Continuing with the #GreenGablesReadalong, the month of March was dedicated to reading the third book in the Anne of Green Gables series, Anne of the Island. When I first read this book as a young adult, I don’t remember it having much of an impact on me, yet as I re-read it there was so much in it that I could relate to and I fell in love with it. There was so little that I remembered that it felt like I was reading it for the first time.
As with the other two books, we span several years of Anne as she grows and matures in so many ways, in this book we cover all four years of Anne at Redmond College, including her vacations back to Avonlea and the changes in all the lives around her, as well as Anne’s own change and views of love. Love definitely feels like a recurring theme throughout this book. Not only do we discuss the love problems of Philippa Gordon, but we witness Anne herself becoming part of many love stories and proposals, some a little more daft than others.
The book starts off with Anne heading off to Redmond College with Gilbert Blythe and Charlie Sloane, and rooming with Priscilla Grant. It is during their first year that they meet Philippa Gordon… an unusual young woman in many ways. Indecisive and hosting a number of interested boys… including the famous two Alec and Alonzo. I will admit, I didn’t like Phil at first, she was even more over the top than Anne in her younger years. However, as the girls become friends – and they purchase a house for the last three years of their education – I started to appreciate Phil and her randomness. Despite her frivolous ways, Phil has a great heart and is a great friend.
There was one particular part of the book that really resonated with me. The summer when Anne wrote “Averil’s Atonement”. For the first time, since childhood, Anne sets to writing a novel – well maybe short story. With more years of education and experience under her belt she attacks the project head on. We see her accept Diana’s proposal to introduce a character, then her discomfort and dismay when she struggles on who to kill off. There were times when she grew frustrated over the characters’ going in the different direction she wanted them to be, then the critics… and how everyone liked the villain more than the hero. As an aspiring writer, I completely understood all of Anne’s hardships and disappointment during her lessons in writing.
There were several other side stories that tickled me and made me both cry and wonder. The death of Ruby Gillis was especially hard for me this time around. I found it frustrated how everyone began to pity Ruby as her health deteriorated, and at the same time proud that Ruby was trying to keep her life going with the same enthusiasm as always. True, we get the feeling of Anne and Ruby had become distant and that some of their childhood friendship was strained and lost, yet in the end Ruby considered Anne one of her trusted friends, and wanted her around until the end. Having someone so young die defiantly put a dark cloud over Anne and the rest of Avonlea, it was sad to read and experience, but it was also true of the times and pain helps make characters learn and grow.
Another part of the story that had captivated me a little too much was Jane Andrews. It started with Jane proposing for her brother to Anne. An awkward experience for Anne, not to mention it was her first proposal… and it came from the guy’s sister and her friend. Turning down Billy wasn’t hard for Anne, though we get the feeling that the relationship between Jane and Anne had shifted. What is more startling to me was the sudden departure for Jane to teach in the West. By the end of the book, we learn that Jane is engaged to an English Millionaire for Winnipeg, but still I found it such a radical change to go so far away from home, especially for the character of Jane Andrews, who is always so sensible. I just feel that there was a story there that we missed, not to mention an adventure to the West! lol.
Let’s head back to Anne’s life. Another change that happens is that Gilbert finally owns up to Anne how much he loves her and that he wants to take their friendship to the next level. Here we have Gilbert confessing his love, and Anne… turning him down. As much as we as readers feel this connection between the two, the long friendship that they share, I actually sort of understand Anne’s reasons for turning him down… if not completely. Part of me thinks she was not ready for the sudden change in their relationship, but I think another part was that she had a confused idea of love and how it should be. We see this come out when she meets Roy Gardner, the ‘man of her dreams’ after she turns down Gilbert.
Like in today’s age, media has presented us with what love should be, should feel, and can confuse many people as they try to find that ‘love’. In Anne’s time it could be the cause of novels and poetry, not to mention her childhood idea that she clings to desperately.
We get the feeling, after Diana’s engagement to Fred that she is settling, as Fred is far from the type of man Diana envisioned as a child. Anne doesn’t want to change, or settle perhaps? When she meets Roy Gardner, he is everything she had envisioned and she, in a way, falls in love. However, after two years, and when Roy finally pops the question… Anne realizes that she is not as happy with Roy as she should be, and that in the end she couldn’t marry him, not for his money or appearance. It’s a large step in Anne’s growth, and I am so glad when she realizes it!
We then reach the climax of Anne and Gilbert’s love story. Anne, after graduating from Redmond, turning down Roy’s engagement arrives home at Green Gables, only to hear about Gilbert Blythe’s illness. With the fear that Gilbert could die, that he would no longer be in his life she finally realizes that she loves him. It’s an amazing scene with Anne in her room, almost begging God to take her too, so that she could be with Gilbert, or not have to live without him. It is the following morning that she receives news that Gilbert’s fever has broken and that he was now to make a complete recovery.
OH how my heart soared!
In the last chapter Gilbert asks Anne if he asked the same question from two years ago, would he get a different answer? He does. Finally Anne can tell Gilbert the truth of how she feels for him, how she always felt. It is a highlight and perfect ending to the book.
I am so excited for the next book and can’t wait to read Anne of Windy Poplars.