My friend Troy is a therapist who for years counseled his young clients in foster care to adopt as their role model Anne of Green Gables, once also a foster child.
Resilient, tough, joyful–Anne found a place to belong, and maybe, someday, so could they.
We tease him about this now, but he thought she was a real person until the day when he and his family set foot in Green Gables and it dawned on him…Anne of Green Gables was fictional!
Or is she?
She’s real to me, and to millions of readers who have embraced her as their own literary heroine/role model/friend/sister.
I love her so much I even wrote a whole book about her, a memoir which braids my “orphan” story with that of my Korean girl’s and our mutual orphan friend, Anne with an E.
When the news came out 14 months ago that a new Anne series was cooking from the creative “kitchen” of Moira Walley Beckett, the Emmy-winning “Breaking Bad” scribe, many, MANY people dismissed it out of hand. “How can you improve upon perfection?” they cried, referring of course to the luminous 1985 miniseries.
I mean, people carried on as if the new series would feature Anne and Diana cooking meth at their tea party.
But I knew, even then, that a writer this good would deliver a worthy interpretation of the story I had cherished my whole life.
And I was right. As “Anne with an E” drops this Friday on Netflix, I have lots of feelings about the series, which I have blogged about for the last eight weeks. (My fellow Canadian friend Natalie and I drove to Darkest Jenison each Sunday night, bravely trying to figure out Troy (yes, that Troy) and Juliana’s satellite dish with the CBC on it.
Now that you can ALL see it (anyone not living in the wilderness without streaming capabilities or under a rock), I simply cannot wait for all the wonderful conversation that is sure to ensue once we’ve all settled in with the series, incidentally called “Anne” in Canada. There has already been fantastic conversation here on my blog, on my Facebook author page and Instagram, and on an AOGG Facebook group to which I belong.
Before I give my 7 main thoughts on the new series, here is a quote from the actual book, quoted in the comments by kindred spirit Ian, a longtime Anne fan. I believe this is the quote on which the entire “Anne with an E” hangs its hat:
““Were those women—Mrs. Thomas and Mrs. Hammond—good to you?” asked Marilla, looking at Anne out of the corner of her eye.
“O-o-o-h,” faltered Anne. Her sensitive little face suddenly flushed scarlet and embarrassment sat on her brow. “Oh, they meant to be—I know they meant to be just as good and kind as possible. And when people mean to be good to you, you don’t mind very much when they’re not quite—always. They had a good deal to worry them, you know. It’s a very trying to have a drunken husband, you see; and it must be very trying to have twins three times in succession, don’t you think? But I feel sure they meant to be good to me.”
Marilla asked no more questions. Anne gave herself up to a silent rapture over the shore road and Marilla guided the sorrel abstractedly while she pondered deeply. Pity was suddenly stirring in her heart for the child.
What a starved, unloved life she had had—a life of drudgery and poverty and neglect; for Marilla was shrewd enough to read between the lines of Anne’s history and divine the truth.”
If you’re going to buy into Moira Walley-Beckett’s vision for Anne, you have to read between the lines of what Lucy Maud Montgomery writes here. You have to buy into an Anne who is damaged, traumatized, and not always completely adorable. Many of you will hate it. But an equal number of you will fall deeper in love with a more real, more empowered, more everything Anne. I did. After watching the entire eight hours, Anne of Green Gables means more to me than ever before.
1. The first two hours (or Episode 1 as I viewed it) were the darkest, but also some of the best. We encounter the broken, beautiful heart of this orphan girl, who–let’s be REAL-comes to Green Gables out of indentured servitude. Anne was a slave, beaten, neglected, oppressed, deeply vulnerable. Which all makes her story MORE powerful, authentic, relatable and inspiring. “I feel like I finally met the “real” Anne,” Tonya said in the comments. “I have glimpsed her strength and tenacity. The complexity of this character is something that I’ve never thought of before.”
2. Buckle your seatbelts for Hour 3, Episode 2! Here’s where they started to go crazy off the book, in a way I wasn’t totally crazy about. However, I was already mesmerized by the acting of Irish-Canadian Amybeth McNulty as Anne, British actress Geraldine James as Marilla, and–shockingly, because I was quite resistant to a new Matthew after Richard Farnsworth–RH Thompson’s Matthew Cuthbert. No matter my discomfort at some of the “invention,” this acting trifecta was worth the bumpy ride.
3. Because a poorly cast Gilbert Blythe is an abomination, I was slumped–SLUMPED, I TELL YOU!–in relief upon meeting the new Gil. Now, I think I have established the fact that I am eternally devoted to Jonathan Crombie’s Gilbert. (Rest in peace, dear friend.) But Lucas Jade Zumann has utterly won me over, and I think he will win you over, too, if you let him. Episode 3 also featured my (and from what I can tell, everyone’s) least favorite moment: the Pet Mouse Scene. This scene caused quite a ruckus on the interwebs, and people started boycotting Anne before she even made it to US soil. However uncomfortable that scene is, it does underscore the fact that Anne had been exposed to way too much at her tender age. Matthew gets it, and commits even more to this damaged new daughter of his.
4. Having loved most of Episode 3, things tilted downward for Episode 4, which was again somewhat jarringly off-book. However, this hour was salvaged in large part to the character of Jerry, the young French-Canadian farmhand who becomes a friend and sounding board for Anne. Aymeric Jett Montaz is as winsome as all get out in this role, a character, by the way, who is in the book but regrettably ignored. You will LOVE Jerry, I promise. (Although, saying so on Twitter got me blocked by a very cranky woman who hates everything about “Anne with an E.” Blocked! I felt sort of flattered somehow…)
5. You guys, Episode 5 was all that and a Raspberry Cordial margarita! With several scrumptious iconic scenes (Anne and Gilbert’s spelldown! Matthew buys Puffed Sleeves for his girl! The Raspberry Cordial debacle!), this hour put the whole thing on a serious upswing. Plus–and this is “off-book”–they gave Matthew a CRUSH! It’s the sweetest thing. Ever.
6. By now, I had been mostly won over, and something had shifted in me. Instead of demanding that everything be depicted as it was in the book, I began to look at the whole enchilada as a character study. Of Anne. Matthew. Marilla. And to some extent, Gilbert, Rachel Lynde, Josie Pye etc. As such, I thoroughly enjoyed Episode 6, especially the “Anne Saves Minnie Mae from Death” scene, as it made Anne so strong, so competent. And I adored the part where Matthew, full of pride for his girl, brushes a tendril of red hair from her sleeping face. And we meet Aunt Josephine, who is a force, of course.
7. There was so much to sort out for the “season finale,” Episode 7, the eighth and final hour of “Anne with an E”–for NOW. As a viewer, I fully believed that Anne, with all her baggage and PTSD, had found a place to belong with Matthew and Marilla. She had found her place in Avonlea, even though Avonlea had initially shown a deep prejudice towards the orphan when she first arrived. I loved the characters, and not one of them didn’t ring true to their book counterparts, in characterization, if not in plot. I liked most of–not all (hello, pet mouse!) of the choices made to show Anne as real, vulnerable, and oh so relatable to anyone who has come from fractured beginnings. But I did not like the choice they made with Matthew here. Nope. He wouldn’t have done it. What did Matthew think about doing? Read the review, but be aware of spoilers.
Can’t wait to hear YOUR thoughts!
Have any of you been able to watch?
What do YOU think about what me and other viewers have been saying?
Are you prepared to buy into some serious revisions here? Or would you prefer, as I do in my heart of hearts, that all of this phenomenal writing and acting and filmmaking would reflect Maud’s original story?
Every comment on my blog until the Anne series has properly aired on Netflix (May 12) will be entered in a contest to win a fetching Anne of Green Gables art piece or frameable quote from my favorite Etsy shop, Carrot Top Paper Shop! So comment away, won’t you, Anne Internet Friends??