Anne of Green Gables
Once a month the English-language Japan News newspaper has a one-page readers’ letter feature called Readers’ Forum in which all letters are devoted to a single topic. This is in addition to other letters-to-the-editor that it prints periodically. When the September 2015 Readers’ Forum page was printed on Saturday, September 26, 2015 on the topic of the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo, the topic for the October page was announced: Book of your recommendation. “If you could only take one book to a deserted island, which book would you choose? What would be the one book you’d recommend to your child? Tell us about the book that has meant the most to you in your life.” The letters were printed on Saturday, October 31, 2015. My letter was not published, but another letter espousing Anne was published, "Anne's lessons in life" written by a Koichi Mimura, a teacher in Toyonaka, Osaka
Some books are obvious choices: the Holy Bible; the Oxford Dictionary of the English Language; almost any encyclopedia; the Complete Works of William Shakespeare; the letters of Aleister Crowley; Ayn Rand’s Fountainhead; Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars. I wrote in support of the Canadian classic Anne of Green Gables, written by Lucy Maud Montgomery in 1905, but not published until 1908.
I have liked Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables for a long time. It was first read aloud to me in class by one of my elementary school teachers - a tough but adored woman. Later I read it myself and have re-read it many times. Each reading reminds me of my teacher and my childhood days. Modern life, or maybe just middle-aged life make me feel nostalgic for simpler times. Not Anne Shirley’s time (1908), but rather my own childhood, sitting at my desk in class listening to my teacher’s voice. Anne might be the archetypal Canadian. She occupies a cultural space similar to Tom Sawyer-Huckleberry Finn in America, and Botchan, or Wagahai wa neko de aru among Japanese. When Montgomery wrote, the entire population of Canada was less than the population of Toronto today, which makes me reflect about culture and creativity. Canada still has a small population for its size, which means that despite being a large country it is, in fact, a small community. In that respect, we still feel the proximity of Anne Shirley’s world - the small community.
Anne comes from the dawn of contemporary Canada. Automobiles, electricity and phones existed but were only just beginning to penetrate her life. Yet her world remains recognizable and familiar - the technology, of course, but most of all enduring themes like school and family, love, fear, hope, anticipation, disappointment, competition, jealousy, separation and loss, plus all the intermediary supporting and uplifting human relationships. Once very popular in Japan, I think Anne was welcomed here for her ethical virtues, primarily her filial piety and devotion to her adoptive family, the Cuthberts, despite not being their blood relation.
I haven’t got tired of re-reading it yet, so as a holiday read, or a deserted island companion Anne of Green Gables gives me great comfort.