A: Reading Anne

A: Reading Anne

I adored Anne of Green Gables when I was a child. I grew up in Cape Breton, next door to Prince Edward Island, the home of the author L. M. Montgomery and her fictional character. I first read Anne of Green Gables when I was around 10 or 11 years old. I think it was one of my first “big” books that I read. I related to the spunky Anne Shirley who gets sent to live with relatives in P.E.I. A year or two after I read the book, CBC aired the mini-series starring Megan Follows who, in my mind, will remain the definitive Anne Shirley. The CBC did several other series based on the Anne books as Megan Follows grew up, but the first series was the best.

When I was in grade six, my best friend Colleen and I set ourselves the task of reading all of L. M. Montgomery’s books. Our school library had most of them. I don’t think we ever finished all of them, but it kept us busy for months. To be honest, many of the books after Anne of Green Gables became formulaic – following the Anne story arch, but not quite as good.

This past year was the 100th anniversary of the publication of Anne of Green Gables. To commemorate, a Canadian author was chosen (and sanctioned by Montgomery’s descendants) to write a prequel to the Anne books. I haven’t touched it, not wanting to break the spell of this wonderful, although the author did a good job apparently.

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I read The Diary of Anne Frank when I was 12 or 13 years old, roughly the same age as Anne when she wrote her diary. I felt a kinship with her immediately. My mother’s family is from Holland and survived the Nazi occupation. My family isn’t Jewish and didn’t have to go into hiding, but life from 1939 to 1945 was very difficult. They all nearly starved to death during the winter of 1944. While reading Anne’s diary, I was captivated and horrified by her account of living in hiding. I was moved by her wisdom and devastated when I learned at the end of the book that her family had been betrayed and that she had died in a concentration camp just months before the end of the war. A few years ago, I went to Holland and saw her house, although I didn’t wait in line to see inside – something I regret. But the memory of the war is still very much alive in Holland. During my visit, my cousin showed me the identification card that her father had to carry during the Nazi occupation. The card featured a black and white photo of her father and was emblazoned with the swastika and eagle. It was one of the most chilling things I’ve ever seen. The card, like Anne Frank’s diary, is a reminder of just how fragile our freedom can be, and that it must be constantly protected.

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I’ve decided to follow the lead of Writing Under a Pseudonym and Charlott’e Web to work through the alphabet with a series of short memoir pieces, called Alphabet: A History.