Sunday, February 08, 2015

Anne of All the Things

I've been rereading the later Anne of Green Gables books; after the Christmas movie marathon, I realized I wanted to go back to Anne's big romances in Anne of the Island. Then I got swept along into Anne of Windy Poplars, and now I've been caught up in Anne's House of Dreams. Haven't read any of these books in years, and it's very interesting to come back to them, especially after watching the movie, floating in on memories of favorite bits.

The Island I loved as much as I remembered and expected to, mostly because, to me, it's all about Gilbert's friendship/love.  I think Anne's five proposals are delightful.  Ruby Gillis's goodbye is heartbreaking.  Patty's place is loveable, especially Aunt Jamesina.

But there were definitely some things that I noticed this time around that were interesting.  Phil Gordon, the conceited chatterbox, is really kind of irritating.  I didn't mind her as a character so much, and she speaks some important words of truth at least once in the book, but I absolutely don't understand what Anne sees in her--she's so full of herself and judgmental of others.

Also, a lot of the details about college are glossed right over--there's a lot of telling instead of showing.  The "showing" is always in the conversations between the girls, and with non-school related people, especially older ladies.  But every scene with Roy is one of telling, as is the whirl of social functions and the intensity of classes.  We don't even get a glimpse, just a summary of clubs, football games, dances, and evenings with friends.  Only the homely moments are painted.  If I didn't know better, I'd say this is a book about the university experience by someone who never had one; perhaps Lucy Maud Montgomery just didn't have the gay, delightful experience she imagined for Anne.

Windy Poplars (I don't know why they've got 12-year-old Anne in front of Green Gables on that cover) was full of delightful anecdotes, but my favorite parts were all about people besides Anne.  At the beginning of the book, the whole town is set against her (because she got a job that the ruling family wanted to go to one of their own), but she mops that up very quickly and the rest of the book quickly becomes the Anne Is Amazing Show.  Everyone loves her, every school child considers her a mentor, every young person confides their woes in her, and she goes around making matches between every pair of people she can.  It's kind of exhausting, and the format--letters to Gilbert interspersed with third-person chapters--makes it even more noticeable, as Montgomery's love of Anne starts to get conflated with Anne's own thoughts.

The other notable thing about this book is that it's absolutely full of pairs of old ladies living together.  The widows at Windy Poplars, the two sisters of Maplehurst, the grandmother and the Woman who live with Elizabeth.  Pairs of widows and spinsters abound here. I don't suppose it means anything; it's just an observation.

Finally, the House of Dreams, which I'm smack in the middle of.  Once again, I love the town and the secondary characters best.  Captain Jim is delightful, but I feel like I hardly know Gilbert at all.  He and Anne are described as taking long rambling walks and talking for hours, but we get so little of this, I can't really picture the shape of their marriage, which is really disappointing. 

And I can't help but imagine that coming out of three years as principal of a large school and Most Popular Young Woman in Summerside must make keeping house in lonely (if beautiful) Four Points Harbor seem kind of slow.  Gilbert's at work all day and Anne's in the kitchen?  I don't know that she's doing any writing or anything, and it makes me kind of sad.

There's such a sweet nostalgia in reading these again, and I've been trying to fill in the gaps of the day to day life of Anne and Gilbert with my imagination, but I'm not quite getting there.  It's sad, really. 

And I can promise that I won't reread Anne of Ingleside.  It took me decades to get around to that one, and I never got over the fact that Anne had all those kids but never took in an orphan.  The settled, staid Anne bears so little resemblance to the young charmer she was that I hardly knew her.  I suppose that's what growing up used to mean; very glad I never tried it myself.

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