Friday, August 6, 2010

Extracts: the world of Green Gables

I recently rediscovered Anne of Green Gables while visiting family; the copy of the book is one of those lovely older hard-cover volumes with some rich illustrations, both in black and white and in color.

I love the characters, not least Anne Shirley - smart, big-hearted, imaginative and dramatic chatterbox, who starts out as a neglected, spirited orphan and sprouts up into an uncommon and well-loved young woman at Green Gables. And the places in and around Avonlea and Green Gables also become characters in and of themselves, beautiful places full of life and color with lots of "scope for the imagination" as Anne would put it.
Anne came dancing home in the purple winter twilight across the snowy places. Afar in the southwest was the great shimmering, pearl-like sparkle of an evening star in a sky that was pale golden and ethereal rose over gleaming white spaces and dark glens of spruce.

And while traveling in the evening -
There was a magnificent sunset, and the snowy hills and deep blue water of the St. Lawrence Gulf seemed to rim in the splendor like a huge bowl of pearl and sapphire brimmed with wine and fire.

Even the practical and stern (yet quietly soft-hearted) Marilla Cuthbert is not immune to the surroundings:
... but under these reflections was a harmonious consciousness of red fields smoking into pale-purply mists in the declining sun, of long, sharp-pointed fir shadows falling over the meadow beyond the brook, of still crimson-budded maples around a mirror-like wood-pool, of a wakening in the world and a stir of hidden pulses under the gray sod. The spring was abroad in the land and Marilla's sober, middle-aged step was lighter and swifter because of its deep, primal gladness.

Anne likes to give these places names of her own. Here is her first glimpse of Barry's Pond (which she renames the Lake of Shining Waters):
Above the bridge the pond ran up into fringing groves of fir and maple and lay all darkly translucent in their wavering shadows. Here and there a wild plum leaned out from the bank like a white-clad girl tiptoeing to her own reflection. From the marsh at the head of the pond came the clear, mournfully-sweet chorus of the frogs.

And when she looks out the window her first morning at Green Gables:
Below the garden a green field lush with clover sloped down to the hollow where the brook ran and where scores of white birches grew, upspringing airily out of an undergrowth suggestive of delightful possibilities in ferns and mosses and woodsy things generally.

Towards the end of the book, Anne says it best:
"Dear old world," she murmured, "you are very lovely, and I am glad to be alive in you."