I was incredibly excited when I first heard that Netflix and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation were creating a new series based on L. M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables. My Canadian friends and family were able to view Anne With an E before me and their reviews were mixed. Most had seen – and loved – the 1985 CBC TV series, which faithfully followed the book. It seemed that older friends and family, especially those who had read the books and/or seen the original TV series, disapproved of the “liberties” the new series took with the story line. Younger friends and family, who had less familiarity with the story, were intrigued at the way the new series explored darker themes
In addition to creating controversy, the new series, now renewed for a third season, has sparked a new interest in interest in the author and the world she created. Regardless of what you think of Anne With an E, these books are an exciting way to explore the world of Anne, and her creator, who liked to be called Maud (without an E).
Anne of Green Gables: A Novel by Mariah Marsden; ill. by Julie Morstad
If you are new to the series this is a great way to get to the heart of what the Anne phenomenon is all about. Illustrated by Brenda Thummler (Sheets), with text adapted from the original novel by Mariah Marsden, it sure to delight those who appreciate Anne’s enthusiasm but not her creator’s early twentieth century prose.
Maud: A Novel Inspired by the Life of L. M. Montgomery, Melanie J. Fishbane
Despite the youthful exuberance and optimism of Anne, Maud’s life was not very happy. Her mother died of tuberculosis before Maud turned two. Her father left her with her maternal grandparents as he went off to seek his fortune in the West. A keen diarist, Maud spent a lot of time alone with her active imagination and fear that she might never achieve her dreams. She never felt quite at home anywhere and longed to be reunited with her father. Fishbane imagines Maud’s teen years, as she finishes school and finally gets to move out west with her father. Although fictionalized, Fishbane has done her research and creates a realistic imagining of what might have happened.
House of Dreams: The Life of L. M. Montgomery by Liz Rosenberg
If nonfiction is more your style, you might prefer this biography of Anne’s creator. It covers her entire life and goes into far more detail and we see that, despite her professional success with Anne, her personal life was far from happy. Maud struggled with anxiety and depression. Her marriage to clergyman Ewen Macdonald was unhappy and writing was means to escape real life. Her husband suffered from mental illness and her eldest son was something of a ne’er-do-well. Rosenberg spends some time at the end discussing whether or not Maud’s death in 1942 was actually suicide. Surprisingly, there are no photos in this biography. Instead, the book has been illustrated by children’s book illustrator Julie Morstad.
Marilla of Green Gables: A Novel by Sarah McCoy
As much as I love Anne, I think the 1985 series helped me really come to an understanding of Marilla. At the beginning of the first book, she is a stubborn and sensible spinster. By the end, Montgomery says that, “crispness was no longer Marilla’s distinguishing characteristic.” She seems rather straightforward and predictable, but Sarah McCoy imagines the life experiences that formed Marilla. Drawing on details in the original books, we see Marilla face the death of her mother and the series of disappointments that turn her from a young woman very much like Anne Shirley, into the character Anne meets when she arrives at Green Gables.
I am hopeful you will enjoy these trips into the world of Anne with and E and Maud without.
– Adrienne Gillespie, currently reading And the Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness