6 lessons from a reread of the ‘Anne’ series

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A Mayflower – Anne’s favourite first sign of spring. Photo credit, Justin Russell – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1337522

Ugh. I had to wash ‘Anne with an E’ out of my brain recently – I watched with fascinated horror as the show veered further and further away from a sweet, wholesome story of the transformative power of love into a nightmarish concoction that should have been left untold.

Many of the casting choices were spot on, and the opening credits are a beautiful dream that makes my throat seize up just a little. It’s painful that the show went so wrong after such perfection:

I’m not alone. After my Netflix binge, I read reviews to feel better, and cursed myself for coming to the series without any advance knowledge. Vanity Fair, Anne of Green Gables: Netflix’s Bleak Adaptation Gets It All So Terribly Wrong and VoxAnne With an E turns Anne of Green Gables into a high gothic tragedy, missing the point, have done a brilliant job of articulating how deflated I felt by the end.

There was only one thing to do – return to the books.

You can find the series in the children’s section of any bookstore, but I don’t think they belong there. Ok, so it’s not Ulysses, but the reading comprehension level has not been dumbed down one bit – a genuine respect for readers of all ages. A quick dip into Wikipedia confirms that Anne of Green Gables wasn’t originally considered a children’s novel – that classification only arrived in the mid 20th century. If you’ve never read any of the books before, don’t let that stop you. There’s a reason Prince Edward Island is always flooded with fans from around the world.

I’m halfway through Anne of Ingleside right now, the stories are veering off into those of Anne’s young children, and you can tell, ever so slightly, that L.M. Montgomery is starting to phone it in. But she is still a masterful storyteller and depictor of the human condition, even when she’s not fully engaged. And you need to get to know those kids for the final book of the series, set during the first world war.

My latest read has been a wonderful escape back into the Victorian and Edwardian eras, rural Canadian-style, and I do think life would truly be better if everyone occasionally asked themselves, ‘What would Anne do?’ Even her famous temper only flared up when someone was treating her badly.

  1. Pay attention to the beauty of the natural world. When things are not going well, and even when they are, take yourself to nature whenever you can. Draw strength, happiness and peace from it.
  2. Disagreeable people have always existed. I would love to know who inspired Josie Pye, Aunt Atossa and Aunt Mary Maria, such horrors on the page but yet, they remind me of a few people I know… Even Anne, one of the most positive, cheeriest heroines ever written, limits her exposure to such people when she can. When she can’t, she grits her teeth and keeps her own counsel.
  3. Tomorrow is a new day. With no mistakes in it.
  4. Bring something positive to the world, even if it’s only your own upbeat attitude. Some of my favourite people remind me of Anne – they light up every room they enter, ‘bringing happiness with them like a gift’. One is even named Annie – perhaps an unusual take on nominative determinism?  
  5. Take time to relax, to play, to do something fun, to do nothing but dream.
  6. Clothes are very important. Anne says so. Take that, Calvinists!
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