Lucy Montgomery Saved by the Imagination

Anne of Green Gables

by Lucy Maud Montgomery

Translated from English (Canada) by Hélène Charrier

Monsieur Toussaint Louverture, 384 p., € 16.50

From Cosette to Heidi, from Pippi Longstocking to the Little Princess of Frances H. Burnett, literature loves orphans. This line of courageous children, which Harry Potter naturally fell into, includes a Canadian heroine, Anne Shirley, whose tongue-in-cheek and unwavering optimism have enchanted generations of readers since its release in Canada in 1908 – the novel had previously been translated into French under the title Anne and happiness and Anne: the house of green gables.

Anne was endowed by her creator Lucy Maud Montgomery with a superpower, the imagination. A real shield, a force that preserves and saves. The Canadian writer (1874-1942) thus romances her own story. So here’s a skinny little redhead about ten years old mistakenly sent from the orphanage to Green Gables, owned by Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert. The elderly, childless brother and sister had asked for a boy to help them run their farm, located in Avonlea, Prince Edward Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Lively and romantic, Anne Shirley manages, in a dizzying flow of words, to escape being sent back to the orphanage. His first exchanges with Matthew Cuthbert who immediately became his “soul mate” crackle with humor. Pages of the girl’s feverish monologues follow one another at a frenetic pace, to which the shy farmer responds “Uh, well I don’t know”, just enough time to let her catch her breath and argue harder. “It’s such a relief to be able to speak when you want and not hear yourself say that children should be as good as pictures. “

From this masterly beginning, Lucy Maud Montgomery holds her reader. After Anne of Green Gables which will sell more than 60 million copies, she will write twenty novels, more than 500 short stories, poetry, essays, becoming the most read Canadian author in the world, adapted for the cinema, in musical comedy, in series .

His description of a small rural community at the beginning of the last century, with its patron ladies, its school, its farmers, the pastor and his wife, the teacher, is a colorful delight. Children divide their time between study, catechism, games in the fields, theatrical evenings and picnics. Most of the chronicle of their quarrels and friendships is humor.

An Eden comes to life under the pen of Lucy Maud Montgomery when she celebrates the Canadian island where she lived as a child with her grandparents. “The light was filtered by so many emerald veils that it became as pure as the heart of a diamond (…) There was still in the air a delicious spicy smell, the song of the birds and the murmurs and the laughter of the forest wind in the branches of the trees. ” Anne Shirley makes her voice heard, says her love of books, of nature, of life. Always saved by the imagination, she is his paper double.

The talkative and determined young heroine creates immediate enthusiasm. “Anne Shirley is the most endearing, touching and delicious child since the immortal Alice”, then rejoices Mark Twain. It arouses a lasting attachment. ” Anne’s own genius is not the Angel of realism and his greyish colors, but this little god with the colors of the rainbow and the wings of doves, that of the desire of the heart ”, Margaret Atwood later wrote. For the novelist who discovered the book at 8, Anne of Green Gables is the triumph of hope ”.

But like its creator, the girl constantly oscillates between the wildest dreams and the pangs of despair. The feminist and passionate writer has sublimated her personal story through Anne, consoling herself for her triumphs. The girl will win all hearts, and especially that of Marilla, austere but loving mother figure, while the novelist who lost her mother at 2 years old did not have the same luck.

Fiction, more beautiful and more powerful than reality, magnifies it. The shadows of anxiety will haunt the last years of the life of Lucy Maud Montgomery, wife and mother who is most appeased to read and write. Anne, she vigorously pushes back these concerns. The girl from Green Gables is ready to “Love everything” of this world, smashing her schoolgirl slate on the head of the boy who laughed at her, dyeing her hair green, saving a baby’s life, winning the top prizes in the school, to walk to the top of the roof to prove his bravery, “Weaving its dreams of the future with the golden veil of a youth full of optimism”.


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