Monday, August 25, 2008

Before Green Gables

I just finished reading “Before Green Gables” by Budge Wilson. Like any good novel that I begin, I could hardly put it down until I had finished it. This book creates for the reader the early childhood of the beloved character Anne Shirley. The book ends where “Anne of Green Gables” by Lucy Maud Montgomery begins.

I was skeptical when beginning this book that anyone could possibly create a beginning to the “Anne” story that would be in keeping with L.M. Montgomery. However, Budge Wilson did an excellent job.

Many of the little things that compose the “Anne” that we love so well are brought into the story Before Green Gables. In essence, Ms. Wilson explains how Anne’s uniqueness became wrapped up into one character. She did a fantastic job tying all of these “loose ends” up into a wonderful story. For example, why did Anne have such a perfect little nose? And why was she vain about it? Where did Anne get her love of stories? How did she find her “window friend” and give her the name of Katie Maurice? Why was there such a quest in Anne’s life to find a bosom friend? How did such a young girl with a lack of consistent education end up with such a vast vocabulary? Ms. Wilson takes all of these questions and expertly weaves them into an intriguing and well-told story that is in perfect keeping with the Anne that was created by L.M. Montgomery.

The story begins with Anne’s parents, Bertha and Walter Shirley. The tale follows the Shirley’s through the birth of their daughter, and then their unfortunate deaths which leave Anne as an orphan. Anne is taken in by Mrs. Thomas, who has too many children and a drunk, abusive husband who can’t hold down a job. As the story continues we find Anne’s childhood being wasted on housework and caring for children who were not so much younger than herself.
When the Thomas family is forced to move, Anne at last gets her chance to go to school. Although her attendance is sporadic she finds a kindred spirit in the benevolent teacher who is very much like Miss Stacey in the later books. Anne also befriends the “Egg Man” who plays a vital role in her development.

When tragedy strikes the Thomas family Anne is graciously taken in by Mrs. Hammond who has eight children under the age of six! With this move came a change in school and Anne pleasantly discovers that her new teacher is a native of Prince Edward Island. It is from him that Anne’s dream of visiting P.E.I. is begotten.

Anne is only two years with the Hammonds before Mr. Hammond suffers a heart attack and dies. Anne is now forced into the very situation she had thus far avoided – the orphan asylum. However, Providence was looking out for Anne when she is chosen as one of two girls to be adopted. Her dream of Prince Edward Island becomes a reality as she boards a train bound for Bright River…

Before Green Gables was an excellent read and well worth the time. I would still choose to read it after the original Montgomery books. The only complaint I have is that there are two expletives used which were completely unnecessary, but overall it is still a fantastic book and well written.