(To be honest, I wasn't terribly impressed with the cover. Maybe I expected it to more closely resemble the covers of the Anne of Green Gables books? But there's so many different editions of those... but anyway.)
I LOVED LOVED LOVED LOVED THIS BOOK!!!
If you've ever met me, this will not surprise you overly much. I love all the Anne of Green Gables books. I read the first one, Anne of Green Gables, to pieces as a child. There was a Top Ten Tuesday where we were challenged to list influential books in our reading lives and these books were definitely on my list. I really wish Goodreads would let me do crazy stuff like award 7 out of 5 stars to books like this one. I know that's not mathematically correct but I'm a reader, not a mathematician.
When readers first dive into Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery and first meet Anne, she is 11 years old. She is brand new to Prince Edward Island, having arrived from the orphanage on the mainland. There are very brief allusions to her life before PEI, but mostly the books concentrate on her day to day escapades. And boy does she have escapades! She's a dreamer and chatter and has such a tender heart and so much love for those around her... but her red hair just gets her in so much trouble!
Before Green Gables does exactly what the title tells you it's going to do: it tells you about Anne's life before she arrives at Green Gables. And oh, is it heartbreaking! <---That's not a spoiler. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne is introduced as an orphan who is being taken in my Marilla and Matthew. AN ORPHAN. In the very early 1900s. You know she wasn't eating bon bons in a mansion.
Instead, Anne was working very hard from a very young age. At one point in the book Anne reminds the lady she is working for/living with that it is her fifth birthday. Of course nothing comes of that. No cake; no presents. Anne instead sits down in a rocking chair to feed bottles to two babies. At five! The first family she lives with has four little boys living in the house, all under the age of five, who Anne looks after. Then, when Anne is 8, she goes to live with another family who has 8 children under the age of five. (Multiple sets of twins.) In order to go to school (which is a 2 mile walk each way) Anne must first fetch 13 buckets of water from a well and empty them into tubs out on the back porch and wash all those dirty diapers. When she gets home she has to prepare dinner for the family of 11. But Anne is just completely indomitable. She relishes her long walks to school when she can just be by herself with her thoughts. She finds joy in watching the forest animals. She finds a meadow with an echo, and "talks" to her new "friend" as often as possible.
I am just so very impressed with this book and with Budge Wilson's ability to "capture" Anne's Anneness! I don't know if I could discern between an Anne speech written by L.M. Montgomery and one written by Budge Wilson. Anne has the same spirit and the same disdain for her hair and the same dreaminess and the same intelligence and the same quick wit and the same heart in all of the books. A reader could easily go straight from Before Green Gables to Anne of Green Gables without missing a beat.
I cannot remember the last time I re-read a book (I'd have to go all the way back to high school, probably) but I'm seriously considering a re-read of Anne of Green Gables after reading this!
A cute anecdote about me and Anne and my mom:
When I was 10 (11? can't quite remember) my mom gave me Anne of Green Gables to read at the beginning of summer and told me to let her know when I finished. I devoured it. Practically overnight. I was that kind of kid. So I told my mom and she hands me the second one, Anne of Avonlea. Turns out my mom had got all 8 in a box set and was just doling them out one by one. Yeah... I ferreted out that box o'books before we got to the third title! I was what could charitably be called a "challenging" child.