Friday, May 30, 2008

It's ANNE OF GREEN GABLES NOT AVONLEA BEA!! Or, Auntie Mame's book reviews of her favorite Canadian series

Lucy Maude Montgomery wrote A LOT. Probably her most famous books, however, are the Anne of Green Gables series. To quote myself from the aforementioned comment "Joan bought Dolly the "Little House" series and bought me car-seat covers. Wait, that may have been two different Christmas's. Oh well. I never read the Little House books, partially because they were boring as all get out and partially because Joan went on and on about how her grandmother was friends with Laura Ingles Wilder and mentioned in the book. Because of how famously Joan lied, I was immediately disillusioned with the books and used them as a book end for the same brown bookcase for many a year. When a friend of mine bought me the "Anne of Green Gables" books I read them almost in defiance of Joan wanting me to read the "Little House" books (they were Canadian and apple farmers, as opposed to American settlers). I may be a little long-winded about some of the better books, but you'll understand.

I think everyone in the world knows what this story is about; basically, it covers Anne's first 5 years in the town of Avonlea, Prince Edward Island, Canada (hehe, they call their island PEI and I think that is adorable). She’s about 11 at the beginning when she is sent from an orphanage to the “Green Gables Estate” to work as a farm hand. It turns out that brother and sister Marilla and Mathew (HELLO VC Andrews!!) Cuthbert own Green Gables and sent to the orphanage for a ‘farm boy’ to help now that they are older. At first, Marilla wants to send Anne back, but she wins her over and she can stay. Anne’s antics throughout the book include her rivalry with Gilbert Blythe, dyeing her hair, using liniment rather than vanilla in a cake, and falling off of Mrs. Barry's roof. We meet her friends, Diana, Jane and Ruby all of whom she calls her ‘kindred spirits,’ her rivalries with the Pye sisters (Gertie and Josie), and of course her antics with Gilbert as they vie to be the best in the class. So much stuff happens in this book it is impossible to explain in one short paragraph. Basically you need to know that Gilbert is a nice guy and does everything he can for his BFF, Anne.

This book is about Anne’s time in Avonlea from when she is sixteen to eighteen. Title of the book is fitting, because Anne is no longer simply "of Green Gables" as she was in the previous book, but now takes her place among the "important" people of Avonlea society, as its only schoolteacher. She is also a founding member of the A.V.I.S. (the Avonlea Village Improvement Society), which tries to improve (with questionable results) the Avonlea landscape. Marilla adopts twins. Davy and Dora. They are the children of Marilla's third cousin and she adopts them when their mother dies. Dora is a nice well behaved girl, while Davy is a little more of a handful and gets into many scrapes. I’m only lukewarm to this book; I’m not sure why, but it serves to introduce us to some hilarious townsfolk.

ANNE OF THE ISLAND – or as I call it, my favorite book of this series. Seriously.
Anne attends Redmond College in Kingsport, where she is studying for her BA. At first, she lives in a boardinghouse, but later shares a house with her old friends from Queen's, Priscilla and Stella, her new friend Phil (short for Phillipa) and Stella's Aunt Jamesina, who takes care of the house for the girls. Oh, yeah they have these three cats, Rusty, Joseph and Sarah-Cat. Anne gets to visit the home of her birth parents and learns about who she ‘would have been’ if it weren’t for Marilla.
We learn just what a hottie Annie is – three men are vying for her love. She gets her first proposal. Anne refuses, amused at this very unromantic first proposal (he asks her through his sister who is kinda friends with Anne). Then Charlie Sloane also proposes to her, but she turns him down. Then (finally) Gilbert proposes to Anne, telling her he loves her more than anything. Anne turns him down, saying that she can never love him and wants to continue to be friends. Gilbert remarks how friendship will never satisfy him and leaves saying he was deceived into thinking she did care. I know this sounds like ‘the same old story’ but remember – this was the FIRST story to do it!! Any who she meets Roy Gardner, and they court, but when Roy proposes, Anne realizes she can't marry him; mainly because he doesn't have a sense of humor. She graduates and goes home to Avonlea only to learn that Gilbert is sick and possible dying. She rushes to him and nurses him back to health. As Gilbert recovers he constantly visits Anne. Though happy to be friends again, Anne is no longer just satisfied with Gilbert's friendship. She wants his love. On a walk Gilbert tells her of one of his unfulfilled dreams which involves her as his wife. He then proposes again, and Anne says yes – FINALLY!

ANNE OF WINDY POPLARS or ANNE OF WINDY WILLOWS (Depending on which version you buy)
Anne is engaged to Gilbert, she is a principal at Summerside High School where she has to deal with the Pringle clan, Katherine Brooke, and plenty of other interesting folks. The book is named after the boardinghouse she lives in called Windy Poplars with two elderly widows, Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty, plus their housekeeper, Rebecca Dew, and their cat, Dusty Miller. At the end of the novel, Anne departs Summerside, returning to Green Gables and Avonlea for her wedding to Gilbert.

The book starts with Anne's marriage with Gilbert, which is very small and happens in the Green Gables orchard. After the marriage, they move to a house that Anne calls her "house of dreams", in Four Winds Point. Anne and Gilbert meet many interesting people, such as the eccentric Captain Jim and the man-hater Miss Cornelia Bryant. Anne also meets Leslie Moore, who lost her beloved brother and her father, and then was forced to marry Dick Moore because of her mother. It’s this whole Titanic story and I could kind of care less about this character at first, but she’s fairly significant at the end. OK, then Anne gives birth to her first child, Joyce, who dies shortly afterwards. It’s this whole thing and now that I am a mother, I might need to read this again so I can cry a lot more.

This book is more about Anne's children than Anne herself. The story starts nine years after where "Anne's House of Dreams" left us, when Anne is making a visit to Avonlea. Apparently Anne and Gilbert did love each other a whole lot because they have A LOT of children. When she returns home to the old Morgan house, now named '"Ingleside", we are introduced to her five children (I stole a lot of this from my online sources as I don’t remember each child that clearly):

  • James Matthew "Jem" Blythe: Jem is named for Captain Jim and Anne's foster parent Matthew Cuthbert, or as Anne puts it, "The two finest gentlemen, [she knows]" from Anne's house of dreams. The only one of Anne's children born in the House of Dreams, Jem has curly red hair, hazel eyes, his mother's nose and his father's mouth.
  • Walter Cuthbert Blythe: Walter is named after Anne's birth father and adoptive family, (Cuthbert), and is quite the handsomest of the children. He has straight black hair and finely modeled features. Walter is thought of by the Glen St. Mary boys as girly, because he never fights and rarely plays sports, preferring to read books alone.
  • Anne "Nan" Blythe: One of the Ingleside twins, Nan is Blythe by name and blithe by nature, being a dainty little maiden with velvety nut-brown eyes and silky nut-brown hair. Her complexion is almost flawless, and she has been well aware of this since she was very young. "Nan" is named for her mother.
  • Diana "Di" Blythe: Diana is the other Ingleside twin, named after Anne's childhood friend, Diana Barry Wright. She looks a lot like her mother, with red hair and gray-green eyes. She is special chums with Walter, who tells her his secrets and lets her read his verses. Di is also her father's favorite, because of her similarity with Anne and because she is very much like him in qualities and personality, having his practical bent and common sense and his twinkling sense of humor.
  • Shirley Blythe (this is a boy): Anne was very sick after giving birth to Shirley, so the Blythe housekeeper, Susan Baker, had to take care of him, and the baby soon became her favorite out of the Ingleside children. Shirley calls Susan 'Mother Susan', and goes to her to have his bruises kissed and his cuts washed. Shirley is quiet and doesn't like to be forced to talk, liking to play on his own. He is known as the little brown boy, because he has brown eyes, hair and skin, he is also remarked as taking after Gilbert's father, John. Shirley was named for Anne's maiden family name.
  • Bertha Marilla "Rilla" Blythe: The youngest of the Ingleside children, Rilla is named after Anne's birth mother and adoptive "mother", Marilla. She was born a roly-poly plump baby, and remained so until she was seven. She had red hair, which later turned a ruddy-brown color, and brown eyes.

If you really enjoyed those books, there are two more “official” Lucy Maude Montgomery “Anne” books. I’ve never read them, but they are Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside about the aforementioned youngest daughter. Rainbow Valley takes place in WWI and is apparently the only Canadian WWI book told from a woman's point of view.

1 comment:

EGT said...

Anne of the Island = YES, the best one.

And Rainbow Valley is boring, but Rilla of Ingleside is SO worth the read. I adored that book.