Monday, August 4, 2008

BOOK: Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson

2nd Canadian Book Challenge

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.


  1. Well, it does sound like it is good but I'm still not sure whether I will read it.

    What I'm afraid of is that this may be the start of "them" turning the books into a cash cow like they did the Little House books and bombarding the public with substandard books based on Anne. Whole new series of books that other than being based on Anne have nothing to do with what LMM wrote. Picture book adaptations, series of beginning chapter book adaptations, and then new novels that fill in the space between the books, or creating a Marilla series about when she was a little girl, or a series of books that retell the story from Diana's point of view, you get the idea.

  2. nicola - I'd be afraid of that as well. The only thing that saves this is that the heirs of LM have been very careful and restrictive of giving lisences out for anything to do with Anne. Wilson had to run the plot and details by the family, something she was not comfortable with, but it was a part of the deal. They stayed very invovlved, insuring that the integrity of Anne was not compromised.

  3. Gosh, after reading your review I'd love to read the book. But, first, I have to read the other books by LMM! I've only read the first!!!

  4. I really want to read this! I get a lump in my throat thinking about Matthew..he was so kind and good to Anne.

  5. bookfool - I was wondering if a person were new to the series, would you read this first? I don't think so. Part of the heartbreak is knowing how much better things will be, I knew there was an eventual happy ending, but it might be too depressing to read it only and not know that Anne ends up with Matthew and Marilla.

    bybee - if you get a lump thinking of Matthew, this book will be perfect. There were always people being kind to Anne along the way, there had to be to make her turn out so optimistic. I sobbed a lot of the way throught the book, which is why I loved it.

  6. Yours is the first post I've seen on this book. I only glanced at it because I hope to read it someday, but it's great to know it was worthy. My question to you - Is this a book that should be read after the series or can it be read anytime. I know it's BEFORE Green Gables, but I'm still leery of spoilers. Thanks Raidergirl3!

    Well - I just read your response to Bookfool, so I'm thinking maybe I need to continue with the series.

  7. joy - I don't think you need to read the whole series, but at least Anne of Green Gables. That's where you learn the most about Anne's background. This prequel won't spoil anything later though.

    I am biased though, because I know Anne's story so well, I can't imagine any other way. We'll need someone to do an experiment and start with this prequel and then read Anne of GG and see how they feel.

  8. Without having read it, I'll have to give Wilson credit for bravery. Taking on such a literary icon, especially without having made a name for oneself first, could have been career suicide. Unlike Nicola, I like when a character gets thrown to the public domain and everyone gets a chance to reinvent them. Like Sherlock Holmes. Then again, I see her point. I'm familiar with the cash cow that brings children's picture books up from the old cud, and it ain't pretty.


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