Wednesday, May 7, 2014

In which my childhood is not ruined

Anne of Green Gables, y'all. Like so many other girls my age, I was obsessed with Anne of Green Gables when I was 10ish. I read all the book in the series multiple times; I don't think I ever owned them but I knew right where to find them in the library. My Victorian dollhouse Playmobil figures were always Anne and Gilbert and family, acting out incredibly dramatic scenes.

I didn't have this puppy, so I would use masking tape to make a house floorplan on my bedroom floor.

When I got to the end of the series, I would start over; at one point I remember feeling vaguely like maybe I should read something else, but ANNE was all I wanted to read, so ONE MORE TIME. That's just the kind of groove I get into now with 30 Rock on Netflix so, as they say in Quebec, plus ├ža change.

For all that, I discovered in conversation with some friends this winter that I had mostly forgotten what the books were about. I mean, I recognized various incidents ("oh yeaaaah...") but I couldn't have summarized anything to save my life. So when I saw this very attractive Oxford Children's Classics edition:

the book magpie strikes again
I thought I should re-read it. Not without some trepidation! You may remember that my re-reading of Nancy Drew was rather disappointing. And in general, what are the odds that a book for little girls published in 1908 wouldn't be embarrassing in 2014?

Actually, as it turns out, the book holds up pretty well! A lot of that has to do with one of Anne's key characteristics: that she is a whiz kid at school. There's no conflict about this in the book; I hate hypotheticals like this, but if it were a historical novel being written today, would the author have refrained from making "Anne is made to feel unfeminine for being smart" a major plot point? As I was reading, I both recognized that this is why I identified so intensely with Anne and also that this book, with its glorification of studying to win top marks, really shaped the way I approached my schoolwork as a kid.

And, not unrelatedly, Gilbert is still such. a. dish.*

Let's review, shall we? Gilbert Blythe (SIGH sigh sigh) is a boy who teases Anne about the color of her hair and she not only schools him good at the moment, she swears eternal hatred. Anne and Gilbert battle it out to be the top student in school on every assignment, exam, etc. Gilbert is clearly attracted to this girl who is so able and willing to fight back. Anne is mostly contemptuous, but by the end of the book they agree to be friends.

Amen amen, my fellow Ameriwomen, you can put away your tired "ooo, Disney princes gave me unrealistic expectations" meme, because that right there is kryptonite. Oh, you mean the most handsome boy in school will only love me more if I whoop him on spelling tests? I CAN DO THAT. And definitely, an antagonistic relationship like that will resolve in mutual respect and eventual love. Oh yes; Gilbert Blythe (SIGH sigh sigh) remains my one and only fictional crush.


* I've never seen the Canadian TV movie (series?), mind you. It seemed relevant to mention that at this particular moment.

4 comments:

  1. Wait, sorry, what? Your one and only fictional crush? How can THAT be?

    Having said that, Gilbert Blythe is the only one of LM Montgomery's heroes that I ever found remotely interesting. I love the Emily of New Moon books better than the Anne books in general, but Emily's love interest is dull as oatmeal.

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    1. Haha... mmm, oatmeal.

      I don't know; I can't explain it. Of course I had favorite Austen heroes, Backstreet Boys, and so on, but Gilbert is the only book character I really latched on to with that sort of emotional crush. I would re-read Captain Wentworth's letter to Anne and sigh over it but I don't remember imagining Mary Sue stories about them the way I did with Anne and Gilbert.

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  2. You haven't seen the TV miniseries? That's what I grew up on. I know I read at least the first couple of books but only once. I plan on rereading the first book soon, since I will be going to Prince Edward Island in about a month!

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    1. I know! The miniseries was actually what the conversation was about that inspired me to re-read the book.

      Lucky you, going to PEI! I hear it's gorgeous. Have lots of fun!

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