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“Let us read, and let us dance;
these two amusements will never do any harm to the world.”

Saturday, 7 April 2012

In Praise Of: Anne of Green Gables, Avonlea, Prince Edward Island

I made this: Avid Reader at 8:00 am


Some of you will remember that I rather aggressively stated my resolve to stay away from book series this year. 

Too little time...too many book club books to keep up to date with...and now...too little willpower.


I have a really good reason though. Honest!

As most of you probably know, I read We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver recently. I found her perspective of the world to be very bleak and I was being gradually being sucked into the misery.
I knew that I needed to tap into some familiar optimistic and hopeful world for a re-invigoration of the soul(I'm not kidding, I actually do speak that way in my real life). Otherwise the resignation and determinedly negative view of the world would prevail...forever...ever...eva...


Anne of Green Gables leaped to mind. The depiction of Prince Edward Island throughout the series reminds one that the world can still be a small warm and loving place. These books impact on me in the same way that Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe (by Fannie Flagg) or the deep south as run by the Ya Ya's (in the Rebecca Well's trilogy) does. Determined heroines, big dreams and a strong sense of family - what can I say? I'm just a big softie really. 


Here, children run around outside all summer long; dreams and hopes are only enhanced by the passage of time and love...love rules supreme. To a cynical mind, Avonlea may seem like the most saccharine idealised community in the world. To me however, it is a destination we carry inside our secret heart of hearts and try to re-create for ourselves wherever we may be.


(If you're wondering; reading these have worked a treat. By pure coincidence I was in the middle of the series right as the sky turned blue and the sun came out to play for the first time this year. I was also listening predominantly to classical music, which in many cases seemed to fit the books perfectly. My mood has changed entirely. Spring has sprung the world anew!)


If you'd like to join me, find below as many free versions as I could find!

Part One - The Avonlea Years

Anne Shirley should never have been sent to meet Matthew Cuthbert of Green Gables. He and his sister Marilla had specifically requested a boy, strong, willing and able to help out on their family farm, in exchange for an education and some rearing. They had not wanted a tiny, thin girl with large grey eyes; an overactive tongue; an IMAGINATION and a tremendous capacity for hope and love. 

Oddly, it is the quiet, shy and unassuming Matthew that first wants her to stay. Within seconds of meeting, he and Anne had discovered that they were 'kindred spirits', able to understand each other at a glance and therefore instantly family. The stict and stern Marilla soon comes round to the amazement of her ever-inquisitive and opinionated neighbours - who immediately declare that disaster in is store! 

Anne quickly settles into Green Gables and Avonlea, making a life-long best friend in Diana, a loving family with Matthew and Marilla and even a rival - in the form of the too-smart, too-smooth, too-charming by half Gilbert Blythe. No matter what she tries however, our Annie girl is constantly wrapped up in 'adventures', often with disastrous and comical results. 

It's no secret that I *love* these books fiercely and protectively. Long hours were spent wrapped up in the ever-sunny village of Avonlea. Anne is a great playmate and also a terrific role model. Her heart seems to unerringly point North; though she is impetuous, she is eager to self improve and willingly seeks the lessons learned throughout the books - which are often more gentle and instructive than their real life equivalents!

*****SPOILERS*****
*****SPOILERS*****
*****SPOILERS*****


Beautiful!
Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series No: 01
Published Date: 1908
Years: 11-16 yrs
Perspective: Anne Shirley
Project Gutenberg: Anne 01
iTunes: Anne 01


Score: 10/10
Thoughts:
I first read this book at the age of nine and since then have always have a copy close to hand (heck, thanks to my kindle; I can have it with me at all times!). 
Anne was instantly a character I could curl up with and join for days. Independent, resourceful, honest and creative, she's an easy character to like, however it was Anne's fearlessness, capacity for empathy and ability to take great change in her stride that made me love and admire her. 
When one of her soul mates dies towards the end of the book; I sobbed as though my heart would break many years ago and have done so with every repetition - last month was no exception. Though it is tragically sad, it's also a beautiful way to look at Death. A friend who takes the chosen onto their greater reward. Reading this book made me miss my certainties in life. It makes me question the easy acknowledge of reason for events around me, wakening me up to the magic within the most mundane act... (sighs in dreamy haze)



A bit blah to be honest
Title: Anne of Avonlea

Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series No: 02
Published Date: 1909
Years: 16-18 yrs
Perspective: Anne Shirley
Project Gutenberg: Anne 02
iTunes: Anne 02



Score: 8/10
Thoughts:
Despite my enjoyment of the first Anne book I didn't get my hands on this one until years later. 
Avonlea was an enchanting as ever, the characters as lovable and annoying as always. Anne grew up a little bit and her adventures expanded slightly too. It didn't quite grip me as much as the first on this re-read. I think I'm probably spoiled with knowing what's to come. The developing relationship between Gilbert and Anne seems unnecessarily drawn out. By the time Anne starts to notice him; I'm screaming from the roof tops. 
Yet it seems so romantic, draw out in this way - and is certainly more realistic. She's only just turned 16!! *more swooning*



Possibly my least favourite cover!
Title: Anne of the Island

Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series No: 03
Published Date: 1915
Years: 18-22 yrs
Perspective: Anne Shirley
Project Gutenberg: Anne 03
iTunes: Anne 03



Score: 10/10
Thoughts:
This is more like it! 
For the first two thirds of this book, I was in agony. I remembered everything all wrong - despite this being my *favourite* of the series so far!
It all starts off so well. Anne gets to go back to school. Montgomery works in different past events in each book, creating a sense of history within the reader, already familiar with the time line. 
However, I am NOT a fan of Dory and Dora, though I love that Marilla is such a different caretaker with the twins than she ever was with Anne. 
Anne continues to grow. She remains true of heart, if still somewhat stubborn. She has quiet ambitions and continues to inspire trust and faith wherever she goes. 
The whole romance with Roy Gardiner was introduced much earlier than I thought, lasting much longer too. The refusals were initially comical then painful and Anne's scenes with Gilbert were AWFUL. 
The revelation at the end of the book was as much a relief dramatically as it was emotionally. Happy ever after is beckoning, it's so lovely to see a treasured friend realise their dreams have taken on a new shape. 



I hope this was a loved book.
It looks like it should have been
a loved book
Title: Anne of Windy Poplars (Windy Willows)

Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series No: 04
Published Date: 1936
Years: 22-25 yrs
Perspective: Anne Shirley
Project Gutenberg: Anne 04



Score: 7/10
Thoughts:
Anne and Gilbert are engaged. 
However, Gilbert has to spend two years training so Anne takes on a new challenge - running a school in a different village on the Island. 
Comprising of Anne's letters to Gilbert over a two year period, this book was written years after the series so far - to tighten the time line and expand the mythology. 
Though Anne was not the authors favoured creation; the appetite of her audience was inexhaustible - over time she would fill in several gaps in terms of years in this way. 
This is very much a filler book; however the new families and background characters are very entertaining and each brings with it their own unique flavour - quiet different to the comforting and warm tone of Green Gables. 
Finally, there is a visit back home - to Marilla and the twins and Green Gables. Though the preceding three books have all featured stories outside of Avonlea, this was the first where I really missed the by-now familiar landscape and features of Green Gables. 

Anne of Green Gable
and the Famous Five...
Title: Anne's House of Dreams 
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series No: 05
Published Date: 1917
Years: 25-27 yrs
Perspective: Anne Blythe
Project Gutenberg: Anne 05
iTunes: Anne 05



Score: 9/10
Thoughts:
Back to the original follow up to Anne of the Island and the story flows gracefully. Anne and Gilbert are now starting out in married life. In order for Gilbert to set up a surgery; they have to move some sixty miles away from their families. Undaunted, the pair throw themselves into their new home. 
This book features one of the most un-engaging characters Montgomery ever created. 
And one of her best. 
Mrs Cornelia Bryant is a harpy and a shrew. Her repeated phrases did NOT entertain me; they just grated. I cant stand her!
Captain Jim on the other hand was just lovely. Though obviously out of the same mould as Matthew; he is a happy, chatty man - with an optimistic eye and a peace that I adored. Like many of the characters within the story, I was bewitched by this gentle gent - fascinated by his stories and deeply affected by the tragic and doomed love of his past. Each chapter that followed Jim carried with it a sense of family and community - sadly lost to many in this busy age. 
A mixed bag - the Anne stuff I loved. The tragedies that she endures, the love shared between her and Gilbert and her hope and  love of life remain enchanting, though she provides the frame, she is not always the main character. The story of Lesley is frankly ridiculous but I for one was happy to indulgently overlook the more outrageous aspects. 



Tales from Avonlea




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