Why “Anne of Green Gables” May Wind Up the Most Adapted Book in History


09 Aug, 2017

There is a short list of books that continue to be living, breathing parts of pop culture long after their initial publication; where most books have a pretty short “shelf life” as topics of conversation, a handful find new audiences year in and year out. Even in this elite group of literary works some are more famous than others—everyone knows that Sherlock Holmes or Alice in Wonderland continue to capture the imagination. 

But some works become so commonly adapted and discussed they become almost invisible—like Anne of Green Gables.

That changed this year when Netflix presented an all-new adaptation of the novels as Anne with an E. This modern interpretation of the beloved story dug into the implied darkness of the story and then dug in further. As opposed to almost every other adaptation of the books, Netflix went with an “edgy” approach to the story of the orphan Anne Shirley and her adventures on Prince Edward Island that had long-time fans (and especially fans of PBS’ sunny 1980s version) up in arms. Endless hot takes appeared condemning or defending the approach.

Of course, people only have hot takes and fierce arguments about literature that remains vital and exciting; the sleepy classics we read out of obligation or curiosity don’t inspire a lot of argument. The fact that we’re still discussing Anne of Green Gables in the 21st century is a sign of just how powerful and beloved the story is—and a reminder of just how often the books have been adapted into film, television, and other mediums.

In fact, there have been nearly forty adaptations of the novel so far, and as Netflix’s version shows, there is very likely to be plenty more as new generations and new artists vie to put their stamp on this classic story. That means Anne of Green Gables has a chance at being the most-adapted book of all time.