Hi Virtually Readers. Another day, another ‘Tis the Season of Rereading. (because gosh, it is getting ridiculously close to Christmas.) So in July I started rereading Anne of Green Gables. In Novemeber, I finished it and promptly reread the whole series, which I mostly enjoyed. This post will contain a mini-review for each of the eight books (relatively spoiler free, but if you don’t want to know anything about this series, I would skip it altogether), then a brief discussion, then a bunch of quote illustration/poster things which you can enjoy. Ready? Ready.
Anne of Green Gables: This is the book that started it all. It feature Anne, the lovable, vivacious orphan who desperately needs love. I love seeing how kindness and hospitality mellow Anne through the story. The hilarious scrapes (almost drowning! Dying your hair! Hitting boys!) make it a throughly entertaining story, and each character is drawn so well. This story covers a considerable period of time, and each year makes us love Anne of the wild imagination more.
Anne of Avonlea: Anne’s feud with a *certain* person is over, and she is thriving in her role as a school teacher, as well as taking on more responsibilities at home. As she struggles with being a kind, inspiring teacher, she finds herself making new friends, too– the precocious Paul Irving, the sweet Ms. Lavendar, and Gilbert. This is a story of friendship, most of all, and how you fit into the landscape of the people growing up around you. But it is not without it’s somber, beautiful moments either, and doses of hilarity, like Davy’s ‘radical’ religious questions.
Anne of the Island: This is probably my favourite Anne book. Anne is off at college, with her friends Stella (who doesn’t get enough of a focus), Priscilla, and the irrepressible Philippa. I loved seeing how Anne fits into the greater landscape, but there were some tragic moments, like everything to do with Ruby Gillis, and Anne visiting her birthplace. But the whole ‘friends and university’ thing just really clicked with me. I also love how this episode of the story questions romance (with the grotesque proposals), but also how we idealise certain qualities that we want to fall in love with. That feels fresh and relevant even almost a hundred years after it’s publication.
Anne of Windy Poplars: Anne is now off on her own, being a school principal and making friends. This novel doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the Anne narrative (it was written, I believe, after House of Dreams?), and is almost like a collection of short stories, with very little to tie the entertaining or boring episodes together. But the characters are lively, and the partial epistolary format is effective and interesting, and it’s interesting to see Anne out of a typical environment.
Anne’s House of Dreams: This story is fun, of course, and romantic (because it’s a Montgomery novel) and focuses on Anne as she begins her married life, and makes friends in a new place. This story can of course be read and enjoyed by kids, but there are allusions to darker things–abusive, alcoholic fathers and unwanted children. In terms of that, reading it with my older eyes did make for a different experience, though of course I still loved the story. I also thought the way they alluded to pregnancy was hilarious (with a terrible result). Anne’s friendship with Captain Jim, Leslie, and Miss Cornelia, as well as her shifting relationship with her husband, ties the pieces of this story together, and I would say it’s the most cohesive story in the whole sequence.
Anne of Ingleside: In this novel, the focus shifts from Anne to her children. They get little third person perspectives chronicling ther adventures and mishaps. It’s entertaining and clever (again, Montgomery trademarks), but it’s a bit of a let down after the fluidity of House of Dreams. Still, I like that we get to know each child better, and Susan (their servant) is an absolute ‘duck’ and the few sections focussing on Anne show her growth–a fascinating comparison to the early stories.
Rainbow Valley: This is a story about Anne’s children somewhat, but the Meredith (their neighbours) kids even more. It has the usual romps both exciting and sad, and utterly character centric, and each child is delightful and well drawn. Woven through it all (and again, more noticeable for an older audience, though there’s nothing inappropriate) is a love story, and this key idea: what is the promise of love (to wives or children) What does in mean to break it?
Rilla of Ingleside: This last book of the Anne sequence, and focuses on Anne’s youngest daughter, as World War One leaves her alone at home. (no, that isn’t a spoiler. Her siblings are away, not dead. This book is set in Canada for goodness sake) This is the one where my reread really changed how I feel. Sure, Rilla is an interesting, and distinct character, and her character development (and fair share of both ‘scrapes’ and romance) hold the story together…but there was so much glorification of war. The book itself doesn’t necessarily glorify war (though it heavily implies that fighting is necessary, and the British must be right), but almost all the character (who I was pretty fond of by this point) do. The girl who didn’t want her sweetheart to go off to war is seen as ‘unpatriotic’ and a pacifist is one of the central antagonists, and off course all the characters are happily charging off to war or to help in the war effort and it just really, really irritated me. War is terrible, and I know that this is a historically accurate perspective but I could hardly stand it. And the romance (or rather, romances–everyone seems to pair off) is under developed–not the slow, sweet gradual thing that Anne had with her husband.
What struck me about this reread was that, though I am an Indian-New Zealand pacifist whose beliefs would probably be considered fairly heretical by most of the characters, I can still relate to these characters. Yes, diversity is good, and I love many modern novels–but Montgomery is a brilliant writer, because she understands people. In the end, no matter the content of stories, a good writer will make you understand people. And L.M. Montgomery, writing from a long time ago, gets it. She gets people, and she can write about them and make you understand them. That’s why the Anne novels are so enduringly popular, despite shifts in values, despite the fact that most of the readers have never been to Prince Edward Island. That’s what makes these books worth reading. And because this post is massive, I’m going to pause my thoughts right there and show you some of the lovely quotes (and my mediocre-hopefully typo free graphics for them). Click to see them bigger, and I really hope the formatting isn’t screwed up.
Have you read Anne of Green Gables? Do you like classics? Who is a writer that you think is stellar at writing about people? Tell me in the comments!