This is the first installment of a new series/experiment. There are plenty of books I never liked, and that’s fine, but there are a few that I felt a kind of compunction to like, and was always kind of regretful that I didn’t So, (here’s the experiment part) I’m going to read them again, and see what I think now. The thing is, once I didn’t like these books the one time I read them as a child, of course I didn’t read them again, so I have limited, vague memories of why I didn’t like them, which makes it hard to hold up my side in discussion with everyone who love love loves them.
Anyway, first up is ANNE OF GREEN GABLES by L.M. Montgomery. This one is actually a slight exception to the group, because I never felt as much of a strong sense that I ought to like this book as a kid. But what’s puzzling is I loved Montgomery’s EMILY OF NEW MOON and its sequels, read them over and over again. Granted, they had the special appeal of a main character with my name, which I’m sure is what made me spot them and pull them off the shelf in the first place. Because I loved the EMILY series so much, I tried ANNE a few times over the years…and never got past the first couple of chapters, it was just too boring. So then I stopped trying it, until, as an adult, I discovered the deep love many of my friends have for the ANNE books (and movie, which I have not seen). So I gave it a shot last week, and definitely would have put it down again after a couple chapters if it hadn’t been for my determination to do this post. I will say, about half way through it got a lot more engaging, and while I don’t think I’d read it again I’m glad I got through it the once.
I think the issue is that it has a lot of what I don’t like so much in the EMILY books, but amplified, and without much of what I do like. In both, I lose patience with the endless descriptions and have to skim – I started enjoying ANNE a lot more once I started skimming. But I find the devices used in the EMILY books to express that side of the character more believable, and less inclined to take over the whole character. Anne’s defining characteristic is her imagination – she gets lost in imaginings and forgets what’s going on around her, and talks endlessly about her imaginings and observations and how beautiful various trees are. Whereas Emily gets similarly lost in her writing, which for me is more believable than a 12 year old spending hours and hours just sitting and imagining; and Emily’s endless descriptions of how beautiful something is, etc come out primarily in her writing, so they don’t dominate her interactions with people and her whole character as much.
Another key difference for me is that the other characters in the EMILY books are both more interesting and better developed than the supporting characters in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES. Emily’s friends are fully developed and have interesting and distinct personalities, whereas Anne’s friends are kind of flat and boring. And Emily’s adversaries are much more genuinely adversarial than Anne’s – there’s a clear parallel between Marilla in ANNE and Aunt Elizabeth in EMILY, but Marilla gives really only token opposition, whereas Aunt Elizabeth and Emily genuinely clash throughout much of the first book. Plus Emily has Aunt Ruth and her teacher to detest, whereas Anne has no parallel foes.
The reason I’m writing so much about the EMILY books in this post about ANNE OF GREEN GABLES is that most of my sense of ought-to-like-it for ANNE came from the fact that I loved the EMILY books. But I’ve now concluded that the EMILY books are really quite excellent, whereas ANNE is mediocre and kind of boring, so I am now content with my lack of ANNE love.
Next up in this series: Louise Fitzhugh’s HARRIET THE SPY. But maybe not for a little while, because its not the easiest thing to get yourself to sit down and read a book you think you’re not going to like, and two in a row is just too much. Besides, I have to go re-read the EMILY books now that I’ve thought so much about them.