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Anne of Green Gables audiobook 'a whole new world,' says Megan Follows

Emmy-award winners Victor Garber, Catherine O'Hara and Michela Luci team up with Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh to read the novel. (Audible - image credit)
Emmy-award winners Victor Garber, Catherine O'Hara and Michela Luci team up with Golden Globe winner Sandra Oh to read the novel. (Audible - image credit)

A new Audible audiobook dramatization of the Lucy Maud Montgomery classic Anne of Green Gables was released this week, and director Megan Follows describes it as an entirely different kind of approach to the novel.

This is a return to the story for Follows, who played red-haired orphan Anne Shirley in a 1985 CBC-TV miniseries adaptation that is almost as beloved as the book itself.

"I loved the idea of going back and deeply immersing myself in the text, in the writing of Lucy Maud Montgomery," said Follows.

The book is read as a radio play, with an all-star Canadian cast that includes multiple Emmy and Golden Globe Award winners. Sandra Oh narrates, Catherine O'Hara is Marilla Cuthbert, Victor Garber plays Matthew Cuthbert, and 17-year-old Michela Luci, an Emmy winner for her role in Dino Dana, takes on the title role of Anne.

Megan Follows speaks onstage during the Reign panel discussion at the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour on July 30 in Beverly Hills, California.
Megan Follows speaks onstage during the Reign panel discussion at the 2013 Summer Television Critics Association tour on July 30 in Beverly Hills, California.

Megan Follows was excited to dig into Lucy Maud Montgomery's text for the audiobook recording. (Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images)

The reading is rounded out with sound effects and an original musical score.

"This is really a whole new world that we're entering here," said Follows. "It's almost a cinematic, vivid, immersive experience through audio drama that the listener gets to have."

Unlike movie and TV versions of the book, the audiobook will invite listeners to envision the landscape of Prince Edward Island, often described as a separate character in the book, through the words of Montgomery herself, and often through the eyes of Anne.

The reader is dependent on Anne Shirley's imagination to fully see Prince Edward Island, says Michela Luci. (Audible)

"She has this very, very powerful imagination and the reader kind of depends on that," said Luci.

"She describes the setting around her; we learn about the beautiful landscapes of Prince Edward Island."

'It's very subversive'

While Anne of Green Gables has universal, timeless themes, Follows said she would regularly remind the cast about the book's historical context.

In the early 20th century, it was rare for a child to be allowed to have a voice — particularly a girl.

Megan Follows as Anne of Green Gables (Anne Shirley) in a still image from Kevin Sullivan's 1985 film version of the popular P.E.I. novel produced for CBC
Megan Follows as Anne of Green Gables (Anne Shirley) in a still image from Kevin Sullivan's 1985 film version of the popular P.E.I. novel produced for CBC

Megan Follows, who played Anne Shirley on TV in 1985, says Anne was a revolutionary character as a girl. (Sullivan Entertainment/CBC)

"That advocacy of a female to have the right to speak up and to be heard and to be seen was unheard of at that time. She was revolutionary in that way — to have an imagination, to have feeling, to express feelings, and for girls to express anger," said Follows.

"Lucy Maud Montgomery does it with humour. And that's why it's also extraordinary. It's very subversive."

Luci said she and Follows had a long discussion before embarking on the recording about some of the themes hidden within what Anne has to say in the novel.

"Anne has these really long, powerful and meaningful monologues," Luci said.

"Finding the true meaning in her riddled dialogue? Megan truly guided me through that."

The Audible original of Anne of Green Gables was released on Nov. 30.