In Anne of Manhattan, Brina Starler transforms the beloved children’s classic Anne of Green Gables into a modern, New York City-set rom-com. In this essay, Starler explores why Anne’s story means so much to so many people and why it’s just as fresh and inspiring today.
I think I was 12 the first time I read L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and I couldn't tell you how many times I’ve read it since. Like Anne, I’m an only child and spent many hours in my own head, ignoring the reality around me and spinning stories in my mind. I’d sit at the edge of the woods behind our backyard and build fairy houses out of twigs and moss, or use reams of paper to draw stories of magical elves having adventures and falling in love. Or I’d find a solitary place and hide there with a book for hours, instead of what I was supposed to be doing.
When I was introduced to the world of Green Gables, I felt like I’d found a “kindred spirit” in Anne, as she would say. Her propensity for building entire worlds out of pure imagination, her love for books, her inclination toward drama and her affection for interesting words felt very relatable. I immediately fell in love with her hilarious, unfiltered stream of consciousness and kind heart.
The first book in the original series may have been written in 1908, but the characters are still relevant today. Because of that, it was easy in many ways to transition them to modern-day New York City, even as I made changes to diversify the cast to fit a more realistic portrayal of what Anne’s social circle and family might look like now. Anne is still Anne (with an E, if you please), with her thirst for knowledge, fiery temper and competitive edge. Gilbert “Gil” Blythe is still pining after Anne while working hard to keep her on her toes. And Marilla will always be Marilla, trying, and failing, to hide her deep love and pride for Anne behind a gruff exterior. These are the characters who have endeared themselves to millions of readers across multiple generations. Anne of Green Gables has inspired hundreds of thousands of young people to read, write stories and chase their dreams, including myself.
Montgomery’s Anne Shirley taught me that I didn’t have to tuck away my imagination or make myself small in order to accomplish my goals. I wouldn’t be the writer, or person, I am today without her. I’m incredibly honored to have been given the opportunity to create a new adventure for Anne, and I hope you enjoy reading Anne of Manhattan as much as I loved writing it.
“Oh, it’s delightful to have ambitions. I’m so glad I have such a lot. And there never seems to be any end to them–that’s the best of it. Just as soon as you attain to one ambition you see another one glittering higher up still. It does make life so interesting.” —Anne of Green Gables