Review: Before Green Gables

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson, New York: Putnam, 2008.

I’ve always been a big fan of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and my first reaction on hearing that someone had written a prequel was not favorable. I mean, I’m all for taking literature and making it your own, but I was 1. uncertain that a modern author could convey the same sort of period charm that Anne requires, and 2. really confused as to why anyone would want to write a prequel, as opposed to say, a continuation of the adventures of Rilla, etc.

But when Andrea decided to start a monthly book club, called Double Shot Daytime where people read modern adaptations of classic books, I really wanted her to test this book out on her group. Turns out, Andrea’s nice, and wouldn’t inflict the book on anyone until I’d read it first.  So I did.

And I couldn’t put it down.

True, it isn’t as charmingly written as Anne, and the situations and characters are a lot darker in the later episodes of the series, but also true is the Budge Wilson sticks very close to the events of Anne’s history, as she is in turn orphaned, taken in by the destitute Thomas’s and then given up into near indentured servitude by the Hammonds, and their three sets of twins. There are some moments where the narrative gets a bit too cloying, for instance when Anne relates (as she frequently does), the horrors of her upbringing to outsiders who are always sympathetic, but rarely useful.

Of course, reading the book made me want to reread Anne of Green Gables straightaway, with the unfortunate result that I noticed several subtle inconsistencies in Wilson’s novel that I might not  otherwise have picked up on. For instance, in Anne of Green Gables, Anne declares that she hasn’t prayed since Mrs. Thomas told her that God made her hair red on purpose… but in Before, she prays several times, post-Thomas’s, and gives a completely different reason for her on again, off again faith. There aren’t any major gaffes, but there are some inconsistencies, both with the series canon, and some minor issues of characterization, but not enough to send anyone, other than the pickiest of readers, fleeing into the hills.

On the whole, Budge Wilson really does have a compelling reason to have written this book. She successfully shows how someone with as miserable a history as Anne is supposed to have could be as lively, smart, and sweet as she is in L. M. Montgomery’s books. And that, in and of itself, is an excellent reason to read this book.

Dea’s Arbitrary Rating:anneanneanneanne

Dea’s Random Awesomeness Count:

Vampires: 0

Dragons: 0

Spunky red-headed heroines: 1


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