You don’t have to love Anne of Green Gables to be my friend, but it sure helps!
I say this often because it’s just so true. When I meet anyone who has read and loved the Anne books, I just *know* that on some level we are absolutely kindred spirits. There is just an indefinable *something* about these books.
These books (and others by Montgomery) got me through the tough middle school years. When the harsh realities of life were staring me in the face, these books gave me an escape to another plane of existence. They allowed me to believe in truth and beauty when I saw little of that in my real life. And as I grew up these books became old trusted friends that I returned to time and again for comfort and consolation. Each time I re-read one of these books, I get a little something new and different.
I can’t even say what number read this is for this particular book, but I can tell you that my beloved 25 year old trade paperback is falling apart. This was, however, the first time I read this *with* my daughter. We read its predecessor (Anne of Green Gables) last year, and I decided it was time for us to return to Avonlea for a spell and see what Anne was up to.
When this novel opens Anne is 16 and is getting ready to teach at the Avonlea school. (***Spoiler Alert***) The last novel ends with the death of Anne’s beloved guardian, Matthew. As such, Anne has put her dreams of college on hold to help Marilla with Green Gables farm. Anne’s arch nemesis, Gilbert, has selflessly traded positions so that Anne can have the Avonlea school and he will teach at a further away school. This marks a shift in their relationship from foes to true friends. Anne realizes her folly in marking Gilbert an enemy, and in this book they are fast friends, but it’s important to note – only friends!
It really struck both me and Izzy as a wild idea that a 16 year old would be given charge of an entire school – even a small country school! Anne has much to learn about children and teaching. Like all new teachers, she has many romantic ideas which don’t quite match up with reality. She finds herself betraying principles that she previously held sacrosanct. In this way, this is such a great coming of age novel – exploring how the ideals of youth must be tempered with the wisdom that comes only from experience and time spent on this earth.
The absolute highlight of this novel (and really all the books in the series) are Anne’s many humorous escapades. Although she is maturing, Anne still has her fair share of ‘scrapes’. My favorite is when Anne mistakenly sells her neighbor’s cow, but her getting stuck in a roof after attempting to break in and retrieve a jug is a close second. More comic relief comes from newcomers Davy and Dora, twin children that Marilla and Anne take in. Davy is absolute hoot and I could sense Izzy perk up every time he appeared on the page.
I always felt a little sorry for dull little Dora whom everyone virtually ignores because she is just ‘too good’. But now I see that Montgomery was being a bit sly here. Dora really is the model child – particularly for that time period – she endeavors to be seen and not heard and follows all adult rules without complaint or question. Montgomery is asking us to challenge the notion that this truly makes for an ideal child. She is showing us that a child with spunk and curiosity is something to be valued. Subversive!
***Spoiler Alert*** This novels ends with Anne heading off to college after all. Circumstances have changed and she’s heading off to Redmond in the fall. It just so happens that Gilbert is going too.
The final chapter has perhaps my favorite quote from the entire series. Now, at 18 years old, Anne is continuing to reevaluate many of her childhood notions and, after having just had a comfortable chat with Gilbert, she ponders the following thoughts about love and and romance….