A creative literary adaptation
The show is adapted from the beloved 20th century novel Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Originally a children’s book, it tells the coming of age story of the young orphan Anne Shirley as she is accidentally sent to live on a farm with brother and sister Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (who wanted a boy to help them on the farm). The book follows the story of these characters becoming an unconventional family. It’s a best-selling book with numerous sequels and adaptations emerging from its popularity. Anne with an E show-runner Moira Walley-Beckett imaginatively transformed it to become a larger story, spanning a wider world with more characters and more depth.
A Canadian series
The story of Anne with an E is set in the fictional town of Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. The show was produced by the Canadian TV network CBC Television, with a Canadian cast and crew. This gives the show an opportunity to include some beautiful locations, as parts of it were filmed on Prince Edward Island, and other outdoor locations near Toronto such as Black Creek Pioneer Village and Castle Kilbride. It also sometimes gives the audience an insight into Canadian history.
A memorable heroine
It’s impossible to describe Anne without acknowledging that any description I write will be unmatched by how she would describe herself, because she is mainly defined by her powerful imagination and her way with words. She is an avid reader, with a particular passion for romance novels. She has red hair, which she believes is the “bane of her existence”. She admires the beauty of nature because it provides “scope for the imagination”. She is lively, joyful and very intelligent. Her high sensibility is sometimes a bit much, but she matures a lot over the course of the series. She is a complex heroine, smart and compassionate, but also flawed and prone to making mistakes. What defines her is how she learns from her mistakes and uses her feelings of being misunderstood to help others and reach out to those who need it.
I can’t recommend the show without mentioning that it just looks gorgeous. Because it takes place in the countryside and plays into the romance of Anne’s imagination, the show includes frequent images of wide-open spaces, green hills, flowing streams and cliffs. It has a very strong aesthetic and makes it easy to lose yourself in this world.
A wonderful soundtrack
The soundtrack is composed by Ari Posner, and it absolutely becomes synonymous with the show. At times it’s joyful and soaring, at other times it plucks at the heart-strings. It narrates the story beautifully. Also, I have to mention the opening song Ahead by a Century by The Tragically Hip, because it’s a really catchy tune!
A diverse cast of characters
While the show starts in the little village of Avonlea, from the second series it becomes more adventurous and allows its characters to travel and meet new people. This provides an opportunity to introduce characters with different backgrounds, such as Sebastian “Bash” Lacroix, a coal-trimmer from Trinidad, whom one of the main characters (I won’t spoil which one) encounters working on a steamboat under difficult working conditions. The character not only allows the show to explore racial prejudice in this time period, but also has a full and complex character arc around family and identity, and develops a great friendship with previously mentioned character. In its third series, it also introduces the indigenous tribes of Prince Edward Island, with the young Ka’Kwet becoming one of Anne’s closest friends. These characters weren’t in the original novel but were part of Moira Walley-Beckett’s desire to be more representative of the different communities living in Canada in the 19th century.
A story of found family
Anne’s developing relationship with the Cuthberts is the heart of the show. What makes this family so compelling is that Anne has such a different personality from her carers. Marilla Cuthbert is a stern woman with exactly no time for idleness and flights of fancy. Matthew Cuthbert is a soft-spoken man who does not tend to make his feelings known. Deeper down, there are things which have been left unsaid for a long time. Anne and Matthew’s first meeting is very funny because Anne does a lot of talking while he gives short and baffled answers. While the Cuthberts are not much for over-emotional displays of feeling, the arrival of Anne opens up their hearts to new experiences and new love.
Many great friendships emerge over the course of the show, both old and new. The long-running friendship between Marilla Cuthbert her neighbour Rachel Lynde. The star-crossed friendship between Anne and Diana Barry. And many more. These friendships between characters with often contrasting personalities are easy to invest in as there is such genuine affection and understanding between them. There’s also a great female friendship group that develops in Anne’s school. While romance does feature in the show, it is refreshing to see friendships being given the same (if not more) importance and allowing these friendships to help characters grow.
This is not just Anne’s journey, but other characters who feel misunderstood and out of place. From the beginning, Anne has a very strong sense of who she is and what she believes in. Despite being misunderstood by some, she never compromises her identity and embraces her differences. This allows other characters who she befriends and who struggle with themselves to be less mindful of other people’s opinions and to stand up for themselves and each other.
By Leah Smith