When I first heard that a prequel to Anne of Green Gables was being published I was absolutely disgusted. It seemed that nothing was sacred anymore. Big business appeared primed to dictate the ruin of one of my most cherished childhood literary memories. I couldn’t comprehend how anyone would possibly think that they should infringe upon such a perfectly crafted story. Not to mention, did I really want to know in-depth details about the downtrodden and tragic days of Anne’s life before she came to Green Gables?
But believe it or not I was wrong and I’m terribly shocked about the whole thing. Before Green Gables is simply excellent. The writing is phenomenal. The story timeline has been meticulously researched, and the characters are well rounded. Each and every new person that comes across Anne’s path fits seamlessly into the tale just as though Lucy Maud Montgomery might have imagined it herself.
I loved learning how Anne developed her quirky vocabulary, including the inception of the phrase “depths of despair” and how she determined that it was her most ardent desire in life to have a “bosom friend.” The portrait of Anne’s kind parents at the beginning of the book is simply heartbreaking, but is balanced well by the few well-meaning souls who recognize in Anne a “kindred spirit” and thankfully take an interest in her education and upbringing.
Anne’s life prior to moving to Prince Edward Island does unfortunately resemble a 10 year indentured servitude to the Gosselin family. She’s constantly cutting vegetables, carrying dozens of buckets of water, and looking after an unbelievable number of very young children, but somehow she continuously maintains a bright and cheerful attitude.
Perhaps the most intriguing part of the story is Budge Wilson’s ability to humanize both the Thomas family as well as the Hammond’s. Most of my poor opinion of the Hammond’s is drawn from the 90 seconds that we view their out of control household in the film version, but just like in real life there are always extenuating circumstances that make people behave the way they do. Wilson explores the nuances of each of these struggling families and makes it impossible to simply brand them as villains. Because of this even drunken and abusive Mr. Thomas comes off as being a redeemable character.
Anne Shirley is a charming child who has bewitched readers for years, and this well grounded tale of her past truly only serves to enhance the Green Gables experience. I encourage you to pick it up and reminisce. Personally, I hope to revisit the entire Anne series this year.