I can read my journal from high school and know exactly when I was reading the Anne series. My language then was not only more flowery but stuffed full of happiness and perspective. I remember instead of curling up with an Anne book, I basically crawled inside it and wrapped all its perfection around me so for at least that half-hour I could keep out the cold reality of – you know – the nineties.
I’m reading through them again this year – a current book, an Anne book, a current book, an Anne. And through the first couple I felt like maybe I’d lost the ability to crawl all the way inside. I was afraid maybe I’d grown up, God forbid, or that I was thinking of them too much like work since I’m using the read to get in the right frame of mind for a novel I’m writing that’s basically a love letter to these.
Then I reached the third book – the one where Gilbert finally proposes and Anne turns him down and my heart breaks in five million pieces like I’ve never read the end before. And I’m definitely curled up, crawled in, happily escaped – all that. It’s in this book that Ruby Gillis dies and Anne faces a spiritual awakening. She refuses no less than four proposals of marriage as we see how beautiful she’s become – not just the star-gray eyes but the spirit and kindness and the heart that makes her as desired for friendship as for love.
Despite its random paragraphs on Theodora Dix and Ludovic Speed, or its totally frustrating interlude for a romance [that is equally agonizing and delightful BUT STILL] between two characters we’ve never met and will never meet again, this book is more plot-driven than the first two or a couple that follow. And it’s the real beginning for Anne as a grownup, which fully shaped me as one.
And thinking about all these things has made me wonder if maybe I feel slightly less invisible inside the Anne book I’m reading, because my life has filled out so richly around it. It’s influenced by her and filled with perspective and a love for beautiful things that’s inspired largely by her. But it’s my own, with its own spiritual awakenings and romance and occasional crisis and boys.
I felt worried when the first two in the series didn’t undo me quite like they had in the past. But now I like the idea that this is only because I’ve been so busy building a life that I think would make her proud.