Thoughts on Netflix’s Anne with an E

My husband and I have made it a good long while without caving to the pressure of Netflix. But when I heard that an original Anne of Green Gables adaptation was coming, I knew resistance was futile. So on the day of its premiere, when I also happened to have a free evening to myself, I started a Netflix free month trial and started watching Anne with an E – the first five episodes in that first evening, and then the remaining two the next day.

As some of you know, I read Anne of Green Gables for the first time last year and fell in love with it. Mostly GILBERT, but I adore Anne too and all of Avonlea. I still haven’t seen the 1980s Anne of Green Gables mini-series everyone seems to love, but I definitely want to one day when I can get a hold of it (I did check Netflix, and it wasn’t there, sadly). As a newer fan, I felt it was easy for me to go into this series with an open mind, though there are definitely certain things that are important to me when looking at an Anne adaptation, which I think will become apparent as you read my thoughts on this series.

My quick overall thoughts (in case you don’t feel like getting into my lengthy analysis below)… The show definitely has a darker tone and more modern sensibility than the wild-eye innocence feel of the books. There are a lot of deviations and for the first five episodes I was OK with this, but the last two episodes really left me disappointed.

What I liked…

The show is beautifully shot. Like ridiculously beautifully shot. The media production major in me definitely admires the aesthetic of the show.

For the first five episodes, the characters feel true to their original selves. Even though there are a lot of story deviations, the characters still feel the same. For the most part, you can believe these are sort of lost tales of Anne’s life that Montgomery did not share with us. This changes somewhat by episode six and a lot by episode seven. I’ll get into this more later.

The acting is A++++++++. I don’t think I’ve seen any of these actors/actresses in anything else but they are all so crazy good. They feel just like the characters.

And GILBERT. OH MY GOODNESS. So until we meet Gilbert in episode 3, Matthew was my favorite, because he is so fantastic, but GILBERT. For episodes 3-5, this Gilbert is so stinking wonderful and kind and adorable and everything you want Gilbert Blythe to be. Below I will get into spoilers of how a story arc changes his character in episode 6. I still like him a lot, but he does feel different at that point.

What was mostly OK…

Anne is definitely not the only character who gets a focus on her tragic backstory. We delve into the psyches of Marilla, Matthew, and others. This would sometimes add some nice depth, but sometimes it felt a bit unnecessary and detracted from the strength of the original source.

What I didn’t particularly love…

This show is a lot darker, and some of that is OK. We get flashbacks into Anne’s past and see how it actually affects her day by day, which makes it seem like real trauma. In the books she alludes to the bad stuff she had to go through in the past, but it just mostly rolls off her like water on a duck’s back. In this adaptation we see how this impacts her conversations with others, as well as just the very painful memories she relives in her mind.

But then as if that’s not enough, there’s more. There’s attempted kidnapping, possible attempted assault, actual physical assault and thievery, and then everyone in Avonlea is so much more openly hostile to Anne in this adaptation than they were in the book. Billy Andrews is especially quite the villain who repeatedly calls Anne a dog (thankfully just a dog, not another word associated with dogs, but still very terrible). And while I remember her first teacher in Avonlea not being all that great, this one is just downright horrible. He treats Anne, really most of the class, like trash, in addition to just being a bad teacher. And then the minister, ugh! He’s portrayed all wrong for no real reason. Sometimes, I feel there’s just a little too much of the bad, when the books focused so much more on the good.

Which leads me to my next point, that there’s a little too much modern sensibility thrown in, in my opinion. It’s one thing to talk about Anne’s first period (which was really funny but also pretty poignant and well-done), and it’s one thing for the mothers to talk about educational rights for women, but when a character literally said, “Feminism. What a wonderful word,” it’s actually kind of eye-rolling instead of empowering like I think was the intent. Way to be super on-the-nose. Just like the aforementioned dark aspects of the show, the attempt to bring in a little more progressive thinking in Avonlea is taken just slightly farther than I felt it needed to be.

What I hated…

While I didn’t love everything in episodes 1-5, I was still really enjoying everything overall. This started to change with episode 6, and then 7 crashed and burned it.

—SPOILERS BELOW—

In episode 6, Gilbert’s father dies. We learn earlier in the series that his father is ill and his mother is apparently already dead. This bothered me because it was so different from the books, but what made it turn from something annoying to something I absolutely hated was when it changed Gilbert as a character. It makes him much moodier, which he has every right to be under the circumstances, but the circumstances shouldn’t exist to completely change his character. It’s obviously added for drama or tension or whatever. Heaven forbid Gilbert just have a wholesome family life. I guess it’s a shortcut way to get Anne to relate with him better, but that feels really cheap to me. It also forces him to have to quit school to work which is just like WHAAAAAAT EVEN. I don’t even know how to explain in coherent words how that makes me feel. Mostly, it just feels wrong.

In episode 7, Matthew has his heart attack but doesn’t die (I wouldn’t be surprised if he does in season two though). But he bemoans how, because of their financial woes, it would be better for Anne and Marilla if he was dead so they can get his life insurance, and at one point HE GETS OUT HIS GUN AND IS READY TO COMMIT SUICIDE. People, this is not Matthew Cuthbert. He would NEVER do that. Thankfully, his lady friend from the dress shop/his former love interest from school? shows up and stops him. But seriously, WHY. The show was dark enough without going that far.

And then the way episode 7 ends is truly bizarre, and I’m surprised I haven’t seen anyone else on the Internet talk about this yet. So earlier in the episode, Anne and their hired farmhand Jerry go into town to sell some things. Jerry, separate from Anne, sells one of the horses. As soon as the buyer walks away and Jerry puts the money in his pocket, these two ruffians beat him up and take the money. Later, we see them noticing an ad for a room available to rent at Green Gables, and at the end of the episode, they both arrive there, separately, to live. This already seems like a weird subplot to have, but it got weirder when the second one who arrives acts like he is attracted to Anne, and she acts the same towards him, BUT HE IS GROWN AND AT LEAST TWICE HER AGE. Maybe I COMPLETELY misread the looks but all the acting had been so consistently great throughout the series that I have a hard time believing that I suddenly misinterpreted what was being shown to me. And then after their exchange, it just ends. It makes ZERO sense for an ending, even for one that is suppose to leave room for more because it makes me sick to my stomach rather than eager for more.

If you’ve watched the entire show, PLEASE let me know how you interpreted the end and how it makes you feel. I need to know if I either completely misunderstood or that I’m alone or crazy in my feelings about it.

— SPOILERS OVER—

A breakdown of my thoughts in star ratings…

Episodes 1: 4 stars

Episode 2: 3.5 stars

Episodes 3 & 4: 4 stars

Episode 5: 3 stars

Episode 6: 2.5 stars

Episode 7: 2 stars

Acting: 5 stars

Cinematography: 5 stars

Characterization: 3.5 stars

Story: 2.5 stars

Series overall: 3 stars

A few parting thoughts…

As you can see, I have very mixed feelings about the series. It started off promising, even with the deviations, but at the end, the changes did more harm than good in my mind. I wish I could better understand the intent of the series writers, and if they truly interpret Montgomery’s work this way or just felt like being edgy. Because personally, I feel Montgomery’s intent was misunderstood.

On Twitter I saw where someone described this series as a dystopia version of Anne of Green Gables. That’s actually a pretty good way to describe it. Every aspect of the story is cranked up to an 11 in terms of harsh realities. I think a little bit could have been sprinkled in without going to such an extreme. The original story is a coming-of-age tale I can’t wait to share with my future children, but this version I wouldn’t share with anyone under 12, with so much of the wonder taken away and replaced with grit.

Have you seen Anne with an E? What are your thoughts on the series, and what’s your previous Anne history?

Monthly Recap: April

MAY THE FOURTH BE WITH YOU!

Books I Read

A Curious Beginning by Deanna Raybourn

Love & Gelato by Jenna Evans Welch

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery

Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal

Only one of these is YA! I’m trying to broaden my horizons a bit. I enjoyed all these reads but Anne’s House of Dreams was my favorite (which was such a relief after Anne of Windy Poplars was a small let-down).

Movie of the Month

Beauty and the Beast! It was lovely! As much as I loved Emma Watson and the guy who played the Beast though, I kind of think Luke Evans as Gaston stole the show! He was spot-on.

My husband and I are also working our way through a Star Wars movies rewatch; only episodes VI and VII to go now!

#Bookstagram Images of the Month

Camp NaNoWriMo

I needed some serious time away from the project I have spent years on, so this month I dabbled on a new story idea that I am pretty sure now is going to be my next WIP, a contemporary about two teens competing for first chair sax. I completed my goal of 10,000 words, though they weren’t all exactly in order. Oops. Anyhow, I’m really loving it and hope I get to share it one day!

Looking Forward to in May

My husband and I will be celebrating 8 years of marriage and 13 years together on the 16th! Sometimes it seems so crazy it’s been that long, but sometimes it feels like it’s been longer (in a good way)! Sadly, we don’t get to go on a vacation this month around our anniversary like we usually do because I got sick so much this winter and used up my PTO, sigh… But I trust it’ll be a good month regardless. We have a local jazz festival I am looking forward to plus a few things lined up to do with friends.

Potential May TBR

The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (reread) by J.K. Rowling

These Vicious Masks by Tarun Shanker and Kelly Zekas

Paper Wishes by Lois Sephban

I also already finished one book after reading half of it on April 30 and finishing it the first day of May, but I’ll mention that in my recap next month. 🙂

How was your April? What are you looking forward to in May? 

*Edit May 29: I have closed comments due to an unusual amount of spam comments for this post.

My Top 10 Book Covers that Scream Summer

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is Cover Theme Freebie. I always anticipate summer, though sadly my vacation this year has been delayed until fall (curse you winter sickness!), but nonetheless, there are many summer-esque covers with which to celebrate the upcoming season. Here’s my list of my favorite covers that scream summer, in no particular order.

1. Lucky in Love by Kasie West

I don’t know why the fair makes me think of summer, especially since around here it’s usually more of a fall affair, but I’m gonna roll with it anyway.

2. The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord (hardcover or paperback)

I super love this book and the hardback cover (which I own), but the paperback definitely has a fun summer vibe to it (which isn’t as fitting for the story but I still like it).

3. Wanderlost by Jen Malone

Summer traveling, yes please.

4. Love & Gelato by Jenni Evans Welch

I’ve loved this cover since I first saw it online, but just saw it in person recently and loved it even more. Seriously, just look at the cuteness of the gelato!

5. Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett

String lights + movies + pool = sounds like a great summer to me!

6. It Started With Goodbye by Christina June

More string light love!

7. The Square Root of Summer by Harriet Reuter Hapgood

I think the only thing that really makes this feel summery other than the name is the bright, saturated colors, but I’ve always been drawn to this cover.

8. The Unexpected Everything by Morgan Matson

Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson also has a fun summer cover featuring ice cream (I’m sensing a theme), but I do like this one more.

9. The Secret of a Heart Note by Stacey Lee

All these flowers just make me think of spring and summer!

10. Even in Paradise by Chelsey Philpot

Dancing on the beach feels pretty quintessential summer to me.

Which of these summer covers are your favorite? 

My Top 10 Episodes of Star Trek: The Original Series

For those of you who have been paying attention, you may wonder, Amy, why are you talking about the original series while watching Deep Space Nine and Voyager? Didn’t you already share your favorite episodes? 

As Ezri Dax would say, these are all very good questions.

My husband and I were talking startrek.com’s recent poll results of fans’ favorite top 10 episodes of all of Star Trek. Of course I disagreed with some of the episodes and definitely the order. So my husband suggested I create a top 10 list favorite of each series, and then at the end of our rewatch do my own top 10 of all the series. Let me tell you, I anticipate that will be quite the task.

But I’m taking this one series at a time at the moment, going back to TOS. I’ll share TNG soon, and then will go through the others after I finish the entire series again and have already done my Top 5 episodes of the last season. In descending order…

10. Space Seed

My feelings for this episode are complicated, but it’s an important one in Star Trek lore.

9. The Menagerie

Even though I prefer the original TOS pilot The Cage which features the same story line, this is what we get as part of the official series and the concept is so interesting.

8. The Cloud Miners

The commentary about division of classes in this one makes it a worthwhile watch.

7. The Enterprise Incident

Sneaky spy stuff + a different side to Spock makes this a really solid TOS episode.

6. Mirror, Mirror

The only mirror episode in all of Star Trek that I really like because it was just fun and didn’t get rehashed into weirdness (looking at you DS9 mirror universe).

5. The Naked Time

A fun early episode in which even Spock loses his cool.

4. All Our Yesterdays

A poignant time travel episode.

3. A Piece of the Action

The Star Trek crew get to be gangsters for a day. Just fun.

2. The City on the Edge of Forever

An even MORE poignant time travel story that confronts the idea of letting history run its course no matter the cost.

1. The Trouble with Tribbles

I mean, you know how much I love tribbles. 🙂

What are your top episodes of all three seasons of Star Trek’s original series?

Discussion: “Light” Contemporary YA

Lately I’ve been on the hunt for more fun, clean contemporary YA, in part because my next story idea I want to get serious writing about falls into this category. Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find much in this category outside of Kasie West, though I did recently finish Love & Gelato by Jenni Evans Welch that met the criteria and was an enjoyable read.

As you may have noticed, I have yet to use the word “fluffy” like many would, and that’s because I still want my fun contemporary YA to have substance, and I believe several of them do. The question is, how to insert it without suddenly making your book all about an issue? How do you achieve meaningful character growth when you want to avoid the death of a family member or some other catastrophe that feels more dramatic than what you are really going for? Yes, something needs to happen to make the character grow, but I don’t think it has to be BIG AND DRAMATIC.

I was thinking recently of how Jane Austen’s books were contemporary for her time. She was writing about people in her place and time, and yet her stories have endured. Maybe it’s because the romances felt more original than what we read now (since many rehash hers), I don’t really know. Perhaps it’s a tall order, but I want to figure out how to write a contemporary YA that is fairly light in nature (not an issue book like Thirteen Reasons Why, which has obviously seen enormous success for about a decade now) but can stand out and endure. I’m not expecting it to last hundreds of years necessarily, but I would hate to see anything I might publish one day basically blink out of oblivion within a year or two.

As I think of my adoration of The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord, what comes to mind is how much I love the characters Paige and Max, and love how they come together. To me, it’s just perfect. And that’s the sort of story I strive to write – with characters so lovable that you root for them hardcore and are happy when it all works out in the end, and that in the end it feels like more than just a romance.

What are your thoughts? What are your favorite light YA contemporary reads, and what makes a great one in your opinion? (Please share recs too!)