I have been a fan of Anne of Green Gables since I was 10 years old. I watched the original airing of the classic 1985 miniseries when it was shown on PBS one hour at a time and eagerly awaited the 1987 sequel (I’ve watched some of the more recent versions, but they just haven’t compared!). I’ve seen them many times since and recently introduced my eight year old daughter to the magic that is Anne (thankfully she loved the shows). I’ve read every book in the series. I’ve even visited Prince Edward Island and soaked up all things Anne and Lucy Maud Montgomery. As a result, when I saw the new book, Marilla of Green Gables by Sarah McCoy, I knew this was one I had to read.
I so wanted to love this book, and in many ways it was like visiting old friends. It focuses on brother and sister Marilla and Matthew (who would adopt Anne as adults) when they were young. It focuses on Marilla’s friendship with Rachel White (later to be Rachel Lynde) as well as her failed relationship with John Blythe.
It is always a challenge to take on a classic and McCoy gives a valiant effort. She admits she is not Lucy Maud Montgomery and that she writes “from a place of grateful reverence to a fictional landscape that has given me much scope for imagination.”
As I read the story, I couldn’t help but read Marilla’s words in Colleen Dewhurst’s voice, Matthew’s in Richard Farnsworth’s, and Rachel’s in Patricia Hamilton’s (the actor and actresses from the 1985 and 1987 versions). Rachel’s character was particularly well done! You can really see the roots of the opinionated busy-body older lady she would become.
And yet, Marilla and John Blythe’s teenage relationship left me disappointed. While I realize teenagers and their longings haven’t changed much over the years, it seems a stretch to imagine prim and proper Marilla sneaking off to share passionate kisses with John. In addition, shy Matthew is shown having loved and lost despite his telling Anne later on that he never went courting.
Despite these criticisms, it is clear McCoy loves these characters and there was much to enjoy about Marilla of Green Gables. I was thankful for the opportunity to revisit a fictional world that has meant so much to me in my life.