Anne of Green Gables by Mariah Marsden, Brenna Thummler

Anne of Green Gables was ripe for a contemporary graphic novel translation: the beloved story of a plucky young orphan growing up in Prince Edward Island in Canada is a beloved classic to many. Those watching the 2017 Netflex show likely believe Anne is a story of a young girl who is psychotic from mistreatment in her youth and having ‘episodes’ that fuel her imagination (AKA multiple personality disorder). But Montgomery’s book was not about the bad in life so much as the very good: it’s a story of hope and imagination – something this graphic novel gets right. Author and illustrator condense quite a bit to make the story fit and perhaps in doing so, lose quite a bit of the story. So I recommend this as a companion to the origin book rather than as a stand alone for those who have not read of Anne’s adventures.

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Story: When elderly siblings Mathew and Marilla Cuthberg request a boy from the orphanage to help with Mathew’s farming, they are surprised to find a scrawny, red haired, but very precocious Anne waiting at the train station. Mathew is taken with the young girl and her flights of fancy yet Marilla isn’t easily convinced. But chance affords them the opportunity to keep her anyway – and Anne’s life in the small Canadian town begins.

Most of the key Anne scenes are there: the locket, the green hair, Gilbert and the pier rescue, etc. But there really isn’t enough time in the translation to give us reasons why things happen as they do. When Anne brains Gilbert with the slate, for example, it feels very sudden if one didn’t understand Anne’s image problems. Similarly, the blow up with Rachel at the beginning is very abrupt. Character relationships outside of Diana are also similarly excluded – few of the girls at the school are mentioned at all. So we lose the conflict with Josie Pye and the bullying from the girls.

I hadn’t read the books recently so I had to jog my memory at several scenes to understand the context. If anything, Anne seems to be living a very happy and not very troubled life with all the small incidents cut out – I would have been wondering what all the fuss was about when Anne doesn’t do much in the graphic novel except talk with people. The translation is best described as vignettes – concentrating on certain scenes which don’t allow enough room for subtle context.

The art style reminded me a lot of the TV series Daria – circular eyes with no pupils, potato faces and bodies, and very odd squiggles for noses (all nostrils, oddly). I can’t say that I really liked the illustration work and I honestly felt it let down the story telling quite a bit. It lacked character emotion and nuances that would have helped fill in the greatly needed context. Prince Edward Island is very windswept and open but has a unique beauty that I just don’t believe the illustrations captured enough.

In all, this is a nice companion book – a way to see the story you just read illustrated (or to remind you of the great scenes in the book). But as a stand alone, I think many will be left wondering why Anne of Green Gables is so Beloved. Reviewed from an advance reader copy provided by the publisher.

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