Remember this girl? The little one. Her name is Nola Serenity. There’s this special place in my heart that’s all rosy and proud and feels completely adored all the time, and Nola’s in there. This is her with her mama in New York City recently. They went to my literary agency and took pictures for me and got great pictures of Central Park and described it all to me so that I almost feel I was with them.
At Nola’s first Christmas, I gave her a hardback edition of Anne of Green Gables, and I wrote how much I loved it and how much it influenced my character and personality and that if she ever read it, she’d be reading pieces of me. That’s how much I love those books. It was the thing I thought of to give my namesake when I wanted her to have something that was truly me.
In light of that, surely now you are biting your fingernails in anxious despair over whether or not I approve or disapprove of this brave attempt by Budge Wilson to write the prequel to those wonderful books. I’m sure you are. So I’ve come to put you out of your misery and to let you know:
I’m a very, very nice person. I really am. So I wanted to approve anyway. I thought surely no person would attempt this challenge unless they loved Anne as much as I did. And surely no self-respecting publisher would allow it to see the light of day unless the author could write well. And surely it passed through at least a few hands of people who knew Anne intimately, could quote her ideas about nature and wood nymphs and the half moon that tips out dreams to little children and the realization that we need to store up our treasure in heaven plus her high ideals and sense of fashion and love for all things beautiful and her cheerful outlook and perfect nose and gray-green eyes. Surely it passed through those people and therefore wouldn’t disappoint too much.
Still, I also knew one thing for certain. No one has ever seemed to see her quite like I did. A friend of mine in high school (Hi Amy!) once very carefully (lest she break my heart) confessed that she didn’t feel she would actually like Anne very much in person. And the things is, I knew exactly what she meant. Anne talked too much. And she always looked on the brightest side of things. And she was overly imaginative. And she said things no normal person would ever say out loud.
But I loved her for those silly-beautiful thoughts. And for the way she made the world seem as rosy as I wanted it to be. Or, at least, she seemed to find all its rosiest parts and focus hardest on those. When I’m reading the Anne books, I literally see the world through a different filter. And, oh my goodness, it’s a pretty one.
So, as nice as I am, and as much as I wanted to approve of Wilson’s efforts, I still determined to be disappointed in many ways. And I was pleasantly, pleasantly surprised. I could point out faults – I felt she over-explained some things from Anne’s past. She gave Anne too much of an interest in Prince Edward Island, when I think she really only knew of it vaguely as “the most beautiful province in Canada”. And I think there were too many people in Anne’s life who loved her and gave her gifts and saw her imagination and cheerful outlook as the strength of character that it was. I have always felt that Anne was only ever misunderstood as a child and that all of the good things like gifts and kind, beautiful teachers – all of that happened for the first time at Green Gables – just like the puffed sleeves and chocolate caramels happened for the first time there.
Still, it was fascinating watching Anne’s imagination develop and her love for words and the fact that she named pretty things around her, like groupings of trees and pools of water. I never imagined fleshing out Anne’s pre-Green Gables years. I never would have attempted it. But I appreciate it. There were parts I simply didn’t believe but many other parts that seemed very authentic.
I love the girl who stepped off the train in Bright River the day we first officially meet her along with poor, shy Matthew. And this book offered a lot of things to consider for how that wonderful girl might have become who she was.