During carpool the little Goofs and I have been listening to the Lucy Maude Montgomery classics beginning with Anne of Green Gables. They are great books and a nice change of pace from Percy Jackson and more adventurous fare. But they are nice to listen to, a window into a different time and place. The little Goofs cannot grasp that there was no TV or cars. Anne as a schoolteacher as a teenager is simply unbelievable. Rural life a hundred years ago is quite exotic to the suburban Goofs.The writing can be funny – as when Anne accidentally gets her playmate drunk or breaks the slate board over Gilbert’s head for calling her “carrots.”
GoofBoy mutters a bit about it, because it isn’t action-packed. But he remembers each character and each plot turn. GoofGirl demands it the minute we get in the car. Certain tropes and characters have become jokes for us. In the first book, Anne obsessed over getting a dress with puffy sleeves. GoofGirl – no slouch at fashion – sighed in exasperations, “What is the big deal about the puffy sleeves. Get over it girl!”
We also laugh about the town busybody. But, and this credits the depth of the characters, the town busybody isn’t simply a one-dimensional joke. She is a real person. While her advice is often unwanted, it is almost always good. Sometimes she is awfully annoying, but sometimes she is a great friend – and that is how people actually are.
There are also wonderful, lush descriptions of a beautiful country that make us want to visit Prince Edward Island. Finally, there are the snide jokes about “the States,” which is a fount of crazy notions like women preachers and where honest Canadians are likely to be cheated of their hard-earned wages. At the same time, the glamorous millionaires that summer on the Island are from the States.
Worlds of wizards and magic are somehow easier to imagine, though far less real then life in the country a century ago. Anne of Green Gables is broadening in a way that Harry Potter and its ilk can never be.