Kindred Spirits: My Personal Connection to Anne Shirley
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
Most readers know the feeling of enjoying a book or series so much that the characters seem like real people. I have experienced this on a number of occasions, but no fictional character seems as real to me as Anne Shirley (Anne of Green Gables).
I can’t describe in words the level of reality the character has reached in my mind. Her story and personality are both so familiar to me that they no longer feel like elements of an old book. Anne has come off the page and become a crucial part of my life; my world and hers have been intertwined for years now.
My love for the character began when I was very young, maybe nine or ten years old. My grandma would take me to the library and we would borrow the Sullivan Entertainment adaptions of the story. It felt like a special treat when I got to watch them, and I thoroughly enjoyed the story and characters. That was probably my gateway into the world of period dramas, now that I think about it.
The first time I picked up Anne of Green Gables was when I was nine. My reading level and attention span did not quite lend themselves to reading the book at that point in my life, so I didn't give it another try until I was 11. I found a copy in my fifth-grade classroom and starting reading, and the rest is history.
I'm not sure if this happens to everybody, but what I experienced as a pre-teen was the realization that this series of books fit me and my personality in a way that no other story ever had. Young Anne was a romantic, Victorian reflection of myself, sitting right there on the page. I knew I had found something special.
By 6th grade, I was finishing Anne of Avonlea and did a book report/presentation on it for my language arts class. I think those were some of the earliest days that I felt so comfortably attached to the books. They were becoming part of my identity.
It was delightful to read Anne of Green Gables multiple times and see her at the same age as me. What initially drew me into the story was her appearance, because it's always fun when a protagonist looks like you. But what kept me reading was Anne's personality and growth; it reminded me so much of myself on so many levels, and as I read through the whole series, I had grown to love everything about L.M. Montgomery's writing style and characters.
I re-read all eight books at least three times each and loved them more and more as I did. They are so timeless and full of joy, anger, laughter, sadness, and character growth. You get something new out of each book every time you read it.
I believe the day I picked up a copy of Anne and started reading was a crucial moment in my development as a person. I already had similarities with Anne: imagination, appreciation for beauty, the ability to talk without end, a fiery temper, and a tendency to get into scrapes. But one's pre-teen years are important to who one will ultimately become as an adult.
L.M. Montgomery's novels not only became my favorite books in the world and gave me a sweet Victorian heroine I could relate to, but they also gave me a strong set of ideals. I don't doubt that I would have grown up to be a good, kindhearted person had I not read these books; my parents did an exemplary job in raising me to be such. But what I do know is the Anne series has molded my personality and thought processes; it has bolstered my creativity and affected the way I see the world.
If I had never read these books, my Anne-like tendencies may have worn off or not become quite as pronounced as they are today. Of course, a hot temper is never a good thing, and I try to control it when provoked. But important things, like imagination and enthusiasm and love for people and a desire to wander through a forest for hours and read books until the sun goes down, these are what I have developed and cared for thanks to reading Anne's story so many times over.
“When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.”
-Kathleen Kelly (You've Got Mail, 1998)
The books are precious to me, and I'm sure it's not a surprise to most of you that my favorite film is the 1985 Sullivan adaption of Anne of Green Gables. If anyone reading this has never opened one of L.M. Montgomery's books, I only hope this little story of mine makes you wish to. You won't ever read anything quite like them.
To find a copy of Anne of Green Gables, head over here. Please leave any bookish thoughts or experiences in the comments below!