I believe Anne fans have been somewhat leery of this book. To attempt to write the before story, based on the small tidbits of her past that Anne let slip, was a huge undertaking for Wilson. People who love Anne would want the story to be true to LM Montgomery's unique character. When I heard Wilson speak last month, she said her task was to write the story that would have allowed Anne to become the girl she was: full of spirit, still optimistic despite having been an orphan and essentially an indentured slave to families who agreed to take her in, the Thomas' and the Hammonds. Wilson has succeeded beyond my wildest hopes.
I've heard that as long as a child has one person they can count on, who loves them, in the first few years of life, they will have a base for future relationships. Anne gets this in the form of Eliza, the sixteen year old daughter of Mrs Thomas. Eliza also told her the fantastic stories of princesses and knights and fairy tales that would sustain Anne in her wild imagination. Although Eliza leaves to get married when Anne is about four, she laid the foundation for the wonderful Anne we know and love.
I had to set rules for when I could read this book, because I was thrown in the depths of emotion as Anne is hurt and let down time and time again, and to be found sobbing in the car at a soccer game would draw too much attention. I think it was so emotional because you know where she will end up, in the loving home of Matthew and Marilla, but getting there, when there were opportunities for Anne to have a loving home along the way that kept getting thwarted, was a mixed emotion. Sad that Anne was hurt, but knowing that it had to happen to get her to PEI. Characters for the most part weren't purposefully mean to her, life was pretty tough on them as well, like Mr Thomas and Mrs Hammond. And everywhere she went, peripheral people were drawn to the spindly, homely child with the bright red hair and so many freckles with the wild imagination and huge words. They managed to give Anne small doses of love and concern that she latched onto and held in her bosom heart. In the debate over nature/nurture, nature wins out for Anne, as her intelligence and optimism and love of beauty were inherited from her loving parents and could not be stomped out by the life she led.
Wilson included information that Montgomery let slip - the carpet bag, Anne's fascination of puffed sleeves, and Katie Maurice. It all fit together perfectly for me, and my heart broke the whole time, waiting for Anne to get the train to Bright River, and finally get picked up by Matthew Cuthbert, whose name can also burst me spontaneously into tears. The style is not Montgomery but it was very readable and I wasn't expecting the same writing as Montgomery. Wilson has provided Anne lovers with a new book to make us love Anne, and Matthew and Marilla, even more.