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Book: Marilla of Green Gables
Author: Sarah McCoy
Published: October 23, 2018
Publisher: William Morrow
Genre: Historical Fiction
A bold, heartfelt tale of life at Green Gables . . . before Anne: A marvelously entertaining and moving historical novel, set in rural Prince Edward Island in the nineteenth century, that imagines the young life of spinster Marilla Cuthbert, and the choices that will open her life to the possibility of heartbreak—and unimaginable greatness
Plucky and ambitious, Marilla Cuthbert is thirteen years old when her world is turned upside down. Her beloved mother has dies in childbirth, and Marilla suddenly must bear the responsibilities of a farm wife: cooking, sewing, keeping house, and overseeing the day-to-day life of Green Gables with her brother, Matthew and father, Hugh.
In Avonlea—a small, tight-knit farming town on a remote island—life holds few options for farm girls. Her one connection to the wider world is Aunt Elizabeth “Izzy” Johnson, her mother’s sister, who managed to escape from Avonlea to the bustling city of St. Catharines. An opinionated spinster, Aunt Izzy’s talent as a seamstress has allowed her to build a thriving business and make her own way in the world.
Emboldened by her aunt, Marilla dares to venture beyond the safety of Green Gables and discovers new friends and new opportunities. Joining the Ladies Aid Society, she raises funds for an orphanage run by the Sisters of Charity in nearby Nova Scotia that secretly serves as a way station for runaway slaves from America. Her budding romance with John Blythe, the charming son of a neighbor, offers her a possibility of future happiness—Marilla is in no rush to trade one farm life for another. She soon finds herself caught up in the dangerous work of politics, and abolition—jeopardizing all she cherishes, including her bond with her dearest John Blythe. Now Marilla must face a reckoning between her dreams of making a difference in the wider world and the small-town reality of life at Green Gables. (Goodreads)
Anne of Green Gables was the first “big book” I read all by myself. I read it for my Grade 6 book report project and was so proud to have read (and understood) such a long book. And, I loved it. Anne was smart and spunky, imaginative, creative, and loving. She was ridiculous. And she so kind.
There was something about Marilla, the seemingly cold spinster, who took orphan Anne Shirley into her home that always clung to me. Marilla is older, she and her brother are both single and, seemingly, always have been. Which was strange for the time. Everyone got married. Everyone had kids. They needed the help to work the farm. But Matthew and Marilla didn’t. Why? Why were they the way they were? Marilla seemed cold and distant at first. And yet, as Anne’s story progresses, Marilla’s heart and kindness really do show. What happened to her, to make her life turn out this way? I’ve always wondered.
And so did Sarah McCoy. The whole novel started because of one niggling little sentence in Anne of Green Gables, where Marilla tells Anne, “John Blythe was a nice boy. We used to be real good friends, he and I. People called him my beau.”
Anne responded with “Oh, Marilla, what happened?”
And that was the question that stuck with McCoy for years. She told Bustle, “This novel is my answer to that.”
Sarah McCoy has answered all my questions about Marilla Cuthbert in this stunning novel!
This book starts when Marilla is a quite young and goes all the way to her early spinsterhood. It tells of her relationships with her family and John Blythe, and how her friendship with Rachel Lynde began. It answers the questions of what happened to the rest of the Cuthbert family. It even tells us how Green Gables got its name. And, most importantly, it gives us a fulsome picture of how Marilla went from imaginative child to cold spinster to warm-hearted guardian of Anne.
Be aware though, friends, there is infant death in this novel. That part was hard for me (here’s why).
This novel reads as if Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote it herself.
Marilla of Green Gables is simply put, beautiful. It is written wonderfully. It flows. The style, the progression, the dialogue — it all felt like Anne of Green Gables.
Sarah McCoy knows the community of Avonlea, the characters, the setting, the time period so, so well. It is so clear that she researched like crazy. (She even went to Prince Edward Island and talked with Lucy Maud Montgomery’s family). I don’t want to think about how many times she read through the original books!
This book was one of my favourite reads of 2018. If you loved Anne, you’ll love Marilla.
Have you heard of or read Marilla of Green Gables?
Tell me what you think in the comments below.