Historical fiction, done well, can teach us about the world as it was even as it entertains and enthralls us. With this novel, Sarah McCoy accomplishes both tasks, giving us a glimpse of the beginnings of Green Gables, where before Anne, there was Marilla.
In this heartfelt tale, we experience the world through her eyes, beginning with her 13 year when she is thrust into a life with adult responsibilities at the passing of her mother, who dies bearing her brother, Matthew. Marilla becomes the lady of the house, responsible for all the tasks that a farm wife must perform.
But, Marilla of Green Gables is not just about a young lady’s growing up, set in Prince William Island in the nineteenth century, it also tells the tale of the culture and politics of the time, as well as the struggle of slavery and inequality of races. It speaks of the strength and importance of family and the possibility that one can change the world quietly, without a fuss. Smart and strong, Marilla finds a path within the expectations of the society around her even as she changes it.
This novel was an easy and enjoyable read, but not simple. After the last page had been turned, I was still pondering the world that Marilla had been born into, how difficult it is to change the perceptions of others, and how important questioning our convictions and holding tight to them is.