 years old. Slate.com has a fantastic retrospective of the book, beginning with Mark Twain’s tremendous comment that Anne is “”the dearest and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.”
Reporter Meaghan O’Rourke gives us a lovely, succinct account of Anne’s perennial charm. “She enables adults to reconnect with the childish soul within,” O’Rourke writes. She thinks Anne’s hero status stems from “her habit of radical alertness”:
Nearly always, imagination comes first for Anne: before social expectations, before conventional romantic customs, and even before her gender’s storied instinct to please and reassure. Because she is starved for human love, her primary attachment is to the natural world. As she approaches Green Gables for the first time with Matthew, she excitedly renames the landscape around her, dubbing a neighbor’s pond “The Lake of Shining Waters” and transforming a prosaic “avenue” into “The White Way of Delight.” In doing so, she reclaims the great, definitive Adamic prerogative: to name the world.
Nature, as Montgomery portrays it, enables children to experience autonomy and mystery as they can nowhere else. Each nook of shadows in a sun-striated field holds the promise of esoteric knowledge: “Below the garden a green field lush with clover sloped down to the hollow where the brook ran and where scores of white birches grew, upspringing airily out of an undergrowth suggestive of delightful possibilities in ferns and mosses and woodsy things.” In Anne’s eyes, the woods and fields of Avonlea become a half-world of fantasy, fairy tales, and chivalric poetry, where ghosts roam the woods between her house and her friend Diana’s or where a flat can become Elaine’s tragic barge en route to Camelot. Indeed, Anne’s relationship to nature is almost pagan, steeped in the sensual. Anne, for her milieu, is one weird sister.
A weird sister, perhaps, but certainly that’s why her home on PEI remains one of the top tourist attractions in all of Canada. Read the full article here, and come with us to Canada to recapture the romantic imaginations of our childhoods.