This much-loved Canadian novel tells the story of Anne Shirley, a red-haired orphan who finds a new life when she is adopted, aged eleven, by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. The Cuthberts, an elderly brother and sister who live an austere and isolated life, had planned to adopt a boy to help on their farm, called Green Gables. When the orphanage sends Anne by mistake, Marilla wants to send her back. But Anne’s warmth, vivid imagination and love of life soon convince the Cuthberts to keep her.
Rachel Lynde, the Cuthberts’ nosy neighbour, is shocked that they have adopted an orphan girl and criticises Anne’s appearance and her hair that’s “as red as carrots.” Although Anne wants to make a good impression on the Cuthberts so they won’t return her to the orphanage, she cannot control her anger and shouts at Rachel:
“How dare you call me skinny and ugly? How dare you say I am freckled and redheaded? You are a rude, impolite, unfeeling woman.”
“¿Cómo se atreve a decir que soy flaca y fea?¿Cómo se atreve a llamarme pecosa y a decir que tengo el cabello rojo? ¡Es usted una mujer brusca, descortés y sin sentimientos!”.
Marilla says Anne must apologise, but Anne feels a strong sense of injustice. Finally, Anne uses her wide vocabulary of “big words” to charm Rachel and later they become friends.
When Anne starts attending the local school, she soon demonstrates her academic ability, especially in creative writing. She and Gilbert Blythe, a boy in her class who all the girls think is “awfully handsome,” always get the best marks. Competing against Gilbert pushes Anne to succeed. Although Gilbert really likes Anne, for five years she refuses to be his friend because he too once made a comment about her carrot-coloured hair. Finally, when Anne is sixteen, Gilbert makes an important sacrifice for her and Anne says she has forgiven him. Gilbert is delighted:
“We are going to be the best of friends,” said Gilbert jubilantly. “We were born to be good friends, Anne […] I know we can help each other in many ways.”
“—Seremos los mejores amigos —dijo Gilbert jubilosamente—. Hemos nacido para serlo, Ana. [...] Sé que nos podemos ayudar uno a otro de muchas maneras”.
Friends for life
The novel also explores Anne’s intense friendship with her classmate Diana. The girls do everything together despite their different personalities and social backgrounds. At first Diana’s snobbish family don’t want Diana to play with the orphan Anne, but that changes after Anne uses her experience of looking after children to save the life of Diana’s little sister. Anne tells Marilla:
“I love Diana so, ... I cannot ever live without her. But I know very well when we grow up that Diana will get married and go away and leave me. And oh, what shall I do?”
“—Se trata de Diana —dijo llorando con todas sus ganas—. La quiero tanto, Marilla. No puedo vivir sin ella. Pero sé muy bien que cuando crezcamos, se casará y se irá. Y ¿qué haré?”.
Green Gables farm is in Avonlea, a fictional village on Prince Edward Island, off the coast of Nova Scotia. Anne is constantly delighted by the beauty of the natural world around her. Vivid descriptions, like this one, appear throughout the book:
“Spring had come once more to Green Gables — the beautiful, capricious, reluctant Canadian spring, lingering along through April and May in a succession of sweet, fresh, chilly days, with pink sunsets and miracles of resurrection and growth.”
“La primavera había llegado una vez más a Tejas Verdes: la hermosa, caprichosa y tardía primavera canadiense, cruzando lentamente abril y mayo en una sucesión de días dulces, frescos, con rosados atardeceres y milagros de resurrección y crecimiento.”.
After the success of the first Anne of Green Gables novel, L. M. Montgomery published seven more, following the lives of Anne and Gilbert as they become teachers, get married and then have children of their own. There have been many screen adaptations of the stories, and the latest, the Netflix series called Anne with an E, starring the brilliantly cast Amybeth McNulty, is definitely worth watching.