Saturday, February 27, 2016

"Anne of Avonlea" by L. M. Montgomery

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.


  1. Can I make a confession? I really did not like Davy or Dora; they drove me a bit crazy. :-Z

    I read through this series a couple of years ago and was very glad I did. Being Canadian, it was shameful of me to have left it for so long. I'll be interested to see what you make of the rest of the novels. Anne of Green Gables is my second favourite in the series. After you've finished them all, perhaps you can guess which is my first. :-)

    1. Cleopatra, yeah, they're a bit much, aren't they?

      My mom read all 8 books to me when I was probably around 10 or 11, and I reread them in high school, but this is my first time through them since then, so it's very interesting to see how my perspectives change!

      Is your favorite perhaps Rilla of Ingleside? I know a lot of people love it best.

  2. I have the exact same edition, I have owned it since I was a child. I really like that quote about walking in an atmosphere of things about to happen. I haven't read this in quite a while but I remember finding Davy, Dora, and Paul to be all mildly annoying. They all felt a bit one dimensional. I still loved the book though, I loved all the Anne books.

    1. Jennifer, these are the copies I got for Christmas and birthdays when I was 10 or so. Love them to bits! (Sometimes kind of literally, alas.)

      And yes, those 3 did feel thin. But the book as a whole is still fun.

  3. I actually like this book very much. Compared to the first one, it isn't as good, but I still think it's one of the best. (And no, LMM was nowhere near running out of creative juices yet, I think.) One of my most favorite parts about this (inevitably) is the way it shows Anne and Gilbert's friendship. They're not yet lovers, but they are good friends, and there are a number of moments that show this and make up for the complete estrangement in the first book. (I should probably admit right here that I am a hopeless romantic and completely in love with every interaction between Anne and Gilbert, from beginning to end.) Your first quote above is probably one of my favorite quotes not relating to romance in the series, as in a lot of ways that's my personal ambition as well. Miss Lavender is also a favorite character of mine; she's so original and sweet, and while her romance is not my favorite of secondary romances (that would go to Phil and Jonas and Leslie and Owen), it still makes such a sweet ending to her story that I am satisfied. I suppose the children are somewhat lacking in personality, but being a creature of imagination myself I always enjoy Paul's vivid imagination. And the final page, hinting at coming adulthood and romance, is infinitely beautiful. Yes, I think this is one of my favorites in the series. It's so homey and sweet that I can't help but love it.
    -- Marcy

    1. So you're a hopeless romantic, eh? You're not alone ;-) I myself am not particularly romantic, except in occasional fits, but I know many people who are :-) Anne and Gilbert's friendship is definitely enjoyable, and I really am so fond of romances that begin as friendships. They're my favorite -- I'm not a fan of love-at-first-sight. But love at five-hundredth-sight, yes!

      But still... the book as a whole doesn't enchant me. And I'm okay with that.

    2. I am seriously a tremendous fan of romances that begin in friendships. And no, I don't like love at first sight at all either. That's why childhood friendships that wind up turned into romances are probably some of my favorite of all. I'm glad we have that in common. :)

      One of the main reasons I decided to comment on your blog (apart from the fact that you have an anonymous option, which is kindof necessary for me, since I don't have an account yet) was the way you were so courteous in the comments. Even if the person commenting disagreed with you, you were always respectful of their stance. I like that a lot, so I wasn't afraid to write my opinions, knowing we would both respect each other's different opinions. So thanks so much for letting me be a hopeless romantic in these comments, even if that means I don't always agree with you. (And by the way, I totally respect your not liking this book so much, too.)

    3. I keep forgetting to sign! The last post was me too.

      And I forgot when I wrote this that my family would definitely agree with you on this one not being as good as the first. We read Anne of Green Gables aloud together (I think our second time through) and started this one, but by the time we got to the end of the first chapter no one but me was really all that interested. I suppose the first book set such a high standard that the second one couldn't quite live up to it. Anyway, the net result was that I got to read this book on my own instead of reading it aloud -- which I didn't mind as it meant I got through it faster.
      -- Marcy

    4. Marcy, thank you for your kind words! It's good to know that I come across as courteous, because I really try not to say things online that I wouldn't be willing to say to a person face-to-face. But it can be a struggle.

      I'm not a big fan of bloggers who never respond to comments. If you don't want to discuss things with people, then turn off the commenting feature. It feels like a tease to say, "Tell me what you think!" and then never reply.

      Anne herself is a hopeless romantic, and I love her, so how on earth could I hold that against you? ;-) My mom is one too. I do like romance in books, but I'm often not fond of stories where romance is the only point. There has to be more to a story than boy + girl to interest me, whether it's characters that grow and change and learn, or whatever.


What do you think?

Comments on old posts are always welcome!

(Rudeness and vulgar language will not be tolerated.)