Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson Book Review

Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
Publisher: Putnam Adult
Release Date: February 21, 2008

In this prequel to Anne of Green Gables, we journey back to meet Anne's parents, traveling with Anne until the moments right before she meets the Cuthberts.

Anne Shirley and I are kindred spirits. If we ever met in real life we would either get along famously or drive each other bonkers with all our talking. When I discovered her, I found someone else who hated her red hair, got in trouble often, talked insistently, had a rampant imagination, and loved to read. She was me, despite the orphan bit and living over a hundred years ago.

This book was terrible. Really, really terrible. I don't usually post reviews for books that were this terrible, but sometimes a girl just has to rant. Especially when the prequel involves one of my favorite characters in all of literature.

Imagine my surprise when in the prequel Anne turns out to be this adorable, sweet, kind, lovable, darling who never does anything wrong and just gets the rough end of the stick. Her anger issues which cause her all sorts of problems in Montgomery's series are non-existent with Wilson's Anne. In the entire book she only loses her cool once and even then it isn't much. Anne is talkative, but not like she was in the original series. Compared to my Anne, this tiny red-haired angel is fairly quiet. It made me sad that the parents Wilson created were absolutely nothing like Anne herself in either story. I know that some things aren't all nature, but it is amazing the traits that a person can carry over from her parents. Then again, Anne is so terribly angelic, that I guess she was a lot like the mother in this story. But Original Anne is nothing like them. Nothing.

It's not like Montgomery didn't provide plenty of information about Anne's former life. From the series we learn that although Anne grew up multiple homes with a couple sets of twins, was in and out of orphanages, had little religious education, read well but was behind in school, and lived in a bit of an imagined dream state as a means of survival. Her imagination, her books, were the things that gave her hope, but we are also aware that Original Anne must have had moments of love otherwise she would have been a much more broken child then she was when introduced in the series.

As if this wasn't enough, the writing itself suffered from much telling and very little showing. At every turn instead of letting us see moments in Anne's life, we instead get rambling exposition from a six-year-old talking to herself in a window. There is also the constant commentary on poverty and how it makes people into monsters, particularly to children who aren't theirs. Then there are the constant historical inaccuracies that of course did not exist in the original. It kind of felt like the story was set in the 1950s or something, given the way some of the language was. All in all I was left wondering if they author even read the original series or if she had just watched some of the badly done cartoons as her inspiration. Such a shame for such a promising premise.