****this post contains a few spoilers for the new Anne series so stop reading if you don’t want to know***

When our eldest daughter was born, I did a very poor job of pretending we were not settled on a name. I did that for my husband’s sake, I think: I wanted him to feel like I valued his opinion. And I did! … except I totally knew in my heart of hearts that if this baby was a girl, we would name her Anne. What else could I possibly name my first daughter but Anne?

We had waited to find out our baby’s sex until the big day of birth so in the weeks of my pregnancy, we talked boy names and girl names with the grave seriousness of first time parents. We made the decision to create a short-list of names for both sexes: three boy names and three girl names apiece. That way, when we met our baby we would be able to look upon their precious bawling little face and understand which name belonged to that baby. We thought the baby needed to have a say with his or her face. (With our son, I was glad for this practice: we had a particular name that we intended for him but when he was born, we took one look at him and knew that he didn’t belong with that name: his name was Joe as surely as if he had come out of the womb with a nametag and that was that.) So I gamely chose two other girl names and I fooled myself into thinking that we hadn’t already made our decision.

But as soon as she was born, as soon as I held her in my arms while I laughed and her father cried, I called out her name – Anne! Oh, she’s Anne! – and my husband laughed because he knew all along that this would happen. Her name was Anne. Of course.

We named our daughter Anne for many reasons – a family association, the meaning of the name, a preference for classic names that had fallen out of fashion, a requirement that we avoid the Top Ten Baby Names list – but the main reason? who were we kidding? Anne Shirley.

I grew up on L.M. Montgomery’s books. I started with Anne of Green Gables, like most kids in Canada, but that initial sojourn turned into the entire series of eight (now nine, depending on who you ask) and then all of the Emily books, the one-offs and novels, the short-story collections and rare volume of poetry, the journals and the letters. I wore out paperbacks with regularity. I grew up and navigated girlhood with Jane Stuart, Sara Stanley, Valancey Stirling, Aunt Becky, Emily Starr, and of course Anne. Even now, my prized possessions are rare first-and-early editions of L.M. Montgomery books, each one showcased on our dining room’s shelves similar to how other people display fine heirloom china. These books shaped my memory, my imagination, my life in ways that defy essays and descriptions. When life is rough, people often want to go home: when my life is rough, I return home by way of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s novels since that is where I lived for most of my childhood and adolescence.

***

And so of course, as a Gen-X kid coming of age in Canada, I am devoted to the Kevin Sullivan series starring Megan Follows, Colleen Dewhurst, Richard Farnsworth, and Jonathan Crombie. It was broadcast here in Canada in 1985 and was followed by the sequel in 1987. (There were other sequels but we don’t speak of them. Ever. I mean, everyone knows that World War 1 is Rilla’s timeline, don’t @ me.) I have watched these movies once a year, minimum, every year since they came available on VHS and then on DVD and now on Blu-Ray. I have them memorized entirely and yet they never age for me. They are the equivalent of an emotional cup of tea and a quilt on a rainy day. When Jonathan Crombie passed away a while ago, I mournfully poured out a bottle of raspberry cordial in his honour.

And who else but Colleen Dewhurst could give a line like “Twenty. Pounds. Of brown sugar” the necessary sarcastic yet rueful love?

So of course I have given major side-eye to every other adaptation of Anne of Green Gables since the Sullivan miniseries was released. (I’m look at you, Martin Sheen.) There is only one Anne of Green Gables and Megan Follows is her face, forever and ever amen.

Yes, I’m the purist. I’m one of those annoying people who rants on Facebook about how NOTHING IS SACRED OMG while declaring that Hollywood needs to stay away from our stuff because they don’t get it.

When I heard that Moira Walley-Beckett of Breaking Bad fame had taken the helm of a new Anne miniseries for CBC, I was aghast. I didn’t watch Breaking Bad (I have an aversion to depictions of violence #highlysensitive) and I could not draw the line between someone who wrote about selling meth to someone who hitches wagons to stars. I was mollified to find out that the actress who played Josie Pye in the Kevin Sullivan miniseries was also an executive producer here but still. Suspicious.

I set my PVR to record the series on CBC. I was positive I would dislike it as I have disliked every other adaptation. I was suspicious. My expectations were in the basement next to the last few seasons of Road to Avonlea and whatever that was that they called Jane of Lantern Hill.

I probably only watched it so that I could say I hated this new miniseries with some authority.

And yet…

Humble pie, serving for one.

I loved Anne.

And yes, I have watched the entire series.

I know, I know.

I’m surprised, too.

All of us purists need to set aside our doilies and our carpet bags for a hot second to really watch this adaption of our beloved novel.

And I’ll tell you why.

First of all, we need to admit that all movies/miniseries are adaptations. Film isn’t meant to be a word-for-word telling of the book. Lest we forget, the Kevin Sullivan series took some mighty strong liberties with the source material as well. And you know what? we loved it. We loved Morgan Harris and Mrs. Harris, we loved Kingsport Ladies College. In the book, Matthew didn’t buy the dress, he went to Mrs. Lynde who picked out a brown gloria (not blue!) and made the dress herself (which just makes us love Mrs. Lynde even more).

Don’t get me wrong: the Kevin Sullivan miniseries is a delight. And yet it is also an adaption from the book. There were important developments left out, segments glossed over, timelines shifted, plot points were outright changed. This is what miniseries do. They are true to the spirit of the book (we hope) and they translate it for film.

We could take a page from our friends across the pond: the Brits regularly remake and reimagine their classic books and stories for new audiences. Pride and Prejudice has had at least eight re-tellings over the years through that medium and while everyone has their favourite (all the heart-eye emojis for the 1995 BBC version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle), each version brings something new to the story. And yes, sir, as a matter of fact, I will show up for every movie or miniseries version of Persuasion and I’m not even sorry.

So no, of course Anne is not the Kevin Sullivan 1985 movie adaptation of the original book. That spot in our hearts is sacred. I will always love it but I can love that miniseries while recognizing that it did exactly the same thing that every other adaption does: it changed the source material. We just happened to like what they changed.

No fim can compare to the book, I agree with that. I’m a book snob every time and in every way. But we’re talking about rewriting the Anne of Green Gables book, we’re talking about a miniseries adaption of the book.

Now let’s talk about this new miniseries. Even if some parts of the series aren’t “true to the book” they are more true to the Anne Shirley and Marilla Cuthbert and Matthew Cuthbert characters than any other adaption so far.

This version is fresh and updated, it’s bold and reinvented. It takes some serious magic to make this familiar story and well known dialogue feel brand new and exciting – after all, as fans we have whole passages memorized! – and yet somehow every word of this feels brand new. I couldn’t stop watching it.

It’s beautifully shot, of course, and several scenes are an absolute work of art. That opening credit with the song “Ahead by a Century” by the Tragically Hip is legit inspired. The film work is staggering.

The young girl who plays Anne (Amybeth McNulty) is probably is the highlight of the whole series to me. She’s physically more like how Anne is described in the books, that’s for sure – almost other-worldly, alien in her earnestness and her scrawniness and her big eyes that are too much for every adult to look into, always prompting comments on her appearance by the look of her. She captures the subtext of Anne and truly communicates how weird she was, how out of step, how damaged, why she was off-putting to the grown-ups around her. Anne made people uncomfortable because she was a lonely, desperate, longing, hungry – likely abused – child who is suffering. She’s an intense kid.

Rather than making her precocious and endearing and non-threatening, this series made Anne real: why does she imagine so much? why does she talk like she’s filling dangerous silence? why is she so desperate for a bosom friend? People in Avonlea thought she was weird, she didn’t fit with how they were and this is why.

A lot of Montgomery’s audience would have been able to fill in the context for why Anne was the way she was (and why – as she becomes loved and attached some of those quirks were integrated in a more healthy way) but we aren’t able to fully understand the time period without this backstory. There are definitely some hard scenes to watch that are technically “out of canon” but they were strongly implied by the books. If you have any familiarity with the books, you won’t be surprised. 

Now we understand why Anne is the way she is. We understand the raw desperation behind her eyes, her hunger for love, her despair over leaving Green Gables, her longing for home.

The Anne we all grow to love is in there – we can see her, just as Matthew and Marilla can see something in her that Rachel Lynde and Mrs. Barry and everyone else can’t see – but now it’s clear that it is going to take love and security to make her whole.

This version of Anne is closer to the books. We see how harshly people judged orphans and considered them outsiders, we see the difference between how Anne grew up and how Diana grew up. We even see how quickly Anne attaches to Diana as a symptom of who she is – a kid hungry for love and too quick to jump to talk of soulmates because she’s desperate for connection and attachment. We see that it wasn’t even necessarily Diana she loved – it was the idea of a friend she loved and Diana just happened to be willing.

Other highlights: Matthew, as always, is the heart of the show. I have always loved R.H. Thomson as an actor (shout out to the other “Road to Avonlea” watchers who know him as Jasper Dale) but he can communicate more in a look than most actors in a whole monologue.

I was unsure about the new Marilla, played by Geraldine James, but she captures her beautifully. This series doesn’t gloss over or romanticize real pain. When we realize that Marilla had loved John Blythe once upon a time, the series portrays our Marilla as a woman – not the caricature of a cold spinster. We even see a young fiery Marilla, the Marilla who is in there still, the woman who loves out of a deep well of never-ending love even after hope is gone.

In this version, each of the characters feel more complicated. They are full people with motivations and complexities and longings, just like Anne. Everyone feels fresh and alive.

This version is the pine forest and bracing north wind to Sullivan’s doilies and tea cups indoors.

In a way, it gives us new eyes to see someone we loved so well we let them get stuck in time. We allowed the story to stagnant in our hearts, instead of allowing it to challenge us and grow with us.

I lost track of how many times I said, “I never saw it that way before but… yes, I see…that’s right.” 

A small example is the side-story of Prissy Andrews. In the Kevin Sullivan version, we see her making eyes at her teacher Mr. Phillips who simpers back at her. Eventually, he leaves Avonlea reluctantly at the request of Mr. Andrews and they have a party to send him on his way (which is where Anne breaks her ankle falling off the ridgepole of the roof). As children, we didn’t see more than what was shown.

But this series tells a child’s story through the wiser eyes of an adult. And all of a sudden, we see Mr. Phillips grooming Prissy. We see that she is young, too young, for this attention, she is vulnerable. We see her discomfort over his attention. And we see why Mr. Andrews would have him fired for this inappropriate behaviour. 

Another example is why Avonlea people were reticent for their children to be around orphans who were in institutional care or foster care. Institutional care wasn’t a lovely benign place particularly in the 19th century: there was physical and sexual and emotional abuse, bullying, deprivation, and kids learned to survive any way they could. Foster care situations were similar to what Anne experienced with the Hammonds – a drunken husband, poverty, abuse, a too-full home. Anne’s method of survival is her imagination, thankfully – like with her imaginary friend Katie Maurice in the window of the cabinet. But when you take a step back, you have to ask yourself for the first time: why? Why was her imagination preferable to her reality? Why would any child need to imagine as survival?

When many of us read the Anne books, we were children. And so we wanted a mini-series that would reclaim and recapture that feeling of childhood. The Kevin Sullivan series does that for us. And it will have that sacred spot for us forever. But there comes a time to see the story that L.M. Montgomery was telling under the story.

The story of Anne is still here. She is still our Anne. More so, even in some ways. She isn’t a saint, she isn’t a doll in a museum, she isn’t a still-life painting: she’s resolutely alive. Irreverent, funny, winsome, bright, ferocious, fierce, smart, loving, and indomitable.

Yes, there are some scenes that will be disruptive or sacrilegious to us purists, perhaps. There is a scene wherein Anne, seeking to make friends, shares some of what she learned from the orphanage and her foster homes about sex and, in her innocence, she violates social codes. Avonlea kids don’t talk like orphanage kids. But even in this uncomfortable development and the fall-out of mothers clutching pearls and freezing out Marilla who is horrified, we circle back to Matthew. Matthew, who is the only one brokenhearted over a child of Anne’s age even knowing of these things. He centers her with compassion instead of judgement.

We want the childhood version of Anne, not the real book version. But we’re not children anymore. This version of Anne is fully alive in the time and place of her telling. It’s honest. It’s opening our eyes to our willful ignorance about context and time, about struggle and suffering, about the entire backstory for these books we would have missed without a strong history lesson. L.M. Montgomery’s original audiences, particularly the adults, would have understood the undertones for her revolutionary book. We’re simply catching up, I think. There are hints of this all throughout the books if you go back and read them through as adults: we missed them then, we see them clearly once we have seen the world.

I think this version of Anne is more true to how L.M. Montgomery saw the world. If you’ve read more than Anne of Green Gables, you know that she often wrote about loneliness, about family. she wrote about the social ostracization of orphans and the impact of drunkenness on families, she wrestled with themes of loss and betrayal and innocence, with sex and longing in her way and in her time. (She was also deeply problematic in her portrayals of Indigenous and French communities but that’s another post.)

There are imperfections in this series, of course. That’s going to happen and I won’t deny that there were moments when I was suspicious and unconvinced of certain choices or directions.

Yet we purists should to watch this one, not in spite of our great love for the original story but because of it. It’s because we love Anne Shirley’s story of finding love and home that we need this telling. We will open our eyes to Montgomery’s subtext but also to Anne’s vitality and ferocious survival. This version of the story tells of that familiar love story between an orphan and two older siblings with equal parts of both the grace and the grit that characterized Anne in the first place.

This series made me even more proud that my eldest daughter is named after this complicated and beloved Canadian heroine.

Now who do I have to pay to get a half-decent adaptation for Emily of New Moon or The Blue Castle?


Note: The series is called Anne here in Canada, but in the USA it will be on Netflix as Anne with an E. Canadians, you can still watch it online at by clicking here.

Another note: Personally, I haven’t allowed my children to watch this version of the series yet. I will let them enjoy the innocent childhood version of the story for a while longer. PG-13 is likely an accurate rating.

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  • Brenda P

    I grew up watching the Kevin Sullivan miniseries. They are my favorites. I recently rewatched Anne of Green Gables with a dear friend, and we said the lines with characters and laughed and laughed. But it was also the first time I’d watched it in awhile, and I read between the lines more than I ever had about some of Anne’s backstory. I might have been in college or even out of college already by the time I sat down and read all the Anne books. We had an anthology of The Story Girl, The Golden Road, and Kilmeny of the Orchard that I read a few times growing up, and I loved the Road to Avonlea series. All that being said, I’m really excited for this adaptation. I’m usually such a stickler for the book, which is why when movies come out based on books I haven’t read, I like to see the movie first so that I get the delight of an even better book instead of being disappointed with a movie that didn’t do the book justice. But when Disney remade the Narnia movies and I still loved The Voyage of the Dawn Treader despite the glaring differences, I realized that what I loved was when a story was well-told and captured the same spirit, even if some of the details were different, even drastically so. I was so disappointed in the other recent adaptation (Martin Sheen chasing a pig was not at all the spirit of Matthew), but I am so hopeful I will really love this new series after hearing your thoughts. Also, I haven’t finished The Blue Castle yet, but I had never heard of it until you mentioned it, and I adore Valency.

    • As soon as I saw Matthew wrestling and hollering at a pig, I was all “WE ARE DONE HERE.”

  • Abby

    I really related to so much of this! Thank you! I grew up on the Anne books too. She’s my way home and shaped me in so many ways. I think she is a big part of why I teach and write. And the Kevin Sullivan adaptation is my favourite comfort and escape too. Except for the third part. We’ll never talk about that. It’s dead to me! But I am glad to know the new version won’t break my heart – so thanks for the heads up!

    • Oh, it may break your heart but not for the reasons I expected. And if you do watch it, persevere through the second episode – it’s the one where I wanted to quit but after that, I got my head around what they were doing and was all in.

      • Abby

        Yes, heartbreak is not so easily avoided, is it? And thanks for the tip, it’s good to know it’s worth sticking with.

  • Julie

    Sarah, I am an Anne fan from way back. I recognized in her the gawky, wordy, awkward girl I was, but you helped me see something else that was always there that I am only beginning to fully understand. Thank you for these words: “We even see how quickly Anne attaches to Diana as a symptom of who she is – a kid hungry for love and too quick to jump to talk of soulmates because she’s desperate for connection and attachment. We see that it wasn’t even necessarily Diana she loved – it was the idea of a friend she loved and Diana just happened to be willing.” Light bulb moment for me. I am grateful.

    • I agree – those of us girls who saw ourselves in the book-Anne loved that she wasn’t perfect.

  • Aimée Jones

    I grew up in Canada, totally obsessed with all things Anne and LM Montgomery. My family has watched the series on CBC and loved it. I am waiting to watch it on Netflix here in the USA on May 12. I was a bit nervous, but this review is very comforting and is making me excited to watch it!
    My husband and I just started a podcast all about Anne and LM Montgomery, We will be reviewing each episode! Here is the link if you want to check it out~ 🙂
    -Aimee with two E’s

    https://theanneheads.podbean.com/

  • STANDING. FREAKING. OVATION.

    I ADORE when you talk all things film and culture and how the two open our eyes to faith and likely the parts we’ve been missing or ignoring. My mom used to take me out of school to see important movies. I love having friends like you who still help me to do that.

    • Your mom had the right idea. 🙂 And I could talk about dumb stuff like this for all my days, thanks for indulging me, friend!

  • Rebecca

    I love Anne of Green Gables so much I have never seen any movie version. Maybe it’s worth changing my opinion. Only maybe.

  • Kristen K

    Thank you for this. Anne is the sum of my adolescence. And I too have hated on all of the remakes over the years, but it’s good to know this one wasn’t cringe-worthy like the last…also side-eying you, Mr. Sheen.

  • sand_dollars

    I have read every single LM Montgomery book more times than I can count, even “The Blythes Are Quoted.” Anne, Emily, Valancy and Jane have gotten me through every single life transition and period of loneliness or uncertainty. I will always be a devotee of the Sullivan version, and Megan/Jonathan especially, but now I’ve decided to give the Netflix version a go. Thank you for helping me see this in another way as a fellow hardcore Montgomery purist. Seriously, one of the regrets of my life has been that I didn’t have a little girl so I could name her Anne with an e. Maybe that’s a little over the top, but sometimes love for a literary figure is so deep that they almost become a part of us.

    PS: Props for suggesting a Blue Castle film. By far my favorite stand-alone LM book and always thought it would be a great film. Valancy is my kindred spirit.

    • Lorilee Reimer Craker

      Seriously! My book club just read “The Blue Castle” (me for the third time). An absolutely luscious, hidden gem. Emily, too. (We are reading that one next!)

  • Rina Fradette

    I am a die hard purist. I love the books. I have read the entire series at least once a year since for 30 years!! I have cringed at so many liberties being taken with this version. My husband keeps asking me why I insist on watching it. All I can say is it is a compelling version but very much separate from the books. They are two different things. If I compare then I hate this series. If I don’t compare I can enjoy them both. I am sad to see the amount of innocence taken out of the story with this version. Why do people think classics need updating? They’re classics for a reason. The girl playing Anne is brilliant which is one reason I keep watching. And of course Jasper Dale as Matthew is a stroke of genuis! I wish that they would dial it down a bit but it is what it is. My almost 6 year old is obsessed with the first book right now. I was hoping to share this show with her but that isn’t going to happen for a long time.

    • Yeah, I’m holding my kids back on this one until they grow into it a bit.

  • I recently re-read the Anne books thanks to a Modern Mrs. Darcy list for books by Meyers-Briggs type. (#INFPforlyfe) I was amazed by how much l loved the wisdom of Anne’s story, how much I long for a community and place as strong as Avonlea, then struck by the fact of Anne’s trauma and subsequent inattentive-type ADD qualities. I thought of what a shrewd observer Montgomery was to pick this up long before it was a clinical diagnosis. (A quality Mark Twain also admired in her, as he employed it himself for Huck Finn)

    I think you are absolutely right, Montgomery’s original readers knew this back story only too well. We are the sheltered ones who idealize.

    I’m going to look forward to watching!

    • I think that’s part of why Mark Twain liked the book so much. He wasn’t into saccharine stories and he saw the reality under the poetic descriptions of sunsets, too. Anne has been to dismissed as solely one-note children’s literature for too long.

  • Emilie Bishop

    Yes to all of this. I always believed my childhood devotion to all things L M Montgomery (and Kevin Sullivan’s adaptations, no matter how poorly Road to Avonlea jumped the shark) implanted my desire to be a writer. It took a long time to realize they probably also made me want to adopt at least some of my children. I wanted to be Anne’s bosom friend as a girl, but I also wanted to be her mom on some level. And after miscarrying my first pregnancy, re-reading Anne’s tragic loss of her firstborn was also eye-opening. The people who told her it was just God’s will or whatnot–who among us hasn’t lost someone or something immeasurably dear only to be “comforted” like that? And the different ways she relates to each of her subsequent kids is so very true too. Loss, illness, etc, will do things to you that you can’t anticipate.

    Anyway, love your review and I’ll watch when it’s available in the US…after telling my husband just this morning how nothing could compare to Kevin Sullivan’s version!

    • Well, it doesn’t compare to that version – it’s a totally different adaptation. But I think we can enjoy each one for what they are to us. I’m still devoted to the 1985 version but this one is vital, I think.

  • Sarah M

    Okay you’ve got me hook, line, and sinker. And thanks for the bit about the kid-rating. I was going to let my young kids watch it but…another time. 🙂

  • Kendra Faiers Edwards

    I loved Anne deeply as a child. I was inspired by, and in awe of how she saw the world. Now as an adult, and someone who has adopted several kiddos, I have seen, how many people think our kids experience is similar to Anne’s. A few bumps along the way but quickly finding her place, and thriving. I really appreciate your perspective on this new series and I am definitely going to watch it. When children have really experienced grief, trama, abandonment and rejection, it is not easy. The behaviour is very raw, very dark, lonely, inappropriate, and angry sometimes.

    • Exactly. And I think that was there in the novel all along but we just didn’t identify it because it was handled within the context quietly. But it’s there and this series doesn’t bury that. So I found it refreshing and more honest.

    • Krista Jo Miller

      Kendra, yes! Today is my first chance to start watching it (hooray for summer!); I was sobbing at 20 minutes into the first episode. I, too, am a foster/adoptive mom, and I was sobbing because I felt they had managed to capture the trauma (in little snippets and without being too graphic) that a child like Anne would actually have experienced, and her devices to cope (I have a make Anne in my house.) And the managed to capture the adults’ complete bewilderment at how to interact with this child.

      What’s more, I think this was part of their purpose in retelling this story. If the rest of the series is as Sarah describes it, I will know it for sure. And their willingness to tell that story made me weep.

      My kids have seen the Kevin Sullivan version, and I’m with Sarah that – for now – we’ll stay with that. They need to see stories that show mostly good, because, Lord knows, they’ve been exposed to the bad already.

      But, someday when we think they’re ready, we’ll show them this version, because they also need to know that people see all of them, the beautiful parts and the broken parts, and love all of it and make space in their lives for all of it.

  • I appreciate your perspective. You speak of us being more grown up now, but lots of us will want out kids to enjoy our love for Anne. Which version would you want your daughter to watch?

    • If you check the Note at the bottom of the post, you’ll see that I’m not letting my own children watch it just yet.

      • Randi Chance

        As a lifelong fan of L.M. Montgomery, I’m intrigued by everything you have said about the depth of this version, and I’m sure I will watch it. But it does seem to me a shame that the producers made a version of this children’s classic that is more appropriate for adult fans than for actual children.

        • Jane

          Yes, it would have been wonderful to share a mini-series of Anne with my daughters, but it will have to be Megan Followes, until someone makes a version true to the text, so that our children can enjoy it too!

  • Linda Thomas

    Bravo! Your childhood experiences with the Anne books parallels mine, so your post was a delicious read. Four generations of women in our family have read and cherished all the Anne books and yes, I have a daughter who is Anne with an E. And I have a granddaughter who is Anne with an E. I’ll read your post again and share it with others. Many thanks.

  • Tasha Moon

    Thanks for the review! I’ve been trying to decide whether to watch it or not, as I too am highly sensitive. This post has convinced me that it’s worth watching. Any tips for coping with the heartbreaking bits?

    • Vaudree

      Anne can be a superhero of sorts but her kriptonite is the feeling of not belonging and not being accepted for herself as herself. She wants people to like her just the way she is. That doesn’t happen right away. Her lowest point is when her initial attempt at school doesn’t go well for her because there are so many girl code rules that she knows nothing about and she doesn’t want anything to do with reality any more, but she snaps out of it and tries again with much more success. If you skip over the second episode, you will miss the breaking the slate over Gilbert’s head scene. But the episode after that is about, in part, Anne getting the courage to face school again and Diana getting the courage to stand up for Anne rather than “try to smooth things over”.

      Knowing that most of the heartbreaking parts are temporary and things get better ahead of time helps – even if you don’t know how things get better. Things don’t get better for John Blythe, and knowing that ahead of time will also help you prepare for that. Anne realises that her past at the Hammonds helps ready her to be the super hero she eventually becomes.

      Agree, it was a very good review.

  • HeiQ

    I have loved LM Montgomery’s writings for a long time, and the older I get, the more I love them. I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time when I was grade 3 and didn’t really get it. Then I got the whole series as a Christmas gift sometime in between grades 6 and 8, and I fell in love and read as much of her as I could get my hands on after that. I longed to be “of the tribe of Joseph” with Anne for a long time. I’m sure that a lot of who I am has been shaped by various characters, and the ideals and virtues they espouse, which I still believe to be good and true. I love that her writings are not sordid, but to me at least, her writings aren’t artificial either (though, of course, it’s not all equally good). She touches on hard subjects like despair and sorrow, lost time and wasted years, forgiveness and redemption, life and death.

    I love what you had to say about Anne’s upbringing as an orphan. I had never really thought about it like that before, but it rings true. I’ll have to give this show a try. I am very very picky when it comes to film and show adaptions, to the point that I refuse to watch adaptations most of the time because they just ruin the way I imagined the stories and characters to be in my head as I was reading. For example, I’ve only ever seen one Harry Potter movie. I hated the Kevin Sullivan version… it was too frilly somehow, and Megan Follows just wasn’t how I pictured Anne at all. I always hated the scene where she talks about her nose as her best feature, because I just didn’t think her nose was nice enough, lol! (Sorry, Megan)!

    I also just realized the other day after reading your post for the first time that two of my sons have names from her books as well… Felix and Walter. Neither was intentionally named after the characters, but both were probably subconsciously influenced by them!

    • Valerie

      HeiQ, I love your comment!…we haven’t seen the Narnia movies for the same reason.

      I was thinking the other day about the Austen vs Montgomery adaptation comparison, or even Shakespeare, etc. And I guess the reason why it doesn’t feel the same to me is that Anne (and companions) are knit into who I am from pre-adolescence onward and feel like real, settled people to me, and I hate when words are put into their mouths even if those words are trying to get at the “spirit.”

      To me the Sullivan series was more about the landscape of PEI, and maybe I would be more open to this new series if I thought about it in terms of being about the time period. But Montgomery wrote with restraint because she was of her time—so putting all the brutality back in feels too modern to me. And it’s not like Montgomery didn’t know about living the dark stuff…she just chose to write about the joy through and beyond it.

      As a foster mom, I find the neediness of Anne in the books (and in troubled modern kids) is apparent without her having to spell it out. In fact, it is more realistic for trauma to be under the surface and come out in ways that are not immediately identifiable as trauma-related. For the most part, kids who have intense needs because of abuse/neglect have learned not to ask outright for help, even if they knew what to ask for. The bit of the first episode I watched had Anne darkly commenting about how nobody wants her to Matthew as soon as they met. It’s not faithful to the book, and I don’t find it realistic either. This approach feels voyeuristic to me…like “Anne Shirley: the REAL story.” When actually one of the greatest strengths of Anne is that she is able to point us to the enchanting beauty all around us that we hadn’t noticed before.

      I’d much prefer an “L.M.Mongomery: the REAL story” series because it would be grounded in reality instead of a reworked idea of what a beloved fictional character might be like if saddled with modern armchair diagnoses. And the places where we don’t know could be left ambiguous, just like in real life. I have wondered what made Montgomery focus on goodness and light so often in her writings despite her experiences. She didn’t whitewash the darkness, but she didn’t wallow in it either. And in the stories where it is present, there tends to be a plot point to the despair: Emily’s interminable longing, the beautiful cruelty of the sea, the bitterness of family strife, the horror of war. Green Gables is not those stories.

      Has anyone that has grown up with Anne felt a shift through the years? I used to identify with her so strongly, but was surprised by how much I have come to identify with and admire Marilla as I get older. I suspect by my twilight years I’ll be 100% curmudgeon. 🙂

  • I binged the whole series over the weekend, and I agree wholeheartedly. This new adaptation gives a depth and complexity to the characters and to Anne’s history that sometimes gets lost. Given the time period that the books were written in, I think there were many things that were glossed over or written between the lines that would have been inappropriate to write about 100 years ago, but added a realness to the series in 2017. I loved the new series… until the last episode. I won’t give away any spoilers, but the drama of episode 7 I think was a bigger departure than I was ready for. I do look forward to more episodes, and discussing the series further once it becomes more widely available.

  • Crystal Frost

    Hello! I didn’t grow up with Anne, but watched the movies as an adult, but I was wondering if you have an audio book version you recommend? For my daughter who reminds me of Anne so much, but can’t read as yet. There are so many versions out there and I am overwhelmed for choice!

  • Laura M.

    You have now convinced me to watch this. I am a purist also, and was going to take a pass, but am definitely going to try and watch this now. Do you know if it will be on Netflix Canada also, or just in the States? We don’t have cable, so watching it on the CBC isn’t an option for me.

  • Tiffany Norris

    I can’t wait to see this! We are leaning hard toward Anne for our third little girl that is due in a few months. Lots of reasons, but I have happened to be reading both the Anne series and a great deal of Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s writing throughout this pregnancy.

    It is, indeed, a different series than I remember from reading it back in the 80s, but I love it just as much–just in a different way!

  • Ruth

    I think you may be my long lost best friend…I agreed with everything 🙂 great article!

  • Cynthia Changstein

    Anne. She drew my daughter in. (We adopted her around 8 years old.) My daughter, who has trouble trusting, loving, attaching. Who held her books for hours, UPSIDE DOWN, trying to fool us into thinking she was reading. I finally bought her a copy of Anne of Green Gables (in pink, fave color) and told her that it was my favorite book (told her when I was her age, didn’t mention the ‘still’). Got the side-eye for my trouble, but she suspiciously took it between thumb & forefinger, only because it was pink. She broke down & read out of sheer boredom. Burst out of her room all agog with excitement. “Anne’s an orphan, just like me! And she loves to yap, just like me! I love this book. I’m finished it. Says at the front that there’s more. Can we buy them? Cuz they’re my favorite.’ And she hasn’t stopped reading since. The Anne books are among her most precious possessions, and she will tell you that they started her love affair with books.

    • gapaul

      This may have made my day. Thank you.

  • Bev Murrill

    This is a really helpful review; thanks Sarah. I, like so many, loved Anne… Canada is so different from Australia, but I got the point. and I have always been so irritated by the miniseries you mentioned… Anne of GG was good but honestly, who would take a baby they’d been tasked with caring, INTO the war zone… or go madly looking for their husband there… especially, as you so rightly pointed out, that the war was where she lost her beautiful son…

    It’s just come out in Australia yesterday and I am impressed – by the cinematography, but the astonishing opening credits, and by Anne herself. I agree that this one is far more like Anne would have been when she arrived… and good on her, she’s a great actress! So, frustrated as I am by the talk regarding Prissy and the teacher, and of Anne refusing to come back home and Matthew going through all that to find her … I still really like the series. It’s aimed at 21st century people, so 21st century conversations, set in a 19th century context, works somehow.

    And I have been reading the original series onto my iPad for my grandchildren to listen to…

  • Jane

    I agree that there is a terrible back story to Anne’s history that is in the books, but not developed in past adaptations. I think it is worthy to tell that story. It is not hidden in the books, just not described blow-by-blow the way modern books scream out everything. I have not seen this adaptation, and I might get round to it one day, but my concerns are not the horrors of Anne’s past (I read the books properly. I know about it. It was awful). But the way the new adaptation changes Marilla, Matthew and dramatises the story – sending Anne away from Green Gables? Marilla was not capable of that. Matthew does not have a love interest. I loved Megan Follows and the first two (not the third, could never bring myself to finish watching that). But the reason the third one was so terrible is because they did start to veer off from the source material. I would LOVE a real adaptation that followed the books as closely as possible – we could have hours of Anne to watch and enjoy if it was done properly! And the reason the bbc version of Pride and Prejudice with Colin Firth is so popular, is because is is (mostly) true ti the text and the characters – something that this Anne Version does not appear to have done. So, I’m still waiting for the best adaptation possible, as it won’t be this one. It would be nice if it was done in my lifetime (that, and Georgette Heyer novels brought to the screen!)… until then, my imagination will suffice!

  • Kristin Reil

    I am not a purest. However the joy and pleasure of the series is what I’ve always loved. The lessons of what kindness can do is lost. The shear delight of a girl who keeps her soul together despite early hardship , with courage and joy , was a wonderful story.
    When people claim this is newand fresh , I always consider how untalented you’d have to be to not be able to create a real new story but to ” base” it on a well loved story. Maybe you like it. But it’s not Anne of Green Gables. It lacks the spirit of the books.
    I enjoy books an entertainment for pleasure or peace or even to learn something. I can’t find any of this in this hacked version. I don’t expect

  • Kristin Reil

    It was a children’s book so naturally the darkness was implied not bluntly written, that goes without saying. I disagree with you for claiming it’s closer to the books. It’s further from the books with all the embellishments added. I do think the actors are good and I can’t blame them for the weird and useless twists. Also physically the actress playing Anne is spot on. I’m not a purest. But the joy and wonder is missing. Anne was amazing because she kept her soul and basic goodness despite a lot of hardship. And I always loved her for it. I’m not a fan of this version so far. Two episodes and I have not enjoyed it yet, although there are glimpses of Anne now and again. She’s really not there much.

  • I’m a new Anne fan, having just started reading the books last year, and I have yet to see the Megan Follows movies, so I felt I went into this very open. I can agree with you on your points for episodes 1-5, but they lost me after that. In episode 6 when Gilbert’s character changes because he becomes an orphan, it just felt wrong. But maybe I could have lived with that if it wasn’t for episode 7, because with Matthew… that didn’t feel like Matthew AT ALL. That’s when it felt like they were going too far into the deep end for shock value. When so much of it beforehand was understandable, that was not, in my opinion. It ended up kind of ruining the whole thing for me, for the most part. I definitely still appreciate parts of the series and thought it was amazingly cast and acted, but feel sad they felt they needed to keep pushing the envelope.

  • Ann Fraser

    I wasn’t going to watch this new series because I couldn’t bear to see my beloved Anne diminished in any way. Because of your comments I have begun to watch. I’m two episodes in and I’m so glad and relieved. Yes, I agree this series captures Anne’s hunger and longing and it touches me deeply. I continue to forever regret that I am Ann without an e.

  • Grace Cabalka

    We brought home an abandoned, abused, broken little boy from an orphanage in Romania in 1992. He was sweet and longing for love, although unable to fully embrace it because of trauma and deep wounding. He had horrible nightmares and I’m sure still suffers flashbacks at certain triggers. I wish this series had been around then. It would’ve helped us “see” what he felt. He’s a good, kind man now, but not the fairy tale. I continue to pray he will someday experience in his soul the deep love of the Father and the imperfect love of his earthly family. Thank you for your review Sarah.

  • As a person who struggles with PTSD, I just thought I’d add another perspective. The “Anne with an E” series was very difficult for me… I kept hoping it would get better, but it was extremely triggering for me. There were so many flashbacks of disturbing situations, and every single episode had a pretty major trauma (running away, house fire, extreme bullying physically and verbally, child molestation, violence, near death experience, death of a parent, extreme financial hardship, attempted suicide, etc.) It just seemed to get more and more hopeless, and then they left off with two violent robbers renting rooms in their home. Are they going to be raping Anne and further traumatizing her next season? It made me sad that there weren’t really any characters save for Diana, that really had Anne’s back. Marilla was cold and mean, Matthew tried to kill himself, Gilbert was consumed by his own grief, the teacher was awful, the minister was an idiot and didn’t have a kind wife to welcome her, the students were all bullies, and the community at large rejected and slandered her. I understanding bringing more realism to a story, but this is a reality without any lightness or hope. I wouldn’t recommend it for anyone who struggles with depression, anxiety or PTSD, and especially foster kids who could be badly triggered by this content. Please use caution.

  • Pippa Vincent

    This is totally what I would have written if I could write as well as you. I am an Anne purist through and through (my second daughter would have been Cordelia though rather than Anne) but am loving this new series. I have a 14 year old daughter who has never liked AoGG and who started watching the first episode with me with eyes rolling but who is now hooked. And not only that, she has started reading and loving the books (she’s a great reader, currently mostly in love with Mr Darcy having read P and P 7 times so far this year!). We were in the car for an hour or so yesterday and I asked her what made her warm to the books now. “I never liked Anne. I couldn’t understand what made her so weird and intense and desperate for kindred spirits. She’s so intense; I didn’t get why anyone would be like that. Now I understand where she’s coming from, I understand her. And now I understand her, I like her”. I think that’s a great advert for the series. (She also says she feels she may have judged Jane Eyre unfairly – “maybe she’s wimpy because of what she’s been through before. I might need to re-read that and see”!!)

  • LOz

    The review in the New Yorker made me think twice about watching this, but happily I ignored that and enjoyed the series very much. I think the casting was spot-on perfect in every way, and I enjoyed the insights into the younger lives of Marilla and Matthew. Only thing I didn’t like was the music during the opening but everything else – great! (I also loved the Megan version. You can love both!)

  • Marie-Therese Hernon

    Thank you for the show recommendation, Sarah, and also for the story about how you named your first child. Like you, I avoided the Top Ten List. My firstborn is Margaret. We call her Maggie.

  • DawnofHeather

    I think what is so fascinating, and revealing, about the reaction to this series is how it uncovers so many subtle notions in our Western culture, things we often unconsciously approve. If you’re good/moral/kind, good things happen to you. If you work hard, your life will get better/you’ll get the things you want. If you put the past behind you, you will feel fine. So many of these have been projected onto AoGG, it’s sadly ironic. The story (and this adaptation, particularly) really shows the hollowness, even the cruelty, such notions effect when applied to people who, largely due to uncontrollable circumstance, experience tragedy and hardship.

    Also, the story isn’t JUST about the good Green Gables offered to Anne, as if it as its people were the only beneficent characters (because they were upstanding, moral citizens from good families). Obviously Anne had much generosity to offer, along with a fresh perspective, and is often in the role of teaching others as opposed to solely being taught. It is a mutual learning, which is often the case in life. Anne is open-hearted, which is AMAZING given her story, and still desires to trust and love, whereas the community of GG, even though they have all the things she never did, need to be taught how to open their hearts generously, and find joy and magic in simple things like trees and flowers.

    I think the nerve this version is really hitting, though, is our utter loss at how to deal with childhood trauma–our own or others’. We want to think no child can be harmed in such horrible ways, we want to believe they don’t remember it, we want to forget our own trauma, and are horrified at how quickly rage rises in ourselves at our own children. And this isn’t even toward children necessarily–it can be applied culturally toward minority cultures, or the poor, or addicts, etc, any power structure, really. We want to believe the past is the past and does not affect us, or is something that can be cut off somehow or forgotten. We have difficulty finding a narrative that integrates horrible realities of the past (or even present) with what we know is right and good and just. To have a story of Anne, who has been nearly “Pollyanna-ed” over the years, that actually gives context for who she is, and stares that hard reality in the face, is startling and SHOULD be–may we never shrug our shoulders at abuse–but it need not shut us down or cause us to reject it out of hand. We can ask the question, what does she have to yet teach US, one hundred years after her entry into the world of fiction?

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