Anne Shirley is the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s beloved 1908 novel, “Anne of Green Gables,” the chronicle of a spirited but previously unloved orphan taken into the town of Avonlea, on Prince Edward Island, Canada, by the unmarried, middle-aged siblings Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert.
Rather than dispense the message that it’s only what’s on the inside that counts, “Anne of Green Gables” conveys something more nuanced, that beauty can be a pleasure, that costumes can provide succor, that the right dress can improve your life — all things that adults know to be true, sometimes, but that we try to simplify for our children.
In the middle of the third novel in the series, “Anne of the Island,” Anne is still putting Gilbert off, rejecting his proposal of marriage.
What an end to a life in which I tried always to do my best in spite of many mistakes.” But as Margaret Atwood wrote in an essay on the occasion of the “Anne of Green Gables” centenary, “The presiding genius of ‘Anne’ is not the gritty gray Angel of Realism, but the rainbow-colored, dove-winged Godlet of the Heart’s Desire.” Montgomery’s life may have been hard, but her writing, purposefully, was not.
For all the changes that Walley-Beckett has made in adapting “Anne of Green Gables,” she understands this sentiment.