I was about seven when I first met Anne Shirley. A friend of my mother’s introduced us – she brought her copy of one of the books along when she and her kids came over one day. My mom had not read the Anne of Green Gables books, and her friend gushed so glowingly about them that my mom got the first one from the library and read it herself, then read it aloud to my brother and I, then read us the next book and the next. I can remember we would all laugh so hard over some of Anne’s escapades that Mom had to stop reading, both because we couldn’t hear her over our laughter, and because she was laughing so hard she couldn’t actually read coherently anyway.
Our library happened to have the old black-and-white movie version of Anne of Green Gables (1934), so we watched that, but it failed to delight us the way the books did. However, right about that same time, our PBS station aired the Kevin Sullivan movie version of Anne of Green Gables (1985) in preparation for the upcoming sequel. I remember being a little hesitant about watching it, given my less-than-enthusiastic experience with the 1930s version, but as Matthew Cuthburt (Richard Farnsworth) had driven Anne (Megan Follows) through the White Way of Delight, I started to be pretty optimistic. By the time Marilla (Coleen Dewhurst) agreed to let her stay, I was hooked. The characters, the clothing, the sets and locations — everything about that movie was not just a good match to what I’d imagined when I heard my mom reading the stories, but in some cases they were actually better — more lush, prettier, and nicer.
I think that Anne of Green Gables was my first experience of seeing a movie version of a book I had read already. While I didn’t like the 1930s adaptation much, and haven’t seen it since, I have watched both the 1985 movie and the 1988 sequel ever so many times. My dad loves them more than any of the rest of us, and we went through a time where we watched it with him at least once a month, and my brother got sick of it.
Not long after, my grandparents gave me the eight Anne books, four for Christmas and four for my birthday, and I have read all of them multiple times. The first four have always been my favorites: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne of Windy Poplars. The later books make me a little melancholy, a reminder that even the Anne Shirleys of this world grow up eventually, though perhaps I might like them better now that I’ve been an adult for quite a while now and discovered it’s not quite so bad as I’d feared. I plan to re-read all eight in 2016, and we shall see if my perceptions have changed any. I’ve only recently learned of the existence of a ninth Anne book, The Blythes are Quoted, and hope to read that as well.
I identify with Anne Shirley a great deal. We both have strong, vivid imaginations and actively work to cultivate them. We both love to write. We’re both prone to getting into odd scrapes by accident, though I’ve happily never drowned a mouse in pudding sauce or walked anyone’s ridgepole. I’m more sensible than Anne, and she’s more enamored of romance than I, but I think that if we ever happened to truly meet, we would discover we were kindred spirits.