Thursday, July 29, 2010

Reader's Diary #634- Budge Wilson: Before Green Gables

In the acknowledgments for Before Green Gables, Budge Wilson thanks, among others, knowledgeable Anne fans for providing her with various chapter numbers and specific pages that hinted at or mentioned Anne's life before she arrived at Green Gables, according to the original author Lucy Maud Montgomery. Wilson also made use of Montgomery's journals. I'd like to say that the result of all this research and help was a novel that stayed true to Montgomery's vision, but I can't. I can't, however, say that she got it wrong either.

I've only read one Anne book, the Green Gables one, though the series extended for eight more books. While I enjoyed it, I can't say I enjoyed it enough to remember much. So I can't really compare Budge Wilson's prequel to the rest of these books with any real authority. I imagine Anne fanatics would approach this one with a much different view point than I.

I began this book back in June and had intended it to be my PEI choice for the 3rd Canadian Book Challenge. It turned out to be set entirely in Nova Scotia as I'm sure Anne fans knew already.

All that aside, I enjoyed Before Green Gables. I read it as a read aloud to my daughter, who may be on her way to becoming an Anne fanatic herself. It was sometimes difficult going, seeing as one of the characters was an abusive alcoholic, but it triggered a lot of conversations between my daughter and me. That Wilson was able to make Mr. Thomas (the abusive alcoholic) complex and not an entirely unsympathetic character was quite an achievement.

I wish, however, she had given Anne's biological parents the same treatment. Instead, I found them them to be too perfect. Completely unflawed characters, they seemed a little too cardboard for me. Was Anne's loss supposed to be more tragic because her parents were saints? Was this Wilson's way of weighing in on the whole nature versus nurture debate? I'm not sure. In any case, I found them flat and it was a bit of a hurdle to get over. But I'm glad I continued on as the novel got much better after that.

It was sad at times, for sure. Arguably, it was sad most of the time. But most people know the Anne story enough to know she ends up with a wonderful family at Green Gables, so at least the light at the end of the tunnel can always be seen.


raidergirl3 said...

Oh, it was sad. At some points, only knowing how it ended helped me to continue. It had to be a prequel, so you knew Anne ended up ok.
I liked how there were always kind people around Anne, giving her a little hope. It helped explain how Anne ended up the way she did, along with her perfect parents.

And perfect parents is better than the nonsense published recently suggesting Anne had fetal alcohol syndrome.

Glad to hear you are raising an Anne fanatic!

Wanda said...

Though I did enjoy the CBC mini-series, I was never really all that taken with the Anne books so I doubt I'll be reading this one anyime soon.

I'm glad it got better for you and I can well imagine the kind of conversations it triggered. My youngest daughter and I shared a similar experience when we read the Booky trilogy by Bernice Thurman Hunter.

John Mutford said...

Raidergirl: I hadn't heard that about Anne and FAS. That sort of stuff bothers me anyway, i.e., going back into history and daignosing historical or fictional characters with various mental disorders or learning disabilities. As if diagnosing was that easy.

Wanda: They're not my favourite books either, but I can understand the appeal.

Jodie Robson said...

I've been amazed at how much I liked the Anne books - I tried re-reading Susan Coolidge's Katy books and found that I was no longer in love with them, but I liked the Anne books more and more as I went on, which is why I've moved on to the Emily books. But I couldn't get on with the prequel, and gave up halfway. Apparently L.M. Montgomery has a magic that's all her own (for me, at any rate)!