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Marilla of Green Gables

Review

Marilla of Green Gables

What an interesting challenge it must have been for Sarah McCoy to write a prequel to the much-loved Anne of Green Gables series.

The year is 1837. The place is Avonlea on bucolic Prince Edward Island. Thirteen-year-old Marilla lives with her parents Hugh and Clara and older brother Matthew on the family farm. Clara’s twin sister, Izzy, has just arrived from the mainland to assist Clara, who is pregnant. Izzy is an independent woman, a talented and successful seamstress who brings some excitement to the farm with her talk of the city and what life is like on the mainland. Marilla and Izzy keep things running smoothly, while Clara is confined to bed during the latter stages of her pregnancy.

"Sarah McCoy did rigorous research, visiting Prince Edward Island and spending much time with relatives of the late Lucy Maud Montgomery, who graciously gave her encouragement to write the novel."

Sadly, the baby is stillborn, and Clara is dying. Marilla promises that she will stay on the farm and look after her father and brother. Izzy must return to her business on the mainland, so Marilla resolutely takes over the many labor-intensive household chores that normally would fall to a farm wife. A few years pass, and Marilla remains the dutiful daughter.

Her social life is rather limited, but with Izzy’s urging, she joins a sewing circle. The ladies make woolen items for an orphanage in Nova Scotia, which Marilla visits from time to time to deliver the clothing. She has developed a romantic interest in Matthew’s friend, John Blythe, who returns her feelings, and some folks begin to think of them as a couple.

But when Marilla gets caught up in the politics of the period, she and John find themselves opposed philosophically, and the potential romance hits several snags.

The Catholic orphanage has a secret and important mission as a stop on the Underground Railroad for runaway child slaves fleeing the United States. When Marilla connects Izzy with the Reverend Mother, a vital link forms. In 1860, Izzy visits Green Gables at Christmastime with her gentleman friend, a former slave, and his two young grandsons, slaves who are being ferried to freedom. Now Marilla really is in the thick of this clandestine and dangerous movement.

Sarah McCoy did rigorous research, visiting Prince Edward Island and spending much time with relatives of the late Lucy Maud Montgomery, who graciously gave her encouragement to write the novel. And to think, it was just an offhand comment in ANNE OF GREEN GABLES from Marilla to Anne Shirley about Gilbert Blythe, Anne’s beau and later her husband, that started the kernel of an idea in McCoy’s mind that led her to follow her imagination and create this winning prequel.

We rarely learn what led an author to write a certain story, or invent one, for that matter. This time, though, we have a clear understanding of the process from its origin, and that serves to make this book even more fascinating.

Reviewed by Carole Turner on October 26, 2018

Marilla of Green Gables
by Sarah McCoy

  • Publication Date: October 23, 2018
  • Genres: Fiction, Historical Fiction
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: William Morrow
  • ISBN-10: 0062697714
  • ISBN-13: 9780062697714