11 November 2008

Review: Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson


What was Anne Shirley's life like before she came to Green Gables? Budge Wilson, with the authorization of the L. M. Montgomery estate, has given us the answer. Before Green Gables was written as part of the celebration of the 1ooth anniversary of the publication of the first Anne Shirley book.

***Note: The following paragraphs contain minor spoilers. For only my recommendation, skip to below the asterisks.***

The book starts with Anne's parents and her birth and follows her as she lives with two families before being sent to the orphanage from which she was rescued to live with the Cathberts. The book ends as Anne steps off the train to meet her new family.

Wilson does a good job capturing the spirit of Anne and of telling us how Anne's active imagination and quirky vocabulary came into being. Unfortunately, Anne's childhood was filled with hard work and few chances to play. She was unappreciated and unloved by the adults who agreed to take her into their homes. The story was depressing and often unbelievable. For example, Anne was working at an age when most children are barely walking and was using an adult vocabulary when most toddlers have trouble putting a full sentence together.

Anne was able to find some happiness by creating make-believe friends and by imagining a better world. Every once in a while, a loving adult (teacher, neighbor) helped stimulate the girl's active mind and tried to give her hope for her future. Sadly, none of them did anything substantial to change Anne's horrible circumstances.

* * * * *

The audiobook was read by Renee Raudman. I found her overenthusiastic style to be a bit much for me. Perhaps the earnestness would appeal to a young audience, but it was sometimes grating, and I would turn the book off.

Despite the book's problems, I recommend it to Anne Shirley fans simply because it covers the missing years. I especially liked the descriptions of Anne's parents. I suggest that you read rather than listen to it, though.

Audiobook published by Tantor Meida, 2008
ISBN-13: 9781400106271
Challenge: 25 Books
Rating: C

3 comments:

Nely 11/11/08, 2:56 PM  

You had a case of the annoying audio book reader - that has happened to me in the past too.

elizabethwillse 12/1/08, 12:06 AM  

When I saw the title of this book, I was hoping for a biography of LM Montgomery. Still curious about this one, though I'm going to make sure to read it in paper form, mindful of over-enthused YA audiobook readers. You're right, it's a turn-off.

Joan Lindsay Kerr 3/18/09, 3:57 PM  

I am about two-thirds of the way through the book right now and, after a slow start, am finally beginning to feel that it is an "Anne book." I grew up loving Anne, and this book does set a believable foundation for the Anne we all know. There are a few problems. It is obviously written by a person from our modern world trying, not always successfully, to put herself into the Victorian mindset. There are a few anachronistic remarks (I believe that Czechoslovakia did not yet exist, for example.) And the writing is not quite up to the standard set by Lucy Montgomery. But overall, it is an interesting and engaging look at Anne's early life.

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