The Prequel to Anne of Green Gables
Reviewed March 30, 2008.
G. P. Putnam's Sons, New York, 2008. 389 pages.
Sonderbooks Stand-out 2008: #7, Children's Fiction
Before Anne Shirley, the red-headed orphan, came to Green Gables, no one wanted her. She helped Mrs. Thomas, with all her children and a drunken husband, and then Mrs. Hammond, who had twins three times in succession, before she ended up in an orphanage.
Before Green Gables tells the story of Anne's first eleven years. I knew they were hard years, so I thought it would be a depressing book, but of course a hard-core fan of L. M. Montgomery can't resist reading it.
Although the book didn't quite reach L. M. Montgomery's genius, there were moments when I did feel the author had captured Anne's soul and given us insight into how she might have become the jewel we see in Anne of Green Gables.
I loved the picture Budge Wilson gives us of Anne's parents, Bertha and Walter Shirley, two schoolteachers, very much in love with each other and with their new baby daughter. She portrays how the cleaning lady was touched by their lives -- enough to take in their baby even when her own house was full.
I like the side characters the author portrayed in Anne's life, especially the Egg Man, who taught her to love words. I like the teachers she encounters who feed her soul, so hungry for beauty.
Most of all, this book gave me a story of a girl who cherished transcendent moments and refused bitterness, in spite of a life of drudgery and hardship. Anne relished beauty and found friendship, even if only in a reflection and an echo.
My own hardships seem small in comparison. Oh, to be like Anne, finding moments of beauty even when doing so takes great imagination.
This book is a worthy addition to Anne's legacy.