Anne of Green Gables…the sequels by L M Montgomery

After being enchanted with Anne of Green Gables on my first reading of it last year, I was determined to read my way through the entire series. As it always does, however, life intervened, and I never got around to it. Moving to America  gave me the perfect excuse, as the antique copies I wanted to collect are far more widely available second hand here than they are in England, and I swiftly hunted down the first three sequels; Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, and Anne’s House of Dreams. Over the past couple of weeks I have had the most delightful time reading them and watching Anne grow from a schoolgirl teacher to a college student to a wife and young mother, and I am more convinced than ever that Anne Shirley is one of the most wonderful characters ever written.

Anne of Avonlea chronicles Anne’s time teaching at Avonlea school, from when she is 16 to when she is 18. All of the usual suspects are in this sequel, including Marilla, Gilbert, Diana and Mrs Rachel Lynde, as well as some lovely new characters, such as the imaginative and sensitive young pupil of Anne’s, Paul Irving, Miss Lavendar Lewis, a romantic spinster who lives in a hidden glen, Mr Harrison, the mysterious and seemingly cantankerous new neighbour of Green Gables, and, of course, the twins; adorable, irrepressible Davy, and the straight-laced Dora, who end up being adopted by Marilla. Anne remains very much the goodhearted, romantic, fanciful and well meaning child she was in Anne of Green Gables, getting into scrapes and making mistakes and having fun with her friends despite her no longer being a schoolgirl. However, the responsibility of her teaching duties and the little twins do mature her, and she learns that her idealistic notions don’t always translate to success in the real world. As she gets older and gains more experience of life, her friendships change and her priorities develop, and she grows to have ambitions that will take her far beyond the small world of Avonlea and the safe white washed room in Green Gables that contained her girlish dreams.

Anne of the Island develops this theme of growing up and maturing as Anne moves to the big city of Kingsport to attend Redmond College and take her BA in English. Here she meets new friends; the often infuriating Phil, a rich girl who soon turns out to be a ‘kindred spirit’, and sweet old Aunt Jamesina, who keeps house for Anne and her friends when they move into the perfectly beautiful cottage that will be their home throughout their BA. Of the three sequels I have read, I enjoyed Anne of the Island the most, because it is so wonderfully bittersweet and perfectly illustrates the mixed pains and pleasures of growing up. Though she relishes her freedom and autonomy in Kingsport, she still misses Avonlea. However, when Anne returns home for the holidays, she finds it sadly changed; she is no longer the child she was, and everyone is growing older and starting to move on and away with their lives. She experiences the death of friends, the changing of relationships as her friends begin to marry, and the heartache of love, but alongside this are the joy of widened horizons, the pleasure of new ambitions, and the hope of a bright future ahead. Anne learns so much about herself and what she wants from her life in this book, and I loved watching her mature and find her place in the world, and, of course, get that long awaited proposal from Gilbert.

Anne’s House of Dreams is the story of Anne and Gilbert’s first two years of marriage and their life in their ‘House of Dreams’, far from Avonlea on the other side of the Prince Edward Island coast. It’s three years since the events of Anne of the Island, and Anne and Gilbert are now 25. Gilbert is a country doctor and Anne is a housewife, and they take much joy in setting up home in their lovely seaside cottage. Far from Marilla and Diana, Anne is initially lonely, but her neighbours in Four Winds soon rally around. There is the delightful Captain Jim, an old seadog who lives in the lighthouse up the coast, the manhating feminist Miss Cornelia, and the stunningly beautiful, mysterious and tragic Leslie, whose life has dealt her many a cruel blow and who will come to find a new purpose in life through her friendship with Anne. This is the most mature and heartrending of the novels; as in love as Anne and Gilbert are, and as funny and heartwarming their adventures with their new neighbours, there is a lot of sadness, grief and heartache, and one episode in particular made me cry. It surprised me that this was classed as a ‘children’s’ book; the very adult griefs that come to pass in both Anne and Leslie’s lives are far too distressing for children to read about or fully understand. Despite the ultimately happy ending, Anne’s carefree life has been dealt a blow she will never truly recover from, and this pressing weight of adulthood marks the true passing of her girlhood and her advent into a woman. Though her irrepressible imagination and romantic heart remain, they have been brought into check by the experiences of her adult life.

By the time I finished reading these three sequels, I had mixed feelings. As much as I loved the stories and watching Anne grow up, I was also frustrated by the depiction of Anne having given up all of her dreams of teaching and writing to become a housewife. Instead, Anne is supposed to find fulfilment in keeping her house clean and her larder well stocked. Somehow, the ambitious, intelligent, bright eyed Anne of the early books disappears, and in her place is a passive angel in the house figure, whose greatest joy is in having a fire going and a meal on the table for her husband when he gets home. I know many women find genuine fulfilment and satisfaction in creating a comfortable home for their families, but Anne always wanted more than that. I felt like L M Montgomery had sold out to societal expectations of a woman’s place; Anne’s House of Dreams was published in 1917, during WW1; before the suffragettes had won their right to vote and at a time when the image of good, gentle women keeping those hearths burning had special significance for a world at war. Considering the environment Montgomery was writing in, I can understand her choosing to create a life for Anne built around traditional roles and home comforts, but I was disappointed not to see Anne, with her university degree, fierce intelligence and enviable talents, be encouraged to achieve more for herself, rather than just becoming a supporting player in her husband’s successful career.

Feminist concerns aside, these are truly wonderful books, and Anne is a magnificent heroine. I am glad, now I’ve read further in the series, that I waited until adulthood to read them for the first time. The increasingly melancholic tone perfectly exemplifies the first clouds on the horizon of life that appear as we all venture out of adolescence into adulthood, and Anne’s strength, courage and positivity are sorely needed as she negotiates the trials that come with increasing years. L M Montgomery does not make Anne’s life picture-book perfect, and this realistic portrayal is refreshing but also, at times, confusing. I’m not sure what audience Montgomery was writing for; too complex and tragic for children, but often rather simplistic for adults, the books straddle a sort of no-man’s land, genre-wise. The stories they weave are timeless, and powerful, but I really wouldn’t give them to anyone under the age of 13. Despite all of this, they have become great favourites of mine, and I was delighted to find within their pages the comfort, reassurance and inspiration we all need from time to time. If you’ve never read an Anne book, start today. They’ll enrich your soul, I promise!

Edited to add: Do go and listen to this wonderful discussion of the Anne books!

90 comments

  1. Oh Rachel! The next thing to do is to read the journals of L.M. Montgomery, which are remarkable, and, for those familiar with her novels, revelatory. The Anne books are written through a lovely haze of wistful romance, but what’s startling is that the journals are an utterly realistic, warts and all, portrait not only of Montgomery’s real life, but that of a writer and a pitifully circumscribed rector’s wife of the period. It’s the dark side of her, for sure – the light side is what you read in her novels – and often heartbreaking, but *truth,* not fiction. Right up there with the best literary journals, and to me, by far the most interesting and best work she ever did. Her husband was mentally ill and almost impossibly difficult; she suffered silently from some “women’s ailment” for thirty years of the sort that now gets quickly eradicated with antibiotics…well, I’ve never been able to read them a second time, but one close reading of all five or six volumes is a truly astonishing experience, and a learning experience: about a woman’s life, and a study of self-repression in an era when that is what you did. One of those life-and-thinking altering books. Can’t think of many books that have affected me so profoundly…well, a few, all biographies or journals. Virginia Woolf’s letters and journals. Byron’s letters. Biography of Colette by Judith Thurman. The Letters Between Six Sisters Mitford volume, read immediately before Decca’s letters. Just wow. Perhaps the Montgomery journals aren’t the best thing to read if you want to write a couple of book blog entries a week, as the volumes take some time to get through – but essential to get the complete picture of her. Her fiction’s only half of it.

    1. Diana, another wonderful comment and magnificent recommendations! I will get hold of her journals – I have heard of them and their brilliance, but I wanted to read more of her fiction before I started reading about her life. I think they will become the next set of books I shall attempt to collect – they’re not cheap, I know, so I’ll have quite a hunt on my hands. I can’t wait to find out more about this remarkable woman – I entirely agree, biographies and journals are just as arresting and life changing as fiction…often more so, actually!

  2. So, are you going to finish the series? These are household favorites here – they seemed to be the series my girls gravitated to after they had read through all the Betsy-Tacy books. One of our many “dream vacations” is to go spend some time on PEI.🙂 Glad you are enjoying them!

    1. Yes, when I can afford to buy the final two in the nice old editions! They’re a little harder to come by. I am reading them in publication rather than chronological order so I’m going to read Anne of Ingleside and Anne of Windy Willows after I’ve read the two books that revolve around Anne and Gibert’s children. I do want to read on…but at the same time…I am worried the final ones will disappoint! I would love to go to PEI as well…one day!

  3. Great summary but I think you are wrong about not giving them to children under 13. If a child is able and willing to read them they’ll get so much out of them – as for the difficult stuff in books, my experience is that children filter out the things they can’t digest in reading. My 2 daughters adore the Anne series. Agree that she is a brilliant heroine and sad that she gives up her dreams.

    1. Thanks – I think I’d give the first one to a child under 13 but personally I wouldn’t want to give my own kids (when I have them) the later ones until they were old enough to understand what was going on. I know I would have been very upset by Anne’s House of Dreams in particular and would have asked my mum a lot of potentially awkward questions because of it – but I think it’s up to each parent/teacher/adult in charge of a child to decide what’s appropriate for the child in question to read anyway. It’s great that your girls enjoyed them at a young age and she is a great role model for the tween-agers (hate that term!)!

  4. Beautiful editions! You’re in the place to collect them obviously, but even so well done. I read them all as a 8-11 year old child – and again as a teenager, young adult etc. I just loved them and sobbed over parts of them, but somehow was never traumatised or frightened by the sadness. It all felt safely long ago and far away I suppose. Mind you I didn’t read Rainbow Valley (it wasn’t in our library) until I was in my early 20s and the shock of reading parts of that one for the first time was very great. Be sure to have plenty of tissues to hand! The journals are indeed amazing. Her life was so difficult. Poor woman.

    1. I know, aren’t they gorgeous?! I’m interested to hear people’s experiences of reading these as a child – I really can’t imagine the 8 year old me enjoying them or understanding them. But then I don’t really remember being 8, so I could be completely wrong! I’ll have to ask my mum what I used to read!

      I have heard the final two books are rather sad…I will get those tissues ready!! Thanks for the warning!

      I am so looking forward to reading the Journals now. I know a bit about L M Montgomery’s life and it sounds like it had a lot of similarities to other children’s authors like Louisa May Alcott and Frances Hodgson Burnett, whose idyllic depictions of childhood and beautiful, happy heroines belied their own unhappy and frustrating lives…interesting…

  5. I had to comment here – you did a superb job of reviewing these wonderful books. At the age of 41 they still remain my favourite series of all time. I reread them every five years or so and they never fail to make me feel like I have put an old comfy blanket over me. L M M was a genius in my humble opinion. I wonder if she used this writing as a way of escaping from her sad life. I know that a few years ago it was rumoured that she had committed suicide.
    Well, I am halfway through “The Saffron Kitchen” by Yasmin Crowther but I need an Anne Fix after reading this! Happy World Book Day!

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad that you’ve found such joy and pleasure over such a long period of time from the Anne novels – I am certain I’ll still be reading them at 41 too! Yes, I think her writing was somewhat of an escape – it’s so sad that she gave Anne such a beautiful life when her own was such a struggle. Perhaps Anne’s life was the one she dreamed of having herself?

      I hope you get that Anne fix – thank you! Happy World Book day to you too!🙂

  6. I read the sequels when I was young and was appalled at how Anne turned out! I can’t remember the story details now – just my feeling that she had let me down as a heroine!
    I’ve re-read Anne of Green Gables, many times, but never went back to the sequels. The two films were on television here last week and the second one begins with Anne going off to her first teaching job – and Gilbert blithely saying, “And it’ll be your last!” I wanted her to throttle him!
    But Diana’s right about the journals. I haven’t read them completely, they’re so enormous – but fascinating. Far too heavy for your suitcase but they’re all in Kensington library when you get home.

    1. I could have guessed you would have hated how Anne turned out Mary! I think we would have been good friends at school!😉

      I just laughed out loud at that comment – I’d have throttled Gilbert too! It makes me so angry that women were expected to give up their jobs the minute they got married. Because sweeping the floors and cooking the dinner is obviously an acceptable outlet for their many talents.

      I would love to read those journals – but yes, it might have to wait for the library when I get back. HOW I have amassed as much stuff as I have in just 6 months is beyond me. I blame the materialism of American culture. I will never get everything back in my suitcase! Oh well!

  7. Hi Rachel,

    Thanks for your thoughts on the Anne stories. I read them as a late primary, early teenager and I vividly recall the tone of sadness that suffused the later books . I recall struggling to relate to or comprehend the adult sorrows of Anne, and remember diasppointment that I wasn’t being charmed as with the first book. I think a similar pattern happens with the Little Women stories, Elizabeth Goudge novels and no doubt others and I wonder if it was a novelistic trend then to follow a heroine through her life, with life lessons to be learned for the reader through following the journey of the heroine? Also perhaps a hundered years ago it was a bit trendy to be a bit romantically melancholic and wistful in tone. I think the Anne stories are definitely of their times. Am not putting any of this very clearly. Need to sleep!

    1. Merenia! So lovely to see a comment from you.🙂

      I entirely agree – many charming children’s books have sequels that increasingly grow sadder and more tragic as time goes on. I suppose when they were written, death was a more ever present reality, and the need to prepare children for that was more pressing than it is today, when we can reasonably expect to have our parents, grandparents and siblings with us well into later life. I do also think though that, as you say – very perceptively – there was a definite trend towards the melancholy in Victorian and early 20th century fiction and perhaps a child/teen reading the Anne books at the time of publication would have been perfectly used to such a tone and thought nothing of it. I like how the Anne books are of their times, but also timeless – you can still enjoy and relate to them 100 years later, despite the odd grating theme. Thank you for your thoughts!

  8. Being one of those kids who hid books and a flashlight under my covers, I have to say that this series was popular with me between the ages of 8 – 12. My persepective would have been different no doubt and they would read differently now. There was an elderly Englishwoman in the library the other day who has made it her mission to read the series and she made me smile. I love that the appeal here crosses the generations.

    As for Anne going from independent woman to cooking and cleaning…it’s a woman’s lament and fills quite a bit of airspace on The Woman’s Hour! It is frustrating indeed.

    And if I ever get to P.E.I., I’m going to buy you one of those straw hats with the red braids in wool hanging down each side!

    1. I bet you were one of those kids, Darlene! Making a softly glowing tent out of your bedcovers! I wonder how I would have read the series when I was that age. I can’t remember what I used to read or how mature I was at 8. I spent half my time up trees, so probably Anne would have been my kind of girl!

      How lovely about that elderly Englishwoman! It’s never too late to start reading Anne!

      It IS frustrating – Anne’s House of Dreams would have been Rachel’s House of Torture! I like baking cakes and having a good clean but I would hate being stuck indoors with no life or career of my own to channel my interests and talents into. Poor Anne!

      Hahahahaaha! Oh please please get me one! I’d wear it all the time!😀

  9. I don’t remember at all having this reaction when I read the Anne series. Of course I read the books when I was pretty young and I always did like the first three books best – those are the ones I read over and over again. Oh, and I think you might have missed Anne of Windy Poplars – it comes just before Anne’s House of Dreams. In that book Anne is teaching while Gilbert is in medical school.

    1. I think a lot of the story probably goes over the head of children – but Montgomery’s genius works because children don’t realise what they’re missing, and as an adult, you can rediscover the stories all over again and find a deeper richness.

      I am reading the books in publication rather than chronological order which is why I’ve skipped Anne of Windy Willows (it’s UK title) for now – I want to read the ‘original’ six before I read the two Montgomery wrote much later on to fill in the gaps.

  10. Did you read the fourth book in the series ? That’s pretty good too …its about anne’s experience as principal of a school . Its quite sweet . Even I had the same feeling after house of dreams – the change in anne’s character and also so many of new and so little of the old characters. The first four books worked because of the ensemble of people that more or less stayed consistent. In the next few books Anne herself becomes less significant.

    1. I haven’t read Anne of Windy Willows yet because I’m reading in publication rather than chronological order.🙂

      Yes – I think Anne’s House of Dreams does suffer for being away from Avonlea as well. I missed Marilla! And I missed the carefree romantic nature of Anne’s childhood.

  11. Someone has already briefly mentioned the movies, but I had to put in a plug for the Anne of Green Gables miniseries starring Megan Follows. It has endured as one of my most favorite films ever, and if you have the chance, you should check it out. It stops after Avonlea, I believe, so you don’t have to deal with any of the frustrations you express here.

    Thanks, also, to your readers who recommended the journals; now, I’m thinking a summer LMM read will be forthcoming!

    1. I will definitely watch the miniseries – it’s on my to buy list! I can’t wait to see the Anne of my imagination come to life on screen!

      Glad to hear it – I will try and track down the journals too and we can both have a summer of LMM joy!

    1. Ha! I don’t even read that much, Julie! Just one or two books a week if I’m lucky! I only really read on the train to work – if I didn’t have a long commute I’d never get time to read anything!!

  12. I have all 8 books at home and love them to bits although my favourite will always be Anne of Green Gables. It probably has a lot to do with the books getting darker. It’s one of those books that you can go back and re-read time and again.

    1. I’m glad to hear it! I think Anne of Green Gables will always be my favourite too – there is a wonderful fresh innocence to it that the later books lose as Anne grows older.

  13. Well done, again! I loved all four of the books you’re referencing; as fun and poignant as Anne of Green Gable was, I agree with you that her maturing, and the tragedies she encounters in the later books, were probably more fulfilling for me. I did read these as a child, I would say certainly before age 13 (hard to say for sure), and probably didn’t grasp the fullness of some of the adult experiences. But I reread them in recent years, and I agree with you: these are treasures. Thanks for reminding me.

    1. Thank you Julia! It’s kind of hard for me to appreciate what these must have been like to have read as a child, but I can imagine that much of the meaning and sadness of the later books would have been lost on someone younger. I don’t really see the Anne books as ‘children’s’ books – they’re not, really – they’re all of life books – you can’t pigeon hole them that easily. They are truly treasures and I look forward to rereading them many times!

  14. I read all of the Anne books and most of L.M. Montgomery’s other books too, from about 10-13. I didn’t want to read them when I was younger for some reason, but by then I didn’t find them too grown up for me. They are old fashioned and romantic enough, I think it’s good that some of real life gets in for those of us who grow up dreamily stuck in the past! I could sort of tell that L.M. Montgomery seemed to put more melodrama into her later stories and maybe I didn’t fully understand all the connotations, but sheltered as I was, I was the right age then to read them. My husband was watching horror movies at age 8 (admittedly with nightmares and without his parents knowing about it), I really don’t think something as idyllic and old fashioned as Anne is too much for a 10 year old! Children are exposed to mature themes and experiences at even younger ages now, I would think. For example, the sexualization of young girls who want to emulate trashy pop stars (or beauty queens, etc) by age 10 and much younger, I would be thrilled if they were reading Anne instead!

    One of my favourites was Anne of the Island, long before I thought of going to university myself. Perhaps that was one of the first seeds planted towards studying literature on my own. My other favourite of the series was Rilla of Ingleside, again long before I knew anything about WW1! L.M. Montgomery gave Anne more people to love her than she herself ever had, but then, perhaps through those unfulfilled desires (no Gilbert to marry, no cheery adoptive family) driving her in Montgomery’s life, she became the famous writer that Anne didn’t. Read the Emily of New Moon series as well for a character who I think does go further with her writing career and doesn’t just end with a family — although in defense of Anne’s House of Dreams, there were so many lovable characters in the book, I never had the feeling that Anne was just a cooped up wasted housewife who has nothing to live for but her husband. Her interest was always in the people around her more than anything and friends she continued to make and adventures she continued to have.

    1. Hi Carolyn! I’m interested to read about all of you who read these books at a young age. I think my main concern is really Anne’s House of Dreams – I wouldn’t want a child to read about childbirth and the dangers of it and the death of babies before they were old enough to understand it properly. Perhaps you are ready for that at 10 – I don’t know. I know plenty of 10 year olds who’d be upset by reading that, but then I am sure there are plenty who wouldn’t be. I can only discuss these books from an adult perspective as I never read them as a child, but I’m glad that despite the reservations I have now, many of you enjoyed them as children and weren’t disturbed by the sad events that unfold.

      I loved Anne of the Island the most and I think that it’s a great book to inspire young girls – it’s just a shame that Anne does absolutely nothing with her education after getting married! I have Emily of New Moon on my bedside table ready to read next so I’m intrigued to see how she writes another young heroine’s story.

      I see what you’re saying and I know she doesn’t present Anne as being miserable or trapped or wasted – but the fact that Anne’s education and talents are not used whatsoever from the second she marries Gilbert, other than to occasionally recite poetry, disappointed me. When the subplot about Captain Jim’s book came up I thought perhaps Anne would write it, but no – she can only write ‘little fairy stories’ now she’s married. That angered me the most! As if marriage somehow renders a woman useless for all other pursuits than home and hearth. I didn’t see the point in sending Anne to university and portraying her as a talented teacher who had great potential if she was going to just end up in the background of other people’s lives. I’m sure children wouldn’t pick up on that, but as an adult, it infuriated me!

      1. Ah, but her being able to write only “little fairy stories” had nothing to do with her being married…if you recall, that’s all she ever wrote anyway!
        I actually always appreciated the fact that Anne did not become some famous novelist or writer…it would be be too unreal.
        Remember when she and Gilbert were talking about what they wanted in life, in Anne of Avonlea, and Anne said she did not have great ambitions but just wanted to make the world happier? Anne was a fanciful dreamer all along, and she always wanted a home with children. So her dream was fulfilled.
        We must let our heroines choose their own lives, and not just use them to further the agenda we wish.
        (Why does everyone have such a low opinion of housewives anyway? As though “just” raising a family is a waste. Not pursuing a career is no reflection on one’s intelligence or character. [BTW, I am a career woman; this little rant is nothing to do with being personally insulted.] And education is never wasted, no matter what.)
        I really enjoy your blog though, and reading all the insights of both you and those who comment.

      2. True, Lynn! Your points have made me think.🙂
        Yes, she got her dream in some ways, I suppose. I think my main problem is that the Anne in Anne of Green Gables disappears and becomes so conventional. I wanted her to be so much more. But then that’s what I want and not necessarily what Anne was meant to be, as you say!
        I don’t have a low opinion of housewives in general – many women find much fulfilment in the home and I think that’s wonderful. I just thought it was a shame that Montgomery chose to give Anne a conventional life when she had given her such an unconventional personality. I quite agree that education is never wasted, and Anne certainly is not portrayed as wasted or unhappy, I just didn’t feel the Anne I had loved in Anne of Green Gables survived into adulthood and that is what saddened me. Thank you for your thought provoking comment and I’m glad you enjoy reading my blog!🙂

  15. I’m so glad you have read these and enjoyed them, Rachel! I loved reading about your experience with them.

    I first picked up Anne of Green Gables at age 10, and I quickly read through the rest of L. M. Montgomery’s books when I was around ages 10-11. The only one now that I haven’t read is The Blythes are Quoted which recently came out. So, your comment about the later ones not being appropriate for children under 13 is interesting because she was hands down my favourite author at that age. I don’t remember having any trouble with Anne’s problems later in adulthood, although I’m sure I understood them better at a later age. You’ve made me think about whether I would hand these books to a 10 year old now, and I’m not sure. She does deal with some hard hitting stuff, but like I said, I got a lot out of them at a young age.

    As for the feminist issues, I agree; Anne does not achieve her dreams of being a writer that much (I can’t remember; does she get anything published after she marries?), and I don’t think this is giving anything away, but she fades into the background considerably as you read Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside. L. M. Montgomery may have been reflecting what had happened in her own life as well as society’s expectations for women at the time. She had to curtail many of her own dreams as a young woman to take care of her grandmother and maybe her grandfather (can’t remember if she took care of him as well), and later, even though she was a famous writer, she was also a minister’s wife and mother of two boys. She actually had a very interesting life, and I would suggest picking up a biography about her. Have you heard of Anne of Windy Poplars? It’s set in between Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams and depicts Anne as a principal (I think) of a school while she and Gilbert are waiting to get married.

    I’ll have to get out my copies of these books and do a re-read sometime soon. They are so lovely, and I’m glad that you enjoyed them so much.

    1. Thanks for your wonderful comments, Virginia!

      I’m been so interested to read about how much people got from these at a young age. I just couldn’t see a younger person enjoying them or understanding them from my adult perspective, as I really can’t remember my own preferences at 10, but it’s encouraging to read that they didn’t distress or go too much over the head of everyone’s younger selves. Perhaps the hard hitting stuff is just flowerily (made up word alert!) written enough to mask the true sadness behind the words?

      I think your comments about Montgomery reflecting her own reduced role in life through Anne is a very interesting one, and it was certainly expected that women would give up their careers upon marriage at that time. In fact, I think it was illegal for a married woman to teach in some places! I’d love to read a biography (and the journals) of L M Montgomery now to understand more about her life and how much of Anne is autobiographical/wish fulfillment. Yes, I have – I’m reading the books in published order rather than chronological order so I am looking forward to getting around to that.

      I hope you do reread them soon. Despite my reservations I did find them wonderful reads and I wouldn’t want anyone to think otherwise!

      1. Thanks for the reply, Rachel! I’ve been thinking some more about the feminist issues you raised, and in some ways, these books are very feminist. Anne is brought to a community that accepts and loves her for who she is and is brought up by a single woman who has led a full life without a husband. Does Marilla even encourage Anne to go to Redmond? Furthermore, Anne doesn’t just go to teacher’s college but even gets a BA and waits until age 25 to get married after having a short career. I totally agree that it’s sad that Anne doesn’t achieve more of her career dreams, but I think as people grow older, their goals do change. I’m not sure that what happens here isn’t more of Anne changing her priorities rather than someone telling her, like her husband, that she couldn’t write, etc. Or it may be that women just didn’t have careers after marriage, so Anne didn’t pursue her own dreams as much after marriage. What do you think?

        And to give L. M. Montgomery more credit than I did in my last comment, I think Anne gets pushed to the side in the later novels more because LMM was tired of writing about her, but I may be wrong about this statement; I read about LMM such a long time ago that a lot of this information is hazy. Anne becoming a housewife, concerned primarily for her children, may have more to do with that rather than any statement that L. M. Montgomery may have been making. She does still include very strong women in the series. Isn’t there a Miss Cornelia in Anne’s House of Dreams?

        Oh, and I looked up a Wikipedia article (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lucy_Maud_Montgomery) that said, “In 1898, Montgomery moved back to Cavendish to live with her widowed grandmother. For a short time in 1901 and 1902, she worked in Halifax for the newspapers Chronicle and Echo. She returned to live with her grandmother in 1902.”

        So, I still largely agree that it’s sad that Anne gave up so many of her writing ambitions, but I just was doing some further thinking and wondered what you thought.

      2. You are welcome Virginia, and thank you for your very interesting thoughts! I think there are a lot of feminist tones in the books – Marilla is a strong, independent woman, and so is Miss Cornelia – she marries, but under her own terms. I love that Anne gets an education and teaches – but she only teaches after college while she waits for Gilbert to qualify so she can marry him. Her career is just for while she is waiting to be married and assume her ‘real’ career of being a wife. I know that was the conventional and accepted way of life for a woman of Anne’s class at that time but still, it irks me that Anne just becomes like everyone else. She never was like other girls, but she becomes just like her friend Diana, really.

        That’s interesting what you say about Montgomery growing tired of writing about Anne. I think there is some truth in that – she definitely didn’t intend to write Anne of Ingleside or Anne of Windy Willows and only wrote those ‘retrospective’ books under duress as people wanted ‘more of Anne’.

        I don’t think there are any easy answers. Coupled with the desire to have Anne do more with her education, I do appreciate that the possibilities for Anne at that time were limited after marriage and Montgomery didn’t really have that many options – Anne could either have the conventional happy ending or be a single woman with a career – mixing the two would be problematic considering the expectations for women and the accepted depictions of womanhood in literature – especially children’s literature – of the time. Anne is still happy and fulfilled and involved in her community and a very useful member of society in her role as a wife and mother, but she does lose her spark and her interest as she becomes too conventional compared to the child she was. Perhaps, though, this is a reflection of all of us, as life changes us and our dreams as we grow older.

      3. Thank you, Rachel, for your thoughtful reply. I think you are right. Anne does loose her spark as she becomes a wife and mother which may be a combination of L. M. Montgomery growing tired of the character and her own views of what the married woman and mother should be. I was looking at Mollie Gillen’s Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Wheel of Things, and she says that after writing Anne of Avonlea, L. M. Montgomery already was afraid that she might have to write more about Anne, and she didn’t want to keep writing about the same girl (78). I have no idea about her views regarding the other Anne sequels, but she did hope that Rilla of Ingleside would be the last as she didn’t want to write about Anne anymore (Gillen 78). I have no idea if that is why Anne lost her spark, but it may be a possibility. I was also reading, though, in Genevieve Wiggins’s L. M. Montgomery that, in writing to George MacMillan, she states that she found writing Anne of Windy Poplars pleasing (77), so it might be said that she did not find Anne as tiresome in at least this venture. Wiggins also gives two possibilities for Anne’s writing career fading once she marries: it “may reflect Montgomery’s own ambiguity about the proper sphere for a woman, or she may simply be conforming to the expectations of her reading public” (60). If she gave up much of her career whether because L. M. Montgomery wasn’t sure about a wife’s role or because the public wouldn’t have accepted a career woman, it is hard to read coming from a contemporary perspective.

        Thanks for your thoughts, as always, Rachel!

  16. Very interesting post! I was one of those who read the books when I was a child. Looking back, I suppose they do depict events that might be considered disturbing for children. I don’t recall feeling that way at the time though. I read a lot of childrens books that dealt pretty freely with death or other laden topics. Or maybe I was just a morbid child!

    You expressed some of my feelings about this series. I see Green Gables as standing apart from the other books because, it seems to me, it is about entirely different personality. I love the Anne of Green Gables but, to me, although the books remain charming and well worth reading, they become a series about a nice young woman named Anne and no longer about a delightful, extraordinary orphan girl. Carrots indeed! Anne seems to lose the adventuresome parts of her personality. But, I don’t mean to be to hard on the books. They are still wonderful books. It’s just that I find Anne herself increasingly less compelling.
    Have you read Blue Castle?

    1. Thanks Nancy! I’m glad that everyone who read these as a child wasn’t disturbed by them – I’m surprised but clearly I have forgotten what it’s like to be 10!

      Yes exactly – Anne of Green Gables has a charm that the later ones don’t have, precisely because that innocence of childhood has been lost and more serious events and weighty issues become prominent over Anne’s childish adventures and scrapes. I think that will always be my favourite as it really is just so delightful in a way the others aren’t.

      Yes I have – it was my first L M Montgomery and I adored it!

  17. Thank you for your appreciation of all these Anne books, which I hope young women read everywhere. I recently re-read Anne of Green Gables, which had me rolling off my bed in laughter. But the sad fact is that L.M. Montgomery wrote her dreams and otherwise lived a difficult life, especially with her marriage. I think, different from Anne, she wrote to emotionally survive, but the sad overtones you see in the Anne sequels were far more pervasive in L.M.’s life, which made me very sad when I read about it. She herself was very committed to her career. Some quotes from her on this are here: http://underthegables.blogspot.com/2008/10/lm-montgomery-on-balancing-family-and.html Many thanks.

    1. Thank you, Linda! I love the image of you rolling off your bed in laughter! I always hate it when books I love turn out to be written by people who had unhappy lives…this seems to have been the case with many of my favourite childhood authors. Thanks for the link to your post – I will go over and read it now!

  18. ANNE’S HOUSE OF DREAMS is my absolute favorite Anne novel (I could read the chapter titled “Captain Jim Crosses the Bar” a hundred times and cry every time). I know it can be frustrating that Anne seems to give up all her dreams to become “just” a wife and mother; but it is important to keep in mind that at one time–before electricity, automation, modern appliances, etc.–running a home was indeed a full-time job. Anne even has Susan, a maid, to help with the housekeeping. Anne’s choice is not the choice that a woman in the 21st century would make, but it would certainly be the one that most women a hundred years before us would have made.

    1. Hi Deb! Glad you’re another Anne fan – Captain Jim is SUCH a wonderful character and I did have misty eyes when he went ‘over the bar’!

      Absolutely – it was hard work running a home and I can well appreciate that Anne had to stay at home, but it doesn’t make me less sad that L M Montgomery didn’t give Anne a way to channel her considerable talents in a practical way. Anne could have been a role model for young girls looking for a way to juggle the demands of house and husband with a career but instead she settled for a conventional life for Anne, which doesn’t ring true with her unconventional nature. Anne could have done so much more!

  19. I remember almost zero of the events of the sequels to Anne of Green Gables — obviously I didn’t read them enough as a kid! I was way more into Emily of New Moon. I think part of LM Montgomery wanted to give her girl characters their independence, but most of her had to give the people what they wanted. (Or maybe I’m reading her totally wrong.)

    1. Obviously not Jenny! Though I can’t imagine you loving Anne much now I’ve read them! I have Emily of New Moon to read next on your recommendation.🙂 And yes, I think you’re right – I do think L M Montgomery had her hand forced.

  20. Enjoyed your thoughts on Anne. I had never realized that L M Montgomery went back and “filled in” parts of the story later. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts on the rest of the story.

  21. Seconding Jenny on the love for the Emily Starr books. Whenever I hear readers bemoan Anne abandoning her ambitions, I point them towards the three Emily novels for an LMM heroine who doesn’t “grow out of” her dreams of being an author. I feel like Maud put much more of her own story into the Emily books that way — the main character’s commitment to her writing as she matures is truly impressive.

    1. I have the first Emily novel and I am looking forward to reading it, Kaitlin! Yes – Emily definitely seems to be an alternative Anne – perhaps Montgomery felt freer to write about a more ambitious heroine separately from the Anne series…so it will be interesting to see what she makes of her!

  22. I have so enjoyed your journey with Anne and pine for your beautiful copies, Rachel. I have also enjoyed seeing Anne through your eyes and views. Another complex and wonderful review with interesting conversation that follows.

    Our older daughter devoured the Anne books around the age of 10 or so. While tears were sometimes shed, I never felt she was overly bothered about some of the issues you bring up. I have found that children don’t generally read, at least for pleasure, books they aren’t ready for. Our younger daughter once read Alex Haley’s Malcom X for a book report. She was 11 years old and her teacher talked about her insightful book report for the next ten years whenever she saw me.

    Thank you for your wonderful review.

    1. Thanks Penny! I’m glad you enjoyed it – I’m loving reading everyone’s stories of their experiences with Anne too.

      It’s interesting what children can absorb and cope with…I think I have forgotten what that age was like. I was a sensitive child but thinking back I suppose I would have been ready to read such things by the age of 11. I wish I had read these younger so I was able to analyse my reactions at different ages! Oh well! The stories from others help me to understand how Anne is perceived by younger people anyway. Thank you for your thoughts Penny!

  23. Wonderful post, Rachel. I think I replied to one of your earlier posts about L.M. Montgomery’s ‘The Blue Castle’, and I’m so glad you enjoyed the Anne series as well. I read all of them before I was 10 and remember being terribly sad at the parts in the adult-Anne ones, but I remember understanding everything that was happening and knowing that these were things that happened in life. In a way I think these were a bridge for me to getting into truly adult books, with all the difficult and complicated issues that they portray. Meeting Anne as a heroine in a child’s book and then seeing her grow up and have adult problems was, I think, a very good way to understand that these things could happen to me when I became an adult. I’m glad that I read about them at such a young age and I’d be happy to give the Anne books to younger readers.

    1. Thank you Nadia! I love your thoughts – and I think you are quite right. They are a bridge and from reading everyone’s comments I see that we are able to cope with sadness from a younger age than I remember. I think it’s also good for children to understand that bad things do happen but they can be recovered from – rather than pretending that life is all sunshine and rainbows. I will definitely be giving the Anne books to my children!

  24. I started Anne of Green Gables and wasn’t sure I’d like it, so I removed all the follow-up books from my list. Now I know I will have to return to them.

    I can’t believe this is the first time I’ve read Anne of Green Gables!!🙂

    1. Wasn’t sure you’d like them!? Get reading them now, Jillian!! None of them compare to the wonderfully lighthearted and endearing Anne of Green Gables but they are so worth reading nonetheless!

  25. Another interesting review, Rachel! :o)

    I received Anne of Green Gables as my 8th birthday present from my parents and subsequently read all the books, and loved them. Anne of the Island has always been one of my favourites and I sobbed for many days after reading Rilla of Ingleside. I think it was this one that gave me such strong feelings about the First World War.

    Although a staunch feminist, I don’t share your and most of your commenters’ concerns about Anne’s life after she married. I don’t think education is ever wasted and Anne seemed to be fulfilled by her home; her husband; her friends, whose lives she was very much involved in; and in bringing up her children, to whom she was a loving mother, guiding them towards becoming caring and considerate young people. Why should this be seen as an inferior existence to that of a writer?

    BTW, I’ve read somewhere that it was chronic cystitis LMM suffered from. It must have been dreadful before antibiotics!

    1. Thanks Penny🙂

      I can imagine you as a child, all curled up, sobbing!

      I don’t think Anne’s existence is inferior – I didn’t mean to imply that. I know she is fulfilled and happy and Montgomery gives her a lovely life that gives her much pleasure. However I think that the Anne she created in the earlier books isn’t the Anne she becomes – which does reflect our changing priorities and ambitions as we grow, I suppose – but the ambitions and dreams she had and the potential she had seem to disappear and Anne becomes a conventional Victorian heroine rather than the unconventional girl she originally was. I felt L M Montgomery let her down!

      Oh goodness – that must have been hellish. Am I thankful I live in a world with antibiotics! Poor woman.

  26. You may remember, Rachel that I am an avid Anne fan. My retirement gift from my husband was a trip to Prince Edward Island. It was beautiful. Anne was so much a part of my growing up that it is hard sometimes to remember that she is a fictional character. I have also read some of Lucy Maud’s other writings. After Green Gables is a volume of L. M. Montgomery’s Letters to Ephraim Weber, 1916-1941. I found that Lucy was profoundly moved by WWI. She describes a loss of her own idealism and indeed her innocence. She even stopped writing for a time. I believe I mentioned in another post that Montgomery always lamented the fact that she only wrote for children and never had a serious adult novel. I respectfully disagree with her. I enjoyed Anne when I was a girl but feel they are so much richer when read as an adult. I wondered about her being satisfied with her status as wife and mother, but she seemed to have been fulfilled. L. M. said that if she is like any of her characters, it is Story Girl, not Anne. I like Story Girl as well and she is a very strong character both as a child and an adult.
    I enjoyed your insights and love to read anything about Anne. In fact, we are going back to Prince Edward Island next summer. Wish you could come too. It is an unspoiled paradise.

    1. Janet I am so jealous that you’ve been to PEI. I long to go. What a magical experience it must have been for you, having had Anne as a life’s companion for so long!

      I quite agree that L M Montgomery didn’t ‘just’ write children’s books and the fact that her novels have stood the test of time is as much a demonstration of her talents as anything else. I am looking forward to reading The Story Girl now you’ve said that – I’m interested to see how she writes heroines other than Anne.

      I am going to be doing plenty of L M Montgomery reading – I want to read the Emily series and the journals and really get a handle on who she was as a person and how that’s reflected (or not) in Anne.

      I wish I could come too Janet! Any room in your suitcase?!

  27. That was exactly my problems with the later sequels, too! Anne was such an interesting and intelligent child, and reading about her married life was just painful. She’s so conventional in the last book!

  28. Bina, yes. Maybe the author’s own life turning out so difficult and disappointing despite her own brilliant qualities, made it finally impossible for her to imagine a really brave new world for her idealized alter ego, Anne. The last volume of her journals falls off terribly, I remember thinking that she just dwindled into a daffy cat obsessed old lady. Now I’m arrived at that decade in my own life, and no less obsessed with my own three pussies, I do see the irony! In other words, never name the well at which you will not drink…

    1. Oh Diana! You are funny! I’m looking forward to reading these journals and seeing what parallels I can draw between Montgomery’s life and her depiction of Anne’s…exciting project!

  29. I adore Anne of Green Gables. I also have Anne of Avonlea and I recently watched them both with my daughter who loved them. I might have to re read them and see if my local library has the other 2. Thanks for sharing.

  30. It’s interesting to consider the ways in which the Anne stories were revolutionary in some ways (compared to other novels of the time, Anne was rather rebellious in many ways, beginning with her raw emotional outbursts to Rachel Lynde and Gilbert) and traditional in others (she does ultimately set aside her dreams of publishing though she remains a storyteller for her children and nurtures their imaginations). If you do explore her journals and/or biographies (Jane Urquhart has a nice short one, Mary Rubio a longer one), you’ll find that LMM struggled to find that balance herself, challenging conventional expectations of stories for girls whilst still respecting traditional values, and that she wasn’t actually all that keen on writing the later volumes (but responded to her readers’ desire for more-of-Anne). It’s lovely that you’re reading the older editions: perfect! And I rather wish I could rediscover them in publication order; I’d think you’d notice very different things once you know the outcome of the story and read back to fill the gaps.

    1. Hi – great comment and I agree – very revolutionary and then just…conventional…though of course Anne herself is never truly conventional. I am definitely going to be exploring more non fictional reading about L M Montgomery. I am especially keen to read her journals and understand more about her motivations and experiences and how they would have affected her writing. I’m looking forward to finishing the series and seeing how things pan out. Reading them in the order I’m reading them will, hopefully, enable me to see whether the Anne of the ‘filled in’ books is much different to the Anne in the ‘original’ books – Montgomery must have changed a lot over the 20 odd years she was writing and I’m keen to see how that is reflected in her portrayal of Anne.

  31. I’m so glad you’re discussing the Anne books! They are wonderful, and can lead to great conversations🙂 I read them all as a young girl — probably around 12. They didn’t upset me; while they were sad in parts, I understood that it was another time and things happened. And I think that when you’re young, a lot of what you don’t quite understand just goes over your head.

    I’ve just been rereading the entire series myself, and posting about it over the last while. Benjamin Lefebvre, an LMM scholar, has edited a new version of Rilla of Ingleside, and released a full version of The Road to Yesterday, in its original format, titled The Blythes are Quoted. They are wonderful restorations.

    1. Thanks Melwyk! Great conversations indeed – Anne of Green Gables and the other books are far more than just simple children’s books and have so much in them to discuss! I think you’re right – it’s been very interesting to read people’s thoughts on this as children clearly filter information much more than I remember!

      That’s interesting about the new edition and the The Blythes are Quoted – I’ll have to check those out, thank you so much for letting me know about them!

  32. I first read them as a child (aged 10 or 11, I should think) and again many times since. When a good friend of mine (and another Anne reader) lost a baby late on in her pregnancy, I found great comfort in House of Dreams and especially Cap’n Jim’s wise words.

    1. Hi Ros, thanks for that lovely comment. I’m glad that bit helped – it made me sob. I think it was important that Anne didn’t have a completely perfect life though. Children need to understand that sad things happen and Anne’s experience makes her truly become a woman rather than a girl, which made Anne’s House of Dreams a much more mature book. Beautifully and sensitively written, too.

  33. I very much enjoyed Anne of Green Gables, but I’ve never been too fond of Anne herself. I think I preferred The Blue Castle. Beautiful editions you have.

    1. You surprise me, Nicola! The Blue Castle is lovely though. I adored that.

      Thank you! They’re not cheap but so beautiful I can’t resist buying them up!

  34. I think when you read the books you’re suppose to feel that “Anne” wrote them which implies that she never did give up on her career. She just eventually wrote about what she knew…her life. This is similar to other books of her time. They’re not true autobiographies, but you feel like they are when you read them. This shows the power of their characters. You feel that they must have been real people. Perhaps that’s why we keep wanting to go back and revisit them from time to time.
    PS I just found your site through Jane Brocket’s lovely comments about you, and I must say I really like it. I’ll be back.🙂

    1. Susan, that is a very interesting way to look at it – I like that perspective. Yes – I very much felt that Anne was a real person, which is probably why I felt it so deeply when her life didn’t take the course I had wanted it to!

      How lovely – thank you so much! I’m glad you like what you see and I shall look forward to having you back!

  35. After reading all this, it’s evident that the Anne-books have touched a fair few hearts!🙂 I grew up in Sweden myself, but even there ,’Anne of Greengables’ is a bit of a legend. My mum had some old editions from the 1940s and 50s, that I got my hands on as a 10-year old, and that was it. I kept buying the rest with my pocket money and so my own private collection – translated into Swedish – is a mix of both old and new.

    To tie in with the rest of the discussion though – no, I didn’t have a problem reading Anne from around the ages of 10-13 – but there was a lot that I basically didn’t understand. They are books to return too; sometimes I think this might be part of their purpose. When life gets you down, and hey, it often does, the spirit of the Anne-books can still inspire me, reassure me, lend me some of Anne’s fearlessness and optimism that she displayed, especially in the first one.

    The Dream House was my favourite book, of the later ones – together with Rilla of Ingleside. In the other, later ones, Anne kind of disappeared for me. It just wasn’t her anymore. Change of personality, lobotomy or sheer author’s boredom, hmmm? I would guess the latter.

    Emily of New Moon are altogether more realistic – yet darker. I do feel that she represents more of LM Montgomery herself.

    Hope you enjoyed PEI, by the way. I hope to visit there sometime myself.
    🙂

    1. Hello Sara! I didn’t realise that the books were popular in Sweden too – how wonderful! I’m glad you got to enjoy them as a child as well as an adult – they are definitely books that grow with you and reveal something new in every stage of life. Yes – I agree – the Anne of the first two books disappears towards the end of the series and I was left disappointed with her lack of spirit. She became far too conventional and passive for my liking.

      I have Emily of New Moon to read next – I’m excited to read it and see the differences in the characterisation.

      I haven’t made it to PEI yet – one day!🙂

  36. My mother gave me Green Gables for Christmas when I was 8, and then the next in the sequence each subsequent year. So I got to House of Dreams at about 12. It was my favorite then and continues so. I still reread the New Years celebration chapter every year.
    Death, sorrow, and unhappiness are not shied away from, but joy, relationship, and beauty are shown in equal measure. I think we underestimate children’s interest in all aspects of life and I always appreciated that I was not being talked down to. When I read about Beth dying in Little Women, I cried because she was so young like me, but when Captain Jim died, I was fascinated to think that old people could feel ready to die when the time came and it was not a bad thing. And now, 50 years later, it resonates in a new way. As for Anne losing the baby, it’s something kids were not sheltered from either at the turn of the century or even later in the 60s when I was a kid. From Leslie Moore I learned that life doesn’t necessarily turn out “happily ever after” and yet somehow, it still is worthwhile and important to try to do what’s right. I remember thinking about that a lot. As I did the many times I read Goudge’s Green Dolphin Street, which also made a huge impression on me at 10 or 11. The “big” themes of adult fiction are not out of place in children’s fiction.
    I think also that “juggling career and family” is very much a current construct that would have been alien in rural maritime Canada of the 19-oughts. Anne was not educated specifically so she could have a career, she was educated to contribute to society, which she did as a small-town matron (not a pejorative!). Though she did actually work as a teacher from 16-18 before college, then as a principal for three years at Windy Poplars, not to mention her years as an orphan!. Last random thoughts: Windy Willows as a title is just not right! It has to be Windy Poplars. Totally different tree! Promise me you will mentally think poplars whenever you see the word willows as you read!
    And more seriously, as I look to my sixties, I wish there were an Anne the Old Lady book.

  37. i dont think anne was destined to be a writer at all. i think that was more of a side thing for LMM to show her her idealistic world was bs. lol. emily was the one who LMM poured all her ambition and love of writing onto.

  38. ohh and some thing about anne that bothered me, i remember when i finished the first book, it looked like anne had realized she was in love with gil and then in the next book she fiercely denies them being more than friends. and this happens again at the end of Anne of Avonlea and the next book, Anne of the island. anne has like 2 memory losses and forgets about her love realizations at the end of both AoGG and AoA. lol

  39. I have only read the first two books in the Anne series and I am finding that the best parts are the parts when Anne is talking to the children. Do all the books have parts like this? And are the sequels as good as Anne of Green Gables? (I am 11 and I am enjoying these books but I have lent them to my friends and the writing structure is too detailed for them)

  40. I am that quite common but unremarked creature – whisper it! – a man who likes LM Montgomery’s Anne stories. In fact I love them.

    Personally I think people, sometimes want a little bit too much from LMM. She was a woman of her time and displays the contradictions of that time. She is a little bit snobbish – especially intellectually; a little bit racist; a little bit jingoistic, but her writings indicate she was aware of this and surely this is excusable and accurately reflects the times she lived in? Would an intelligent woman NOT live a life of contradictions during that period?

    Judging from what I have read about her life I do not think LMM would have continued with the Anne stories past book three – or at the least confined herself to short stories that hinted at Anne’s future life, rather than chronicling her entire life up to ww1. Her continuation seems to have been forced as much by legal obligations to publishers as a will to continue writings about Anne, although this seems to have changed with the writing of “the Blythes are Quoted” following the trauma of the war.

    Anne is a classic character and a very real young girl. She reminds me of my own sisters at that age and of the girls I liked at school – clever feisty people who expected to be taken seriously – but who were as keen on nice clothes and pretty things as playing football and climbing trees; both “girly” in the traditional sense and tomboys who could be good friends.

    Her life is also real and neither too tragic or too unrelentingly happy. She is startlingly real for a children’s character of her time.

    Anne’s stories essentially reflect how love and kindness can transform people’s lives. Rather than a simple happy-ever-after ending this enables them to deal with tragedy and loss, which is as real but not more so than the happiness.

    I also take issue with some of the criticisms I have read about the fate of characters. Much has been written about the death of Ruby Gillies as some sort of “punishment” for being flirty.

    I doubt this. LMM was an intellectual but also something of a flirt, but I think she would have found a person like Ruby basically boring and having taken the character as far as she could she has her killed off – a bold act with a major character. Ruby is replaced with other characters who are just as pretty and flirty but have a lot more complexity and depth to them. Basically Ruby is not clever enough for the adult Anne stories.

    We should also remember that death from TB was a very real possibility at that time and Ruby’s death would not have been unusual. Anne shows great personal courage in regularly visiting her, when she has essentially been abandoned by all but close family, due to the fear of infection. My own Grandmother died of consumption and one great uncle and the death portrayed is all too real for the period.

    Anne’s behaviour towards Ruby is a little impatient and priggish, but I suspect this is because LMM was impatient to get rid of a character who had outlived her usefulness, as well as to portray the reality of death in youth that was common at the time. LMM also had a certain social ruthlessness that she allows Anne to reflect from time to time.

    As I said, a complex character and a very real one.

  41. I’m a big fan of Montgomery’s writing and love the Anne novels. Anne is a very real girl unlike the milk and water characters created by many novelists of the period, but I suppose the author was constrained at least to some extent by the social norms of the time. She has a lot of fun poking mockery at them though and showing up the more stultifying attitudes.

    I think she would never have written so many novels about Anne as an adult if she had not had contractual obligations with her publisher, so maybe we would not have seen the character grow in so many books, or even as an older person at all.

    Montgomery could not overcome all of her own social prejudices – even sadly a bit of racism – but that is surely a lot to ask of one women however talented. In a less constrained society her own life would probably have been much happier. She might have married differently and her poor husband would probably never have suffered the mental problems that made his life a misery. On the other hand the novels may never have been written. at all.

    She is of her time, as is the character whose ambitions mainly seem to be freedom and personal; happiness and thankfully she achieves both these probably as far as a woman of that time could hope to do.

  42. I’m pleased to see that a few other readers have questioned why Anne ought to have had a career, whether as a writer or anything else, after she married Gilbert. First, she bore seven children and raised six, which would be enough to keep any woman busy. Aside from basic baby-care (without commercial baby-foods, electricity etc.), it would have been customary for a mother to do much of her young children’s sewing. Ready-made children’s clothes were scarce before the 20th century.

    Second, teaching and similar work were reserved for married or single men and for single women. In societies in which professional jobs were scarce (like rural villages in 19th C. Canada), it would have been rather selfish for one family to hold two such jobs. Third, as the wife of a small-town doctor Anne would have been a leader in local society and expected to organize and take part in volunteer work for the poor, and for the soldiers after the start of World War I. The rest of her “spare” time she would have spent visiting and receiving visitors. I doubt any one writing here would have found her life boring, though it might have been very tiring.

    There is another issue that puzzles me about the “why didn’t she have a career?” reaction to Anne. Do some of the posters here really think raising children was not a worthwhile use of Anne’s time? And if it wasn’t worthwhile for her to do so, who ought to have done it for her? Anne does get a cook-housekeeper after her second child is born, but such a person could hardly be expected to do all the cooking and housework *and* look after six children. L.M. Montgomery managed to marry, have children and have a career as a writer , but she was already an established writer and in her late 30s at the time of her marriage. Also, she only had two children. Also, she had moved away from PEI to a small town near Toronto which was far less isolated.

    Sorry if this sounds sharp. I don’t mean it that way, but I do wish people would use a little imagination when reading stories set long ago.

  43. I am really disappointed that after he first book Anne (with an e) somehow lost her imagination and talked less. Very disappointing. The authot introduced Phil, a a woman who is not boring. I can’t help it but Phil is more alive than Anne in that sequel. I was laughing at evey Phil specially when she tries to kill a cat. Not very much like Anne on the first book but not also boring.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s