Monday, November 27, 2006

More L.M. Montgomery

I had to get around to listing one of my favorite series of all-time sooner or later.

I have been a fan of the "Anne Girl" since a day when I was about 8 or 9. I caught my mom laughing uproariously over a book and it turned out she was reading Chapter II of Anne of Green Gables - the chapter that introduced the immortal Anne Shirley to the world. Well, knowing that something funny was on the way, I slogged through the very-boring first chapter of Green Gables (no modern editor would have let L.M. Montgomery get away with that) and entered the world of Anne.

Shortly thereafter I was introduced to the CBC/PBS miniseries starring Megan Follows. Between the movie (which ranks right up there with the BBC/A&E version of Pride and Prejudice as one of the best film adaptations ever) and, with the remaining seven "Anne" books, I was hooked for life.

Trust me, if I ever have a daughter someday, she's probably going to wind up being an "Ann with an e".

Countless rereads later, I can honestly say I still enjoy visiting Green Gables (and the House of Dreams and Ingleside). I get something different out of the hijinks of Anne, her best friend Diana and her sworn enemy/later beau Gilbert Blythe every time I read them. The later novels in the series aren't just the children's books they're often shelved as (Anne's House of Dreams and Rilla of Ingleside, especially).

One thing I always did wonder was why I found Book #4 Anne of Windy Poplars and Book #6 Anne of Ingleside too be rather flat compared to the others. I found the answer a few years ago reading a bibliography of L.M. Montgomery's work. Although Windy Poplars and Anne of Ingleside are chronologically Book #4 and Book #6, L.M. actually published those two last - at the insistence of her publisher and long after she'd run out of fresh ideas for Anne. They're actually comprised mainly of worked-over short stories from her early writing career (which goes a long ways towards explaining why the stories suddenly veer off in the direction of some very minor characters in spots.)

Ever since I've felt justified in recommending people read the "Anne" Books in their original order so they don't get bogged down by the weaker books:

Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island
Anne's House of Dreams
Rainbow Valley
Rilla of Ingleside
Anne of Windy Poplars
Anne of Ingleside

Reading them in this order also makes the final chapter of Anne of Ingleside that more poignant. You'll know what I mean when you get there.

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