WARNING: Reading this article may give away things in the stories ranging from unimportant to plot turners.
Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson
Type: Historical Fiction, Prequel
Basic Plot: It is a prequel to Anne of Green Gables. Anne’s different homes, her temporary “families,” and her education are imagined and explained beyond Anne’s few paragraphs in Anne of Green Gables.
Plot: 3½/5 Above Average: The plot starts with Anne’s mother becoming pregnant and tells about the life of Anne and the others around her until she gets adopted. It tells about the places Anne said she lived in that were mentioned in Anne of Green Gables and all of the detail is given. There is a lot more added than what was said by Anne, of course, but there was only one think that I believe she forgot to put. In Anne of Green Gables, Anne says she does not pray because Mrs. Thomas had told her it was God’s fault she had red hair. In the book Before Green Gables, Anne gives up praying because she believes God does not answer her prayers whenever she asks Him something. Otherwise it was very faithful to even small details.
Writing Style and Setup: 4/5 Well Done: If you are expecting it to be like Lucy Maud Montgomery’s books you will be disappointed, but it was still well written. I think I actually prefer when an author uses their own style rather than try to copy the original series creator, because even when they try to copy it, it will not be the same. In the end it will probably sound awkward and fake. The style was descriptive (and sometimes a bit over descriptive), as well as having the same kind of cozy feel you get from looking at a picture of a country kitchen.
One of the things I liked that she did with the characters was that the characters were neither perfect, yet still had a conscience. Many books have the antagonist cast as evil, heartless people, even when the character is merely that mean teenage girl in school. In this book the people that did hurtful things had a desire to do well and sometimes did do well, but in the end they gave in to temptation or bad choices. People’s motives and desires are made more known, so that there is more reason to a boy being a bully besides the fact that he just is one.
Moral: 3/5 A Good Moral: The book had the moral that even if things are horrible, there are some positive things to look for. Anne had a lot of sad things in her life, but she still was usually able to be happy about something. On the rare times when she was completely sad she was sometimes reminded that her life would not always be horrible but would improve. This is a good moral. Earth is horrible now, but one day Jesus will return for us and even now we can try to enjoy what God has given us to a degree.
Overall: 3½/5 Above Average: The writing style was very good, but the story without its well done support would collapse if a person who never heard of the series read this. Ms. Wilson was limited because she had to write what Ms. Montgomery laid out. I believe she did a very good job for what she could do, but those limitations make the story less interesting, as the story could not have all the extraordinary things a traditional book in the Anne of Green Gables series. Quality wise I think older preteen, teenage, and adults that enjoy the original series that are girls, will like this best.
Sexual and Inappropriate Content: 2/5 Suggestive: There are references to the menstrual cycle. A woman lightly hints that her husband is only romantically affectionate when they are having physical relations. It mentions how several mothers breastfeed, though there is nothing in detail. A woman hides money in her corset. Some angels clothing is described as being revealing.
Violence: 2½/5 A Lot of Light or Slightly Mild Violence: It is mentioned that a man once shot a calf. A woman smacks a child’s hand. A woman hears violence going on in a house. A man breaks some glass. A man hits his wife several times when he is drunk. Sometimes it is mentioned, sometimes it is shown happening. It also mentions he hit his son. As a result one his children are violent and wrestle, hit each other, throw things at Anne, and it mentions they have hit her. Anne is afraid once when he is drunk he will hit her with a hammer. He doesn’t. He does hit a table with his hammer. Anne is aware that a boy is physically stronger than her and that he could attack her if she provoked him. A man is hit by a train and dies. There is a snowball fight. A woman asks her daughter if her boyfriend is physically abusive. A boy is afraid that Anne may be violent if provoked and throw things. Anne imagines various violent ways some orphans’ parents may have died. Things in the book, including Anne’s home are described as “violent” and descriptions that include violence like “bloody war,” “murdering,” and “murderous” are used.
Swearing and Using the Lord’s Name in Vain: 2/5 Some Swearing: “Gee” is used once. “Bloody” is misused twice. Forms of “damn” are misused three times. “Hell” is misused twice. God’s name is misused three times. It mentions swearing though it is not said what words it was. Considering the size of the book though, (nearly four hundred pages) it was not very much swearing.
Emotional, Intense, and Disturbing Content: 2/5 Emotional Content: A lot of people either die or it mentions them having died in the past. This could be by disease, a weak heart, or an accident. A little boy gets outside in a snowstorm and almost dies. A woman in the book goes through depression and shock from having a lot of children in a short time. This increases when her husband dies.
Religious Issues: ½/5 Slightly Suggestive: The book compares the reverence that Anne uses when walking to a woman “as one would a queen or a goddess.” “Reverend” is used to refer to religious leaders no matter the denomination. Anne believes that omens are real. It compares a girl to “a devilish demon,” and Anne imagines her looking like one. When Anne asks a man if angels are real, he implies that they aren’t but that people like to think of them as being so. It mentions Anne’s mom having occasional “visions” about the future.
Magic: 1/5 Slight Reference: Anne imagines and thinks about dragons, fairies, a ghoul, magic, wands, and wizards. “Magic” and “magical” are used to describe things a lot. “Ghostly” and “bewitched” are used to describe things. Anne is sometimes called rude things that have to do with witches such “the witch girl.” No magic is done in the book.
Others: A man in the book is a drunkard and goes through phases of being sober and drunk throughout the book. A man walks in a drunk manner at least once. The book mentions beer, bootleggers, hangovers, rum, and tobacco. A woman asks her daughter if the man she is courting drinks, and Anne asks a woman if her husband does. A little girl wants Anne to someday come to her home to play house and have them be parents of the same children. It describes a girl attempting to make Anne her friend as courting her.
Overall: 2½/5 Almost Child Appropriate: I think it would be more appropriate for teenagers and adults then children. I believe twelve is a good minimum age for the book.