Continuing on with the #greengablesreadalong, February was devoted to the second of the Anne series by L.M. Montgomery: Anne of Avonlea. We continue to follow Anne in her life as she begins her teaching career at the local Avonlea school.
As with the first novel, I find it difficult to sum up the plot. These books don’t seem to have an overall, powerful main plot. Looking back, the book seems to be made up of several smaller plots that deal with the people Anne comes across. Sometimes it’s more about them than Anne, like she is some background character, yet it was because of her that events turned out the way it did.
Don’t get me wrong, the slower paced “coming of age” style that is written isn’t bad. It actually a fantastic change of pace from what I normally read. It’s relaxing – no war scenes or fighting, or magical good vs evil fighting lol.
So let’s get on with the book. Again, to attempt to sum it up, Anne is sixteen and starting her first year teaching school in Avonlea – the school she herself went to just a year or two ago. Along with the challenges that arise from teaching and being a place of authority over younger minds, there are several other characters that Anne meets over the course of the book (two years). Mr. Harriston, The Keith Twins, and Miss Lavendar are a few that pop into my head at the moment. Each have their own sup plots that are resolved by the end of the book – with the help of Anne.
Davy and Dora Keith (6-7 years old) are distant relatives of Marillia, when their mother dies the twins are orphaned and Marillia takes custody of them until they could hear from their uncle out in BC. Davy is a menace to say the least. He is always getting into trouble, breaking things, asking questions and overall being a pretty bad boy. Dora, on the other hand is prim and proper, silent and as mentioned in a book, forgettable.
Of course Davy’s antics remind me of Anne’s at a young age, though as a boy, his antics are considerably worse. For instance, he locked his sister up in Mr. Harriston’s shed and pretended to not know where she was when Anne and Marillia began to search for her. He tells falsehoods, breaks things and all the time, gives Anne these ‘manipulative’ looks that infuriate me as a reader, yet melts the hearts of both Marilla and Anne in the book. Yes, by the end of the book Davy is ‘better-behaved’, but there’s still this manipulation that I don’t think has been resolved.
Reading this book now, I seemed more sensitive to Dora’s situation. She is a wallflower, does nothing bad, thus doesn’t get any attention like her brother. Even Marillia and Anne comment that even though she is dutiful, good and proper, they like Davy more. I found that comment hurtful. I don’t know why but I felt more pity that Dora was given such a simple character with no originality. She reminds me a little of Mary Bennett from Jane Austin’s Pride and Prejudice.
Besides the minor improvements on Davy, nothing radical changes with the twins by the end of the book, and for the life of me, can’t remember if they are ever mentioned again in this series. Part of me would like to know what happens to the twins, and what they would do with their life. I guess I will have to wait and see when we get to the other books.
I’m not sure who I enjoyed more, the ruffled bachelor Mr. Harriston, or his cursing parrot Ginger. Both were refreshing new characters to the novel, entertaining and comical in their own way. I am also reminded early on when Mr. Harriston is introduced how Anne has the ability to make friend with such a wide variety of people. And so easily.
It starts with Anne accidently selling his jersey cow whom she found in his cabbage field and thought it was hers. Having already been caught with her own jersey in his field, the mistake is reasonable to make. She sells the cow right there on the spot to Mr. Shearer. When she realizes her mistake, she decides to confess to Mr. Harriston and his gruff attitude. Instead of getting a yell, or some other grumpy state, for which we all as readers are expecting, he laughs at the folly. It is at that moment that he becomes a real jewel of a character in my mind. He understand the mistakes and is willing to laugh it off and accept Anne’s offer of her Jersey cow instead. From there, the two get on quite well… except for the parrot.
By the end of the book, the poor birdie dies – in what I would call a act of god. During a early spring storm, a violent one at that – to which i’m cautiously going to call a tail end of a hurricane or tornado. Basically Harriston’s house is hit by lightning, which ended up killing the bird and leaving a hole in his floor. But at a change of pace, after the storm, a woman appears on the island and claims to be Mr. Harriston’s wife. Long story short, the two were married – to the surprise of the town who had assumed Harriston was a bachelor. It is through Anne’s little writing slip in the paper that leads to the reunion and now that the parrot is gone, the two are able to make their marriage work, which makes Mr. Harriston a much happier man.
I loved Miss Lavender when she first appeared near the second half of the book. A single woman in her 40’s, she is considered an old maid and lives alone – with Charlotte the Fourth – in a hidden gem of a home called Echo Lodge. It is by accident that Anne and Diana stumble upon the woman and her home, yet both are enchanted with Miss Lavendar upon first appearance.
She reminds me a lot of what Anne could be when she grows up, full of imagination, and pretend. Even at that age, Miss Lavendar still holds on to those stories and delights of her younger years.
There is a love story surrounding her, which we discover surrounds the father of one of Anne’s pupils, Paul Irving. Through introducing the son of the man she loved to Miss Lavendar, and Paul writing home to his father about her, the two past lovers are reunited as well and married by the end of the book.
It’s romantic, and sweet, with Anne’s little helping hand placed in there as well.
These sort of stories fill up Anne of Avonlea, making for a richer environment full of characters of whom Anne interacts on a regular basis. Anne herself grows more I think in this book than the first. She starts off as a freshmen school teacher, gains the respect of her students, and the community and enters the cusps of womanhood.
The greatest part of her growth, I believe, is at the end after Miss Lavendar’s wedding when Gilbert picks her up at Echo Lodge. (Yes, Gilbert is still there, and only one or two occasions get a glimpse into his mind to know that he is smitten with Anne.)
“… but wouldn’t it be more beautiful still, Anne, if there had been no separation or misunderstanding… if they had come hand in hand all the way through life, with no memories behind them but those which belonged to each other?”
– Gilbert Blythe, Anne of Avolnea
To me this is a powerful thing for Gilbert to say to Anne. Only once before had he asked Anne what she thought of him, and got a “you’re a great friend” as a reply. Here, though, Anne reacts differently. By blushing and saying nothing. The hints of a budding romance is on the horizon for the two and I am drawn into Gilbert’s love once more.
He never once pushes Anne for something else, he is always by her side, giving her his friendship – as that is all she ever asked. Yet, you can tell in that one passage that – I think – Gilbert is telling Anne his feelings towards her.
Maybe i’m wrong, but at least by the last chapter, Anne looks at Gilbert in a different sight. The two of them will be going to Redmond College in the third book, and I can’t wait to see the two of them grow closer together.