SCOTT SIMON, host:
One hundred years ago, Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote a novel about a young orphan named Anne who was sent by mistake to live with a lonely brother and sister who run a farm on Prince Edward Island. The pair had sent for a boy orphan to help them out on the farm. Instead, they got Anne, an outspoken redhead with a knack for getting into mischief.
"Anne of Green of Green Gables" became an instant bestseller, selling 19,000 copies in just the first five months. And this year, in honor of Anne's centennial, the Modern Library has released a special edition of the book. Gwenda Bond joins us. She writes about children and young adult literature, among other subjects, on her blog "Shaken & Stirred." She's at the studios of member station WUKY in Lexington, Kentucky. Ms. Bond, thanks so much for being with us.
Ms. GWENDA BOND (Writer): Thanks for having me.
SIMON: What is there about this book that sets it apart from others? And Anne always has, really.
Ms. BOND: Well, I think that in some ways what L.M. Montgomery managed to do was create the most perfect type of a certain spirited girl. And it was really the first time that we encountered such a character as Anne Shirley, who was so imaginative, was always getting into trouble, and really was set apart by her intelligence more than anything else. And Anne was the first character I ever encountered as a kid that talked as much as I did.
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SIMON: And she gets into misadventures, doesn't she?
Ms. BOND: She does. And that's one of the great things about the book is it almost has a plot that we're not used to seeing anymore, a very picaresque plot where we see Anne get into one scrape after another and always sort of come out of them on the other side, because she meant well and things just go awry.
SIMON: Do you have a favorite misadventure, or a kind of typical one you can cite to us?
Ms. BOND: Absolutely. I would have to say my favorite episode in the book is when she inadvertently gets her friend Diana Barry drunk on what she believes is a cordial, but turns out to be a wine that, you know, has been misplaced. And she's exiled from her best friend for weeks because of this. They can't talk to each other. She sends her home drunk, and her mother is horrified.
And, you know, as a kid growing up in eastern Kentucky in a house with no alcohol whatsoever, you know, I was just completely fascinated by one, the idea that you would have this in your house, and two, getting your best friend drunk just seemed like the worst possible thing that could ever happen.
SIMON: The stories of course, Anne lives on Prince Edward Island, which is where Lucy Maud Montgomery, I gather, was from. Is that part of the charm, too?
Ms. BOND: Absolutely. You know, I think that the beauty that Anne describes of the setting is one of the most charming things about the book, and it certainly influenced my own view of Canada. As a child, I thought Canada was this beautiful, unspoiled paradise, peopled by delightful orphans, you know.
SIMON: Yeah. Just to read a section from the first one, "Anne Of Green Gables," Lucy Maud Montgomery writes, "Spring had come once more to Green Gables, the beautiful, capricious, reluctant Canadian spring lingering along through April and May in a succession of sweet, fresh, chilly days with pink sunsets and miracles of resurrection and growth. That's just a lovely image, isn't it?
Ms. BOND: It is. All the writing in the book is lovely, and particularly the nature setting. One of the great things about Anne is how she interacts with her setting, and how she is constantly disappointed by the real names of places, and is giving them, you know, more elaborate names that actually capture the beauty that she sees in them.
SIMON: Yeah. The genre of young adult fiction now seems to have a lot of fantasy in it as opposed to just fiction, if you please. "Anne Of Green Gables" is something different. So why does it continue to sell so well?
Ms. BOND: I think that in young adult literature now, there's less of a division by, sort of, the type of book. I definitely think that there are young girls out there reading "Anne of Green Gables" and loving it, and also reading the "Harry Potter" books and loving them. And I don't think that there's as much of a dichotomy for children as there is perhaps for us adults.
SIMON: Is there a phrase from Anne that means something to you even today?
Ms. BOND: I would think the one that leaps to mind is really - I think it's in the last chapter after Matthew has died. And she's deciding to stay there. And she says she feels guilty because she still sees all this beauty in the world, and in some ways it becomes more bright to her even in her grief. And there's this great line that says, "Life still called to her with many insistent voices." And I just think that's beautiful.
SIMON: And doesn't she say at the end, "God's in his Heaven, and all was right with the world."
Ms. BOND: That's right. One of the most perfect endings of a book ever. It's almost impossible to imagine what children's literature would be like without this book in its history.
SIMON: Gwenda Bond, whose blog is called "Shaken & Stirred," taking about "Anne of Green Gables." Thanks so much.
Mr. BOND: Thank you.
SIMON: And to read more about "Anne of Green Gables" and her misadventures, you can visit the book section of npr.org.
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