Anne of Avonlea is the follow up to Anne of Green Gables and the second book in Lucy Maud Montgomery’s most famous series. As with the first book, I have lost count of the number of times I have read and re-read this book. This series, in particular the first three books, have been favorites of mine since I received them as a Christmas present many, many years ago. That being said, this time the shine wore off a bit on this book and the 100+ years gap between the writing and reading became very obvious.
As with Anne of Green Gables, there isn’t really much of a plot so much as the novel is a slice of life. Anne has put off college and decided to stay in Avonlea and teach in order to save a bit of money, Marilla adopts her third cousins 6 year old twins when they become orphaned with only a reluctant uncle to take them, A new neighbor buys a nearby farm, and the Avonlea Improvement Society starts working on making their community a beautiful place to live. Each one of these little plot points interweaves with the other and so the story unfolds episodically and we the reader meander slowly through these two years of Anne’s life.
While I really still enjoy this series, and even this book, I can’t quite give this book the same praise that I gave Anne of Green Gables. Anne is growing up, and her inquisitive tongue and bright, mischievous nature are tempered a bit by age and experience (if 16-18 can really said to be age and experience). I don’t mind this at all, and Anne is still a delight to read about. However, I feel that Montgomery felt she needed a mischievous child to get into scrapes and amuse her reader and so gave us Davey Keith, one of the orphan twins Marilla adopts early in this book. Unfortunately, there is a lot of “boys will be boys” attitude surrounding Davey, and while younger me was just as amused and charmed by him as I was by a younger Anne, this grown-up me is really annoyed and aggravated at the crap he pulls. He often and frequently uses his twin sister (the angelic, quiet Dora) as the subject of his rather mean pranks and while he’s punished for them, there’s definitely an air of “well, boys” about it.
Even more troubling then Davey is a small passage about Paul Irving, Anne’s favorite student. Paul is very like Anne in that he’s a very imaginative child and very sensitive, but Montgomery stresses that he’s not a ‘sissy boy’ and he’s respected by the other boys because he can fight just as well as they can. It’s a clear rejection of boys who don’t fit into the masculine model of the late 1890s, early 1900s.
I still love the book, it rates quite high in my nostalgia reads, but my eyes are a little more sensitive to matters like this then they were when I was younger. I do still recommend the series, and this book, I think they’re lovely peaks into the life of women.