I remember my mom reading this aloud to our whole family in the car when I was young, and my dad remarking at one point that it seemed to him that Montgomery had "run out of creative juices," a favorite phrase of his for describing sequels or series that got less wonderful as they went along. I hate to have to say it, but I think he was right.
Anne of Avonlea picks up right about where Anne of Green Gables leaves off: sixteen-year-old Anne Shirley is the new teacher at the Avonlea one-room school. She meets some new pupils, makes some new friends, and helps Marilla raise twins. Twins do seem to be Anne's lot in life, don't they? These are named Davy and Dora, and I only vaguely remembered them from reading this book twenty-some years ago -- in fact, in my memory, I'd confused them a great deal with Daisy and Demi from Little Men by Louisa May Alcott.
Anyway, back to that idea of running low on creative juices. To me, it feels like Montgomery took the imaginative, scrape-prone Anne and split her in half. Her little pupil Paul is her imagination embodied, and Davy gets into more mischief than Anne ever did. The book as a whole is diverting, and I enjoyed it very much, just not as much as its predecessor.
Particularly Good Bits:
"I'd like to add some beauty to life," said Anne dreamily. "I don't exactly want to make people know more... though I know that is the noblest ambition... but I'd love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me... to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn't been born" (p. 54).
"It does people good to have to do things they don't like... in moderation" (p. 56).
"You're never safe from being surprised till you're dead" (p. 58).
"...I think," concluded Anne, hitting on a very vital truth, "that we always love best the people who need us" (p. 84).
When Anne arose in the dull, bitter winter morning she felt that life was flat, stale, and unprofitable (p. 95)(I love that allusion to Hamlet!)
"If a kiss could be seen I think it would look like a violet," said Priscilla (p. 105).
"We make our own lives wherever we are, after all..." (p. 131).
"Don't you know that it is only very foolish folk who talk sense all the time?" (p. 151).
"Having adventures comes natural to some people," said Anne serenely. "You just have a knack for them or you haven't" (p. 160).
She seemed to walk in the atmosphere of things about to happen (p. 248).
"You lose all the fun of expecting things when you're surprised" (p. 256).
"What is an imagination for if not to enable you to peep at life through other people's eyes?" (p. 268).
If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. Clean and wholesome.
This is my 33rd book read and reviewed for the Classics Club and my 4th for the Women's Classic Literature Event.
And here are this month's discussion questions from Elyssa at Purple Ink Studios:
Q: Anne of Avonlea introduces a cast of new characters including Mr. Harrison, Miss Lavender, Davy & Dora, Paul Irving, and Charlotta the Fourth. Which new character(s) was the most endearing to you? What do you like about them?
A: I'm amused by Mr. Harrison, want to hug Miss Lavender, am glad I'm not raising Davy and Dora, want to adopt Paul Irving, and could use my own Charlotta the Fourth. I think Miss Lavender was the most endearing to me because she's the sort of older woman I hope I can be someday, still full of life and wonder. Also, I'm a sucker for stories of lost love refound, which is part of why Persuasion is my favorite Jane Austen novel.
Q: Anne has such high hopes and ideals when she sets out to teach Avonlea school. However, she’s in for a few surprises. What do you think about expectations and ideals when approaching a new situation? What do you think Anne discovered in this season as a school teacher?
A: I think it's useful to have expectations about any new situation, but important to know that you might need to adjust them to reality. Ideals are trickier, and harder to adjust, I think. Anne realized that sometimes reality requires more harshness than she would like, but that many of her idealized notions about teaching were more helpful than others predicted.
Q: What do you think of Miss Lavender’s romance? Do you agree with Gilbert’s comment on what could have been?
A: I love that she gets a second chance, but oh, how sad that they spent decades apart. I think that time was wasted, like Gilbert.