Last year, I wrote a post of gushing praise about Anne of Green Gables, mostly harping on its beautifully vivid descriptions. It was certainly warranted – Anne of Green Gables is one of those books that everyone knows about and some have read, but for some reason, no one’s out there proclaiming how incredibly amazing it is (I feel like the same thing happens with Frankenstein, ironically). Therefore, I never felt particularly pressed to read it when I was young – that, and I accidentally discovered YA at 10 years old – so I’m only just discovering the wonders of L. M. Montgomery’s writing.
If you’re wondering how serious I am, this book is on my list of books that everyone should read. Why? It’s just good, a classic example of solid storytelling that you really can’t go wrong with. Honestly, why couldn’t we have read this in high school instead of The Pearl?
But now that I’ve finished the second book of the series, Anne of Avonlea, I thought it was high time for me to write an actual review because there’s so much to be learned from these books.
Let’s jump right in.
Why Critique Stories?
My purpose in critiquing stories is not to say that the story or its author is either awful or flawless. I’m not trying to say that I know everything there is to know about writing a story, or that I’m even right in my assessments/opinions. My motives are twofold:
- To break apart stories so we can learn what makes them successful or unsuccessful and apply those elements to our own stories or know what to avoid
- To dispel the myths that popular stories are “perfect” and that creating a story as “good” as a well-known writer is an unattainable goal
It’s comforting to know that a good story is a good story. No one has any secret special knowledge that makes their story better. As long as you take the time to learn and practise the art of writing, you have the same potential as a famous writer to craft something that people will remember for years to come.
The Good Stuff
Yes, I had to mention it again. I’m in love with the way L. M. Montgomery describes scenery because it’s gorgeous on its own and perfectly fits the style of the book. You can open to just about any page and find a description that will instantly draw you in and give your imagination some rich, wonderful food.
You all know how much I talk about characters being the most important part of a story, and Montgomery clearly understood that. Every character introduced is instantly vibrant and alive, capturing your interest from the start and pushing the story forward. In this book, specifically, it’s interesting to see how the main characters introduced in the first book face new challenges within this story.
A Growing and Changing Main Character
You’d be surprised by the number of books I’ve read recently where the main character remains stagnant throughout the whole story. The art of the character arc is slowly fading away in today’s world, and with it, the art of good storytelling. But Anne Shirley is no such character. It was simply delightful, moving, and exciting to see how she grew up throughout the course of this book, to see that bright-eyed young girl begin to face adulthood. The story challenges her to grow, and grow she does until she becomes a rather different person at the end of the book than the girl she started out as, and yet, she remains faithfully Anne.
It’s really genius how Montgomery manages to take the reader through two years of Anne’s life without the pacing feeling either too slow or too fast. Events are spaced out enough that the story allows you time to breathe, but they’re all so engrossing that you don’t find them dull when they take up several pages.
I quite enjoy how each chapter is its own little story, and yet, they’re all connected and events from earlier chapters will resurface in later ones. It makes the story constantly engaging because you have no idea what’s going to pop up next. It also makes the story easy to read aloud.
Character voices are so unique in this book that the dialogue practically writes itself. With such good characters, it’s hard to have bad dialogue because each character is already so unique and has their own voice – in fact, Montgomery goes so far as to give lots of side characters a certain phrase they repeat frequently, like Davy’s “I want to know,” Mrs. Lynde’s “that’s what,” and Matthew Cuthbert’s “well, now…” (in the first book). Not only does this help to keep characters straight with such a big cast, but it also reinforces their unique personalities and often introduces humour.
This is another story like My Neighbor Totoro that I could go on about forever. The best way to learn all the valuable storytelling lessons in this book is simply to go and read it!
Finally, a Perfect Story?
For once, I truly have nothing negative to say! (And for the record, once again, my usual critiques are not for the sake of being negative, but simply a way to hold stories up to the highest storytelling standard and see how they compare.) I thought for days about anything wrong with Anne of Avonlea, but I couldn’t find a thing. Have I found the perfect story? Perhaps!
But don’t just take my word for it. The Anne series is in the public domain, so free copies abound! Or, you can listen to this fabulous chapter by chapter audiobook by Mary Kate Wiles as I did. This is one classic you shouldn’t skip out on. Trust me, you’ll thank me later!
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When you write as much as I do, you have to take frequent breaks from sitting. A standing desk (not a whole desk, but a mini desk that will sit on top of my current desk with my laptop, keyboard, and mouse and extend upward) will allow me to continue working while maintaining that good blood flow to my brain. Thank you so much for your support that allows me to keep producing free content. God bless you! ♥️ E.J.Donate