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Before Green Gables

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BeforeGreenGables
Before Green Gables
Book information
Author Budge Wilson
Publisher Penguin Group
Pages 400

Before Green Gables is an authorised prequel novel to the Anne of Green Gables series. It was written in 2008 by Budge Wilson, a Canadian children's author, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the series. The book concerns Anne Shirley's life before she arrives at Green Gables, including the deaths of her parents, Walter and Bertha Shirley.

Dedication

"This book is for
Alan and Glynis and Andrea"

Book description

Before she arrived at Green Gables, Anne Shirley had a difficult early life. Orphaned as a baby, she is sent from one foster home to the next and escapes from her dark reality through the power of her vivid imagination. Curious, inventive, and outspoken, even at a young age, Anne battles to make a life for herself by searching out kindred spirits, finding solace in her books, and dreaming of the day she has a family of her own. Award-winning author Budge Wilson brings young Anne vibrantly to life in this fully authorized prequel to the much-loved Anne of Green Gables.

Contents

Acknowledgements

  1. Walter Leaves for Work
  2. Jessie's Revelation
  3. Walter Returns
  4. Tea with Jessie
  5. Waiting for March
  6. Mrs. Thomas Comes
  7. Anne Shirley
  8. First Weeks
  9. Fever and Fears
  10. A Small World
  11. Four Days
  12. What to Do?
  13. Moving Out
  14. Moving In
  15. Difficult Times
  16. Eliza's News
  17. Changes
  18. Heartbreak
  19. Eliza's Wedding Day
  20. Katie Maurice
  21. Katie and Anne
  22. Mr. Thomas and Anne
  23. Disaster
  24. The Fruits of Disaster
  25. Preparing to Leave
  26. Leaving and Arriving
  27. Marysville
  28. Mats, Education, and Eggs
  29. A Long Walk
  30. The Egg Man
  31. Words
  32. Anger and Fear
  33. New Directions (US and UK editions title: "On the Way")
  34. First Day at School
  35. Recess
  36. A Talk With Mr. Johnson
  37. Anne Receives a Dictionary
  38. A Blizzard of Surprises
  39. An Expedition (US and UK editions title: "A Journey")
  40. A Terrible Shock
  41. A Hardened Heart
  42. A Surprise Visit
  43. A Magic Day
  44. A Long Fall
  45. Winter
  46. Another Surprise Visit (US title: "A Surprise Visit")
  47. School and Other Things
  48. Terror
  49. Birthday Presents
  50. Tragedy (US and UK editions title: "Disaster")
  51. The Downside of Death
  52. A Sad Conversation
  53. Mrs. Hammond Comes
  54. Goodbyes (US title: "Good-byes")
  55. The Journey
  56. Discoveries
  57. Violetta and Miss Haggerty
  58. More Discoveries
  59. Daffodils and Other Things
  60. Afterwards (US title: "Afterward")
  61. Time Passes
  62. Another Year, Another Time
  63. Endings
  64. Another Departure
  65. Another Journey
  66. New Beginnings
  67. A Friend!
  68. A Revelation
  69. Mrs. Spencer (US title: "Mrs. Spencer Arrives")
  70. On the Way

Plot

At the door of a little yellow house, Bertha Shirley waves goodbye to her husband, Walter Shirley, who is leaving to teach at the Bolingbroke High School. Although Walter and Bertha's lives are happy and healthy, a neighbour, Jessie Gleeson, confesses to Bertha that she doesn't enjoy visiting the couple, due to her own imperfect family life. A few months later, Bertha believes she is getting sick, remembering how her own mother died, but Jessie assures her that she's just pregnant. The baby is born on the fifth of March – a small, thin child with wispy, curly red hair – and Bertha and Walter decide to call her Anne.

"We thought of four names: Jean and Janet and Dorothy ... and Anne. I've looked at her and said the first three names. They don't fit. She's not Jean or Janet or Dorothy. But I knew right away that she was Anne. Not A-N-N. Anne with an e. She's our perfect, perfect Anne."
Walter Shirley to Bertha Shirley

However, all does not go well for the young family. There is fever going round the village, and Jessie's youngest daughter, Jenny, dies from it. Bertha dies a mere three months after Anne is born, and Walter follows four days later, leaving Anne alone. Jessie Gleeson wants to take Anne into her own family, but her husband refuses, on the grounds that Anne is a 'pathetic excuse for a baby', and could never replace their own child. Instead, another neighbour, Joanna Thomas, takes Anne into her family of five - three teenage daughters and a shiftless, alcoholic husband (Bert).

Eliza, Mr and Mrs Thomas's eldest daughter, immediately takes a fancy to Anne, and it is she who notices when Anne walks and talks at just eight months old. An old school friend of Eliza's, Katie Maurice, becomes the inspiration for Anne's imaginary mirror friend, Katie Maurice, after Eliza leaves (when Anne is five) to get married. Although her new husband, Roger, won't let her take Anne with them, Mr Thomas promises to keep an eye out for Anne for her, saying, 'There's something about her. She's got a real strong spirit. I admire that.'

On Eliza and Roger's wedding day, Mr Thomas gives birth to a boy, Noah – youngest brother to Eliza, Trudy (who has left home), Margaret (who has also left home), Horace, Edward and Harry. Not long afterwards, Mr Thomas smashes one of the windows in Katie Maurice's cabinet in a drunken rage, which also results in him getting fired. The whole family is forced to pick up the pieces and move to a new house in Marysville, where Anne gets a room of her own, and will attend school come spring.

While doing errands for Mrs Thomas, Anne meets Mrs Archibald – who calls Anne's hair 'beautiful' and gives her hair ribbons for her birthday – and the Egg Man, whose real name is Mr Johnson. Mr Johnson, who used to be a schoolteacher, teaches Anne five new words every week when she comes to buy eggs, which increases her vocabulary. A few days before Anne's first day of school, Mr Thomas brings home a large orange cat, which she dubs Lochinvar, from a poem starting 'O young Lochinvar is come out of the West'.

At school, Anne quickly becomes enamoured with learning and Miss Henderson, her new teacher, and makes a friend called Sadie. Curious about where Anne learnt her big words, Miss Henderson meets Mr Johnson, who talks to her despite his usual gruff attitude towards intruders. Things seem to be looking up – in August, Mr Thomas takes the family and Anne to the seaside for a picnic. However, he cannot seem to completely eradicate his depression and tendency to drown his sorrows in alcohol, and the loss of another job means Anne will have to quit school after only two and a half months, in order to help out at home while Mrs Thomas works.

By December, Mr Thomas is again going through a sober period, and buys the family and Anne presents for Christmas, even running errands for Mrs Thomas so they can have a Christmas pudding. Mrs Thomas relaxes and Anne returns to school in November, albeit for only three days a week. A nasty accident involving Noah and snow causes him to catch croup, and Anne saves his life with some ipecac that Miss Henderson gave her.

For Anne's ninth birthday, she receives presents from Mrs Archibald, Miss Henderson and Mr Johnson, but Mr Thomas is caught up in a restless fit, leaves the house and is run over by a train while dancing on the tracks. During the whirlwind next few days, Mr Thomas's mother volunteers to take Mrs Thomas and the four boys back to her place in Bolingbroke, but refuses to accept Anne. Just before Anne leaves to stay with the Hammond family upriver, Miss Henderson and Mr Johnson come to say goodbye, and tell her that they are engaged to be married, and are also going to Bolingbroke to attend teacher's training (Miss Henderson) and teach at the high school (Mr Johnson) there.

At the Hammonds', Anne has to work very hard to do chores and take care of the children, for there are six children (including two sets of twins), and another set of twins born soon afterwards. Still, she manages to find time to talk to another 'friend' (Violetta, an echo) and Miss Haggerty, a neighbour who is also a midwife. At school, she learns from Mr McDougall, who teaches about Prince Edward Island, and ignites in Anne a desire to go there one day. But Mr Hammond dies suddenly from a heart attack, and Anne's world is again shattered. The eight Hammond children are divided up among relatives, and Mrs Hammond herself goes to live in the United States.

Anne, meanwhile, has to face what she's dreaded all her life — she is sent by train to an orphan asylum in Hopetown. Her personal belongings are taken away, and she has to dress in serviceable wincey, the same as all the other orphans. The teacher at the asylum, Miss Kale, appreciates Anne's precociousness, but a girl named Edna pretends to be Anne's friend, then betrays her out of sheer spite.

Not long afterwards, a rumour goes around that a woman called Mrs Spencer is coming to the asylum to choose two girls to take back with her to Prince Edward Island – one for herself (pretty) and one for a farmer's family (useful). This rumour is proved to be true, and Anne and a little girl called Lily Jones (not Edna) are chosen to go with her. On the journey, by ship, Anne talks nonstop, but resolves to put her past sorrows and joys behind her and start a new life in the land of her dreams and Mr McDougall's plaudits – Prince Edward Island.

Timeline

The setting of the book is in the mid-1860s to mid-1870s. It starts in September 1864 and ends in June 1876.

Editions

Anne of Green Gables Wiki has 13 images of Before Green Gables (view gallery).

Adaptations

Behind the scenes

  • Before Green Gables was translated into Japanese as Kon'nichiwa Anne (basically Hello, Anne)
  • In this book, Anne is not discontent with her name. At an early age, she parrots her caregiver Eliza's way of saying Anne with an 'e'. Eliza's reason was that Anne's parents chose Anne for her and emphasized  the 'e'.
  • Also, Anne's foster parents were depicted with more human kindness than necessary as she was said by Marilla: "What a starved, unloved life she had had – a life of drudgery and poverty and neglect."
  • This book has been considered controversial as the style of writing was a bit too modern compared to Montgomery's original work.
  • The author has been praised for accurately describing the setting of Nova Scotia, which where the author herself was raised.

See also

External links


Books
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Anne of Green Gables series

Anne of Green Gables (1908) | Anne of Avonlea (1909) | Anne of the Island (1915) | Anne of Windy Poplars (1936)
Anne's House of Dreams (1917) | Anne of Ingleside (1939) | Rainbow Valley (1919) | Rilla of Ingleside (1921)

Spinoffs by L. M. Montgomery

Chronicles of Avonlea (1912) | Further Chronicles of Avonlea (1920)
The Road to Yesterday (1974) | The Blythes Are Quoted (2009)

Related

The Anne of Green Gables Cookbook (1985) by Kate Macdonald
Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L. M. Montgomery (2008) by Elizabeth Rollins Epperly
Before Green Gables (2008) by Budge Wilson

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