Book Review: Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden and illustrated by Brenna Thummler

“They” say that a picture is worth a thousand words. And maybe “they” are right – for most people.

For me?

"Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel"

The written word is my heart language. Pictures are generally lost on me. So much so that the only way I can dream of understanding a movie (even if I’m paying it my full attention) is if I’ve got subtitles on.

Perhaps it’s needless to say that graphic novels aren’t really my thing.

But when the time came around for Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge, I searched the library for something I hadn’t read – and found this little (229 pages) graphic novel.

I read it in about three sittings (give or take) and adored it.

Marsden does an excellent job of shortening Anne’s speech while keeping its “Anne-ness” intact. Thummler does a great job of depicting the setting, actions, and emotions of the various scenes. It’s all well done.

Anne smashing the slate over Gilbert's head

I’m fairly certain, though, that my enjoyment of this adaptation has everything to do with it being an adaptation of a familiar story. Would I have understood what was going on if this was my first exposure to Anne? I doubt so. Would someone else? Possibly. But even as much as I enjoyed this adaptation, I wouldn’t recommend it as a first exposure to Anne. Montgomery herself should be allowed to introduce her own character.

L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge

Rating: 4 stars
Category: Graphic Novel adaptation
Synopsis: Anne of Green Gables in graphic novel format. Done well.
Recommendation: Fun for fans of Anne, possibly also a nice option for a struggling-ish reader who has already heard Anne read aloud (Maybe?) Not a suitable substitute for actually reading L.M. Montgomery.

Book Review: Looking for Anne of Green Gables by Irene Gammel

L.M. Montgomery states that the character for Anne of Green Gables “flashed into my fancy already christened, even to the all important ‘e’.” Irene Gammel, a professsor of comparative literature, disputes that statement, suggesting that “Anne” (and the events of Anne’s life) is the product of Montgomery’s reading, life events, and inner life.

Gammel has meticulously picked through Montgomery’s journals (both the published and the unpublished) for clues about Anne – and has gone a step further to read through the books and periodicals Montgomery would have read prior to writing Anne of Green Gables. The result is a fascinating, if somewhat speculative book Looking for Anne of Green Gables.

Prior to reading this book, I was not terribly familiar with the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery (“Maud” to those who knew her) apart from the various biographical sketches Carrie has offered at Reading to Know.

So I knew bits and pieces but hadn’t really put them together into any clear understanding of her life events and how they fit together. This book helped me put some of those pieces together – although it’s important to note that this is not a biography proper, but literary criticism of a sort.

Gammel looks at various events in Maud’s life, relationships she’d formed, and news stories from her neighborhood that may have influenced the writing of Anne. Specifically, she looks at how Maud might have (or, when possible, actually did as evidenced by journal entries) interpreted those events and used them to color Anne. For example, Gammel suggests that the theme of Anne finding a family (and Marilla coming to love Anne) reflects Maud’s fantasy of a loving family (she did not feel that she was loved by her elderly grandparents, who raised her.) Likewise, the perfect bosom friendship of Anne and Diana reflects the type of friendship Maud dreamed of and attempted to enter into with half a dozen girls who always disappointed Maud when the character of their friendships changed over time. So Gammel suggests that many of the events and themes of Anne of Green Gables represent unfulfilled longings of Maud’s.

Gammel also looks at how the periodicals Maud would have been reading might have influenced her writing. For example, Gammel notes an advice column that gives the “cure” for croup that Anne uses (The column suggests that mothers who administer this cure can save their child’s life before the doctor has time to arrive.) In another example, red-haired orphan “Ann’s” show up in several stories or poems.

When I wrote a little blurb on this book on my Nightstand post recently, Barbara H. (who read and reviewed this book in 2011 commented:

“I also didn’t like that she seemed to feel she had to try to find inspiration for much that LMM wrote – as if LMM couldn’t have just made some things up out of her imagination.

I agree and disagree with Barbara. I felt that Gammel was more heavy-handed than necessary in suggesting that this scenario or that story was THE story behind various incidents in Anne of Green Gables; but I found it interesting and fairly likely that those scenarios and stories would have influenced Maud’s writing, even unconsciously. As a fellow voracious reader (although not a particularly successful writer of fiction – I’ve dabbled but never completed anything), I can certainly identify with sort-of “absorbing” the contents of what I read and having them come out in the most unlikely places. Often, I’ll say something or write something and someone will ask me where I got that from. Sometimes I’m conscious that I’m quoting something or paraphrasing something, sometimes I’m not. Sometimes I’m aware of what work I’m quoting or paraphrasing or drawing from, sometimes not. But frequently, when someone asks me for sources, if I search hard enough, I realize that the germ of many of the “original” ideas that pop into my head are not original after all but a continuation of what Mortimer Adler calls “the great conversation” (at least, I think that’s where I got that thought :-P).

I did have a few complaints with this book, in addition to the aforementioned heavy-handedness, and they happen to be the same complaints Barbara H. made (really, you should probably read her review). Maud had a number of close female friends, and Gammel frequently implies that these were erotic in nature (it seems the vogue thing these days to rewrite artists of days past as homosexuals, and while some of them might be, I am reminded when I read such conjectures of C.S. Lewis’s statements regarding platonic male friendship being the deepest love and think maybe there’s something about same-sex friendships of the past that our current sex-crazed society just doesn’t get.) Furthermore, Gammel frequently associates nature with paganism and assumes that Montgomery’s insertion of nature into the Anne books is a sort of rebellion against the Sunday-school literature Montgomery often wrote for. While this may be (again, it’s possible that was Montgomery’s intent), I think it just as likely that Maud simply enjoyed nature and created her heroine to enjoy it as well.

Overall, though, I found this a fascinating book speculating on the origins of the character “Anne of Green Gables”.

Rating: 3 stars
Category: Literary analysis/biography
Synopsis: Gammel explores the events and stories that may have influenced Lucy Maud Montgomery’s character “Anne of Green Gables”.
Recommendation: If you really enjoy Anne of Green Gables and don’t get too upset at glimpses behind the curtain (How’s that for another literary reference?), you’ll probably enjoy this book. If conjecture or the idea that an author might not be quite as original as you originally supposed bothers you, no need to get yourself worked up by reading this book.

I read this as part of the 2015 Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge. Follow the link to check out who else is reading – and what they’re reading.

Nightstand (February 2011)

I feel like I’ve slid comfortably back into my reading groove this month, probably because I’ve given myself permission to ignore the internet and cleaning. So, my house may be filthy and my Google Reader rather stuffed–but my Nightstand is still moving!

Crate of library books

This month, I made it through:

Anastasia Krupnik by Lois Lowry
Picked up while trolling the library for unfamiliar children’s fiction. Not sure exactly what I think of it. I wonder if Anastasia Krupnik, published in 1979, was the origin of brat literature for youngsters? It’s definitely not the “good kids get into scrapes because they forget/ignore the rules/common-sense while chasing a mystery” of the era prior (Think Boxcar children, Trixie Belden, etc.) Anastasia’s parents, a poet and an artist, are indulgently negligent; Anastasia is an only child, a precocious soul, and a brat. Hmmph.

Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
I finished it only a few days late for that wrap-up post for Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading challenge.

Baby Proof by Emily Giffin
Chick lit of a different sort. She’s got the guy. Finally found someone who agrees with her about not wanting kids. And then he decides he might just want a little one. And she divorces him. She is NOT going to have kids. Decentish on the chick-lit level, a step above Bridget Jones and Shopaholic, but still far from meaningful.

Bright-sided : how the relentless promotion of positive thinking has undermined America by Barbara Ehrenreich
Possibly the first book to ever merit zero stars in my highly subjective rating system. It could have been a good book, if Ehrenreich had kept her socio-political agenda out of it. But I think that’s one hope that I’ve just got to let die. She can’t do it.

Composting by Liz Ball
Yes. I read about composting. I compost in my backyard. I used to have composting worms under my sink. And I catch the humor in discussing a “hot pile” just a little too late to keep me from seriously explaining how the ratio of carbon to nitrogen effects the heat of said piles. I’m glad the Bible study gals (and John) are willing to accept me, quirks and all!

The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards
You know those books that just suck you in and demand that you keep reading until all hours of the morning? The Memory Keeper’s Daughter is one of those. It’s all about how one choice changed a whole family, rippled out to affect whole communities. It’s a terrific story. This book originally went on my TBR list based on Colloquium’s review.

Warsaw Requiem and London Refrain by Bodie Thoene
My love affair with these books continues. It’s probably a good thing that I’ve forced some balance into my reading diet by giving myself a rubric for checking things out. Otherwise, I’m pretty sure I’d be reading these and only these until I’m through to the end!

Wasteland by Francesca Lia Block
Easily the weirdest book I’ve ever read. Written in first person stream of consciousness from three different characters perspective, this novel explores a brother and sister who struggle against a growing attraction for one another before, finally, the brother commits suicide. The plot is weird, the writing style is weird, the imagery within is weird. It’s just a weird book. Billed as YA, this is nothing I’ll be recommending to any of my “young adult” (read “teenage”) friends.

18 (at least) Children’s Picture Books author name BA-BASE
Unlike Carrie’s reading challenge, where she skips any books that aren’t at the library when she and her family goes, my challenge means I have to actually read EVERY book in my no-longer-local branch. So I’ve been playing catch up, filling in those missing books I didn’t read during my first pass.

Pile of books I'm in the middle of

With four weeks left on this last trip’s library haul, I’ve got a stack I’m in the middle of…

  • Confessions by St. Augustine
  • The factastic book of 1001 lists by Russell Ash
  • Now, Discover Your Strengths by Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton
  • The Liturgical Year by Joan Chittister and Phyllis Tickle
  • The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges
  • The Shallows by Nicholas Carr

And a stack in the wings for when I’m done with those!

Still to be read books

Don’t forget to drop by 5 Minutes 4 Books to see what others are reading this month!

What's on Your Nightstand?

Book Review: “Much Ado About Anne” by Heather Vogel Frederick

In my experience, lit about lit or books based on books tend to follow a fairly typical pattern.

You know, high school students perform “Romeo and Juliet” only to find that their own lives parallel the play in ways they never imagined (and generally don’t get until the end of the story.)

So I was expecting some orphans or a precocious redhead or at very least someone in need of a bosom friend when I picked up Much Ado About Anne.

When I got a couple chapters into the book and still hadn’t started to see parallels, I got a bit nervous.

It wasn’t what I expected at all.

And that’s a good thing.

Heather Vogel Frederick’s Much Ado About Anne doesn’t try to recreate Anne of Green Gables (as though another author could do it better than L.M. Montgomery!) Instead, Much Ado About Anne finds the mother-daughter book club experiencing their own story while reading through Anne’s story in book club.

Two great conflicts rise in the lives of the book club girls: first, their mothers invite the oh-so-stuck-up Becca Chadwick to join their club–and then Jess discovers that her family may be forced off their ancestral farm.

The girls (and therefore their readers) learn interesting factoids about L.M. Montgomery thanks to one girl’s librarian mother. And, just like good bibliophiles, they find ways of relating what they’re reading to their own lives.

And so, they realize that Becca is a Pye, and must be tolerated as a Pye. They relate to the utter mortification Anne felt when she dyed her hair green–although, of course, their mortification is over something entirely different. And they emulate their new heroine by naming the lands around them with fanciful names.

I enjoyed this book a great deal. It has just enough Anne to make it worth its title–but not so much Anne that it’s lacking any substance of its own.

I’m glad I took the opportunity to take a glimpse at Anne through the eyes of four fictional middle-school girls. As a long-standing Anne-fan, I found myself thrilled with these girls’ glimpses of Anne–and I’m willing to bet that this book would be a great way to introduce a young reader who’s reluctant to read “old” books into the great story that is Anne. Once she’s read this, I can almost guarantee she’ll want to read the “back-story”–the novels the mother-daughter book club read and discussed and applied to their own lives.

Rating: 4 stars
Category:Middle grade fiction (female)
Synopsis:The mother-daughter book club gets busy reading Anne of Green Gables, dealing with their very own Josie Pye, and racking their brains to save Half Moon Farm.
Recommendation: Great for lovers of Anne, or lovers of YA fiction/young chick lit, or anyone who wants to introduce a younger girl to the joys of Green Gables.

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeI read this as a part of Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge. Check out the link for more people’s comments on L.M. Montgomery. Visit my books page for more book reviews and notes by me.

ANNE through another pair of eyes

L. M. Montgomery Reading ChallengeMan, I’d completely forgotten that TODAY was the day for beginning Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge.

But today it is, and I’m gonna participate.

Having already read and re-read the “Anne” series by L.M. Montgomery a bazillion times and having read each title by L.M. Montgomery that my library owns at least once, I have decided to do something a bit different for this year’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge.

This year, I’m going to re-read Anne of Green Gables in conjunction with Heather Vogel Frederick’s Much Ado About Anne, a middle grade (?) novel about a mother-daughter book club that reads through the Anne books (See Jennifer’s 5M4B Review).

I’m excited to take a look at Anne through another pair of eyes this year!

Check out some of the other Montgomery-readers at Carrie’s L.M. Montgomery Reading Challenge page