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Anne of Green Gables

For the past five days, after the chickens have gone to bed, and after being whipsawed during the day by the news out of Washington, I have retreated to the television to watch an episode of “Anne With an E,” a new production of Anne of Green Gables produced by Canada’s CBC and available for streaming on Netflix.

There is something very distracting (in a good way) and therapeutic about such a simple story in such a grand setting. The series is, of course, based on the novels of Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874-1942). The first novel of the series was published in 1908. The setting is Prince Edward Island on Canada’s Atlantic coast. I have not read any of the novels and cannot compare the television production to the original story. But the consensus of other reviews seems to be that the CBC production is reasonably faithful to the books, though a touch darker. The story is a classic, of course. Anne of Green Gables has sold 50 million copies and has been translated into 20 languages.

Frankly the Anne character, though she is bright and charming (and splendidly acted) gets on one’s nerves a bit. No doubt her inner life, and the plots she stirs up, will become more interesting as she gets older. But the real star of the show, in my view, is the Marilla character, beautifully portrayed by Geraldine James.

As a period piece, the production is superb. It’s interesting just as a farm story, for anyone who is curious about how family farms used to work. They don’t attempt to show us a complete farm economy, but we do get some good pieces of it — milking cows, hay in the loft, putting up apples, and lots of baking. And what a treat it is when the buggy comes out, pulled by Belle, the sorrel mare. I doubt that many farm horses had a gait as elegant and videogenic as Belle’s, but it’s nice to watch.

I’m watching “Anne With an E” not because it’s the most brilliant story ever written but because of its atmosphere, its innocence, and the fun of being transported back to an idyllic rural culture that we have lost.

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