Mrs Rachel Lynde lived just where the Avonlea main road dipped down into a little hollow, fringed with alders and ladies’ eardrops, and traversed by a brook that has its source away back in the woods of the old Cuthbert place; it was reputed to be an intricate, headlong brook in its earlier course through those woods, with dark secrets of pool and cascade; but by the time it reached Lynde’s Hollow it was a quiet, well-conducted little stream, for not even a brook could run past Mrs Rachel Lynde’s door without due regard for decency and decorum; it probably was conscious that Mrs Rachel was sitting at her window, keeping a sharp eye on everything that passed, from brooks and children up, and that if she noticed anything odd or out of place she would never rest until she had ferreted out the whys and wherefores thereof.
There are few books that come into your life and become just as familiar to you as your own childhood memories – you know exactly what is about to happen every time you open the cover and yet you can’t help but revisit the story time and again. Stories like these are a rarity and something to treasure and, for me, L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables is one of these gems.
When siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert decide to adopt a boy to help out on their farm a mix up in communication means that one red-headed dreamer of an Anne Shirley is sent instead. Rather than send the child back, Marilla (persuaded by her brother) decides to take Anne under her wing and try to knock some common sense and grounding into this peculiarly romantic little orphan.
Montgomery introduces one of the best literary characters and kindred spirits imaginable in Ann(with an)e Shirley. She is flawed, imperfect and gets herself into colossal scrapes due to her immense imagination and yet I think you’d be hard pushed to find a character more lovable and endearing. Reading AGG as a child I wanted to be Anne and now, as an adult, I still want to be Anne! There is a fearlessness in her outlook that is utterly captivating and the embrace she has to the beauty of life at Green Gables is infectious.
Don’t let the paragraph-length first sentence throw you off; Montgomery’s language is pure magical bliss. The characters she creates come to life on the page, with each voice distinguished and each personality defined. Marilla is a tough cookie to crack, Rachel Lynde the meaningful busy body, Diana the bestest friend in all the world, Gilbert Blythe is every girl’s dream and Matthew quite honestly the darlingest man who ever lived. All these wonderful people make up the beautifully simple world of Avonlea that surrounds the reader and offers a comforting homeliness rarely found elsewhere.
Though I know the adventures of Green Gables as well as the back of my own hand, it never fails to affect me every time I visit Avonlea (for those familiar to AGG, you know which bit I mean…). This book is my childhood and revisiting it was an indulgence I totally delighted in – just off to romanticise and rename every feature of my hometown now (not sure we have a White Way of Delight or Lake of Shining Waters but I’ll give it a whirl!).