Next up a classic, by anyone’s standards. She, will introduce herself as Anne (with an e) Shirley, but the world knows her better as Anne of a certain Green Gables. Strong, stubborn and wickedly smart, Anne has plenty of what our grandmothers would have labeled “gumption” and she’s not afraid to tell you about it.
When L.M. Montgomery’s tale begins, Anne is eleven, orphaned, and sitting upon the platform of the Avonlea train station with a small carpet bag carrying “all her worldly goods” imagining all the possible reasons why Matthew Cuthbert might be late in picking her up. Matthew, and his sister Marilla are adopting her, you see, and she is so looking forward to “living with them and belonging to them” … she’s never belonged to anybody–not really.
Though the Cuthberts had been expecting a boy to help on the farm, Anne’s continuous chatter and constant romantic dreaming (which often revolve around the elimination of her wretched red hair) burrow their way into the hearts of Avonlea, and she soon finds herself firmly established in the home that becomes synonymous with her name. A bosom friend in the lovely Diana Berry, an arch rival in the hated Gilbert Blythe and an odd ability to find trouble in even the most innocent of circumstances complete Anne’s world and ensure that life is never a dull one.
Anne was intended initially for middle readers, but the ensuing series follows her through adulthood and even advanced readers will delight in her many blunders, hopeless romanticism and fiery temper. Her extensive reading and resulting vocabulary is brandished with enormous pride throughout the novel, a deliberate move on Montgomery’s part in the hopes of improving the literacy of Anne’s readers. Over a century has passed since Anne was first written, and yet her desperate plight to be loved and accepted is as relatable and enjoyable as ever.
Mark Twain wrote to Montgomery that in Anne Shirley she had created “the dearest, and most lovable child in fiction since the immortal Alice.” We agree, wholeheartedly.
Montgomery continued to write about Anne and Prince Edward Island until her death in 1942, and thus we have plenty of books to recommend if you just can’t seem to get enough:
1. Anne of Green Gables
2. Anne of Avonlea
3. Anne of the Island
4. Anne of Windy Poplars (Anne of Windy Willows)
5. Anne’s House of Dreams
6. Anne of Ingleside
7. Rainbow Valley
8. Rilla of Ingleside
Note: The final two books in the series shift focus to Anne’s children, and in Rilla of Inlgleside specifically to Anne’s daughter Rilla during the first World War.