Oh, Anne. You are so incredibly endearing. Continuing my #AnneReadAlong2017, I ventured into Anne of Avonlea. While I am still completely in love with Anne Shirley herself, as well as Miss Lavendar and Paul Irving, there are a few more things I struggled with in this novel compared to the first.
First of all, the addition of Davy and Dora felt a bit forced. It was like Montgomery needed to replace the innocence and mischief of younger Anne, so she introduced these characters to provide more of that child-like wonder into the story. Davy feels in many ways like a plot device to help Marilla break down her set ways even more. He does contribute to quite a bit of Anne’s character development, but it felt unnecessary since Anne could have gotten that from her students at Avonlea School. It’s not Davy’s mischievous nature I found problematic, but his cruelty to Dora and how Marilla and Anne react to that. While Anne’s scrapes in the previous book had been born out of acting without thinking or her quick temper, Davy’s actions are thought-out and deliberate. He likes making trouble and causing people distress.
“I think,” concluded Anne, hitting on a very vital truth, “that we will always love best the people who need us.”
Then there is his sister Dora. Dora is more often ignored as she is a quiet, unobtrusive, and obedient child. She is consistently fading into the background. Anne spent quite a bit of the first book describing her neglect, emotionally and spiritually, as an orphan. It’s heartbreaking to see that now Anne seemingly neglects Dora in a similar manner. Yes, Anne realizes that she might have an unfair and careless attitude towards Dora, but once this thought is acknowledged she never does strive to make amends for this. There is a wonderful opportunity here for Anne to impart life lessons to Dora and develop a relationship here, but it flies by without acknowledgment. Montgomery’s decision to introduce orphan twins, while paralleling Anne’s own history, was overall a disappointing choice.
Diana is also put into a poorer light in this novel. Her weight is suddenly a huge deal. While this makes sense as something appropriate for Diana and Anne to worry about, I was disappointed in Montgomery’s execution. Diana and Anne wail regularly about their vanity. While Diana reassures Anne her 7 freckles are adorable, Anne never once reassures Diana that her weight doesn’t mean anything. After how progressive the first novel felt with women in politics and becoming educated, I was a bit shocked at this portrayal. I can forgive it a bit, as this book was written in 1909… but it breaks my heart.
Well, we all make mistakes, dear, so just put it behind you. We should regret our mistakes and learn from them, but never carry them forward into the future with us.
Finally, after how charming and beautiful Anne of Green Gables was, Anne of Avonlea fell a bit flat. Anne and her friends still had some marvelous adventures– but overall this felt like more of the same, only not as wonder-filled. Part of this is the age that Anne is at and where her experiences are. She’s in an awkward stage between childhood and adulthood. She hasn’t quite become fully independent, though she strives a bit for it. As a result, this book felt a bit like time was just passing for Anne before her adult life really begins.
That said, I still really enjoyed Anne of Avonlea. Anne’s adventures are thought-provoking and teach quite a few good lessons. Anne’s exploits as a teacher and as part of the Avonlea Village Improvement Society are relatable, humorous, and endearing. I do love meeting the new cast of characters, as well (Miss Lavendar and Paul Irving both weaseled their way into my heart, for sure). In fact, Montgomery introduced the perspective of a few new characters as narrators to help us understand better how Avonlea views Anne Shirley. I had already realized that Anne thought less of herself than most others, but I didn’t realize by how much. These interactions and perspectives really caught my interest. Anne herself has weaseled her way into the hearts of all of Avonlea, it seems.
“Having adventures comes natural to some people,” said Anne serenely. “You just have a give for them or you haven’t.
I’d be remiss if this review went without mentioning Montgomery’s writing. As with the previous book, the prose in Anne of Avonlea is gorgeous. I don’t think in pictures and I struggle to visualize most things. But Montgomery’s style provides me a clear pastoral picture of Prince Edward Island through Anne’s eyes. It’s beautiful, and I am now looking quite forward to visiting some day. Her prose also inspires me to be a bit more forgiving to the people in my life– while Anne herself might come across as a bit saccharine, I don’t find it overwhelming. Instead, her moods and passions cause me to reflect on my own interpretation of life. Thanks to Montgomery’s brilliant writing, Anne is an inspiration to me.
I know there is more to come from Anne Shirley (and Gilbert Blithe!) in the upcoming books. I look forward to continuing my reading of this series and I hope the next book hooks me even more.
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Other Anne of Avonlea Reviews
What do you think?
- Have you read Anne of Avonlea? What do you think of this book?
- What books do you love which have some challenging, difficult, or poorly represented content you struggle with?
- Are you participating in our #AnneReadAlong2017? What are you looking for in this read along?