Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Anyone who knows me knows of my love for Anne. I know, as an adult, the things Anne may have suffered as a child. I’m not ready to read the horrors my mind can conjure up. But I did want to know more of Anne before. I admit I wanted a watered down version of events that my mind know could have occurred. This book took me there.
There were times that I forgot the ages and would be startled to realize how young Anne was. For those who say oh she couldn’t do this, that or the other by the age in the book, perhaps you are forgetting this is fiction. Anything can and does happen in fiction. I know, I have a difficult time myself with remembering that Anne is a fictional character. But she is. I would like to pose the question, too, who are you to say what is or isn’t possible anyway? I taught myself reading when I was 3 using magnetic letters and picture cards. I took it upon myself to learn Spanish at 5 listening to records that my parents had purchased but not used. To say oh she couldn’t know this word or that one is an insult to everyone. You are capable of learning, and are learning, from conception on. I’m not special and I believe any child could learn as I did. I think many have and I hope many will continue to do so. Aside from this, in the Anne books one of her endearing qualities was her speech. She had a love for, and frequently used, big words. She was using them on the ride to Green Gables when speaking to Matthew. Do you believe she suddenly developed advanced language skills on the train ride? No she learned them, like any child, from the people around her. I believe Anne had a love for language which gave her an ear for hearing remarkable words and a brain for storing those words. We all knew the harshness of Anne’s early life. It was hinted at over and over in Green Gables. We were told how early she was put in charge of infants and younger children. This too is nothing new. Look how many siblings are put in charge, some before they are truly ready. Look at slavery. Look at different cultures. Look at the pilgrims and pioneers. Life is often harsh. This book could have been a lot harsher. The pregnancy problems, domestic violence, alcoholism all were hinted at in Anne of Green Gables. Not one of those issues is a new one. Maybe they weren’t talked about until recently or given a name back then, but they existed. To say that men were given a pass in this book with domestic violence and excuses perhaps is a hard truth. Do I think the author should have it about them another way? No. This will probably not make me popular but men were given a pass with excuses for many, many years. To attempt to change history destroys the lessons we have learned. As a survivor of domestic violence, I heard those excuses when I called police, when I dared to say how I was injured, even when I spoke of them to family and friends. To say we must rewrite history so that men don’t have these excuses makes me feel as though I should be ashamed. Once again, I am the problem. I need to hide my experience because I, obviously, wasn’t strong enough or smart enough, or good enough to slay those excuses when they were repeatedly being given to me by everyone. Domestic violence was accepted in the time Anne lived. Excuses were made. Blame was placed. Women, and many men, fought a hard fight for years and years to change things for domestic violence victims. Let us not forget what we have learned. Let us not hide the truth. Because in changing history we open the door to repeating history.
Before Green Gables is Anne’s early life. In it we are taken through events that made her the 11 year old who showed up with unstoppable dreams of a better future. Isn’t this what we all want for any child, or any adult? The unshakable belief that if we keep focused on our dreams of a better tomorrow and we work tirelessly towards fulfilling them, we will achieve them. That is what I learned from Anne in Lucy L Montegomery’s books and it is the message I found in Budge Wilson’s book.
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