Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
“Will you please call me Cordelia?”
“Call you Cordelia! Is that your name?”
“No-o-o, it’s not exactly my name, but I would love to be called Cordelia…”
Who didn’t wish for a more exciting name when they were young? Maybe you still do! I remember really wishing I’d been called Stephanie. Just as well my parents had other ideas, it wouldn’t have suited me. (Or maybe I’d have done that weird morphing thing where you end up growing into your name – what on earth would I be like now if I’d been Stephanie rather than Angela? I’d probably power dress and wear more makeup!)
Red-headed Anne is not the orphan boy that Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert are expecting to help on their farm. When we first meet her she’s waiting on a deserted railway platform but before anyone can explain the mistake, she gets in first:
“I’m very glad to see you. I was beginning to be afraid that you weren’t coming for me… I had made up my mind that if you didn’t come for me tonight I’d go down the track to that big wild cherry tree at the bend, and climb up into it to stay all night…. It would be lovely to sleep in a wild cherry tree all white with bloom in the moonshine, don’t you think?”
What an introduction. We get that she’s gutsy and that when things don’t go to plan, not only does she come up with an alternative, she comes up with one that she prefers.
Poor Matthew Cuthbert is no match for all these words and by the time they have an opportunity to send her back, he’s so charmed by this talkative waif that instead we get to watch her grow up on Prince Edward Island in Nova Scotia in the early 20th Century, working her way into the hearts of the community by trial and error.
I didn’t become aware of these books until in my teens when I saw the TV mini-series starring Megan Follows and Richard Farnsworth (who played Matthew Cuthbert). I loved that series, watched it over and over, and then naturally came across the books.
Anne was someone I would have liked to have been (in that era obviously – it would have been a bit difficult in 1980’s Devon, although I guess shoulder pads could have come a close second to puffed sleeves). Having had a bit of a tomboy-ish childhood, I’d have looked up to Anne for her gutsy determination and stubbornness. Admittedly I would have backed down at most of the things she got up to, but that’s why I’m the writer and she’s the character. (I would have managed the mess-ups well enough though).
You may think that Anne of Green Gables seems like a trite start for an AtoZ of characters, but lets think about it for a minute. Anne wanted to be a writer, she was a dreamer, words were important to her and she always dreamed that there was something more out there. What writer wouldn’t empathise with that?
She introduced me to poems such as The Lady of Shallott and The Highwayman, as well as the basic advice every writer learns at some point; to write what you know and use less flowery language. Anne loves words and uses them with a vengeance, but finds out the hard way (like many of us), that less is often more.
But she also has some excellent advice for a writer; “When you are imagining, you may as well imagine something worth while.”
Who would your ‘A’ character have been? Would Anne have been in the running for you?