Day 1175: Anne of Avonlea

Cover for Anne of AvonleaA while back, some bloggers were having an Anne of Green Gables reading challenge. That led me to reread Anne of Green Gables, and I was pleasantly surprised to see how well it held up for adults. Other bloggers went ahead and read the entire series.

I don’t think I read the entire series when I was a girl, but I know I read up through the time when Anne married Gilbert, so I’m guessing I read three or four books back then. When I ran across a copy of Anne of Avonlea, the second book in the series, I decided to give it a try as an adult.

In this book, Anne is sixteen and just about to begin her career as a schoolteacher in Avonlea. Most of her old friends are also teachers at nearby schools. The novel follows her adventures during the next two years as she teaches, makes new friends, and begins to grow up a little. She and Marilla also take on the upbringing of two six-year-old distant cousins of Marilla, Davey and Dora.

I’m afraid I didn’t enjoy this book as much. The dreamy, romantic Anne, with all her comments about fairies and so on isn’t as convincing as an older girl. The novel relies for humor mostly on the comments of Anne’s students and the misbehavior of Davey. I found the first a little cloying, and I couldn’t help comparing the second to a similar situation in A Girl of the Limberlost, which is handled much better. I have to admit to not developing any feelings for any of these children, whereas Anne as a child was very sympathetic.

Finally, there’s not much of a sense of plot to this novel. It is almost as if, in these transitional years, Montgomery didn’t know what to do with Anne. The most dramatic events center around her friend, Miss Lavendar Lewis, but they are predictable. I think this is a book that adolescent or pre-adolescent girls might love, but it holds little attraction for me.

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Day 628: Anne of Green Gables

Cover for Anne of Green GablesI have not read Anne of Green Gables since I was about ten, and I’m delighted to report that it is a book that offers as much enjoyment to an adult reader as to a child. As a child, I threw myself wholeheartedly into Anne’s delights and misfortunes, but as an adult, I am more able to appreciate the abundant humor of the novel.

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert are an elderly brother and sister with a farm in Avonlea on Prince Edward Island. They have taken a momentous decision to adopt an orphan boy to help Matthew on the farm. They sent word to an acquaintance who went to adopt a girl, and she has brought an orphan back for them on the train.

But when Matthew arrives at the station, he finds not an orphan boy but a girl, a funny looking, skinny, red-headed girl. Matthew is a shy and reticent man, and he sees nothing to do but take the girl home and let Marilla break the news that there’s been a mistake. So, they set off home for Green Gables, the excitable Anne Shirley prattling all the way back.

When Anne learns she isn’t wanted after all, she is devastated. But when Marilla takes her to see another woman who might want an orphan girl, she can’t quite bring herself to leave Anne with the mean-mouthed woman with a reputation for mistreating the help (as an orphan would often be regarded at that time, not as a member of the family). Despite her better judgment, Marilla decides to keep Anne.

Thus begins this delightful novel about a young, imaginative girl who is always running into trouble. For Anne is romantic and dreamy and full of big ideas that often go wrong. The delight for me as an adult in reading this sentimental tale is the dry humor of Marilla, as she learns to love Anne and all her mischief. This is a lovely and fun book to read, particularly if you love any other volatile little red-headed girls.