Impetuous redheaded orphan Anne of Green Gables got the biggest gift of all on her 100th birthday: Official introduction into the literary canon. The Modern Library will issue a centennial edition of the first book in the series of eight. Some scholars bristle at the decision to place Anne alongside Huck Finn and Anna Karenina, dubbing the novels sentimental and their readers nostalgic, but Meghan O’Rourke comes to her defense on Slate.
O’Rourke finds Anne infinitely more captivating and complex than a standard Young Adult heroine—even if she isn't an obvious feminist role model. She shows an "indomitable alertness," is ferociously immersed in nature, and enjoys a rich inner life "utterly apart from the domains of domesticity and romance." And her creator's "complex, ironic characterizations don't sweetly reassure; they provoke and stimulate." Which may be why, 100 years and 50 million copies later, we’re still reading.