Revisiting Anne

I’m deep in the middle of the semester now, and in need of shorter books and lighter reading, since my time is limited and when I do have time, I often don’t have energy. So I thought I’d continue my reread of the Anne of Green Gables series, which I began over a year ago with a group of Anne devotees. The second book in the series is Anne of Avonlea, and it takes Anne from her sixteenth year to her eighteenth, during which time she — unbelievably to contemporary readers — becomes a school teacher. How can someone sixteen be in charge of teaching a room full of children of all different ages? It’s a reminder of how different a time it was when Anne was alive (or alive in someone’s imagination).

I enjoyed the book and found it just the thing for my frazzled brain, but … I had some doubts too. I remember reading through the whole series multiple times as a child, but I don’t really remember which books were my favorites and which weren’t. I’m guessing that this one wouldn’t have been a favorite, though, largely because the pace is slower than the first Anne book, and it could use some more narrative tension. Both the first and the second books are very episodic in structure and take Anne through one adventure after another, but in the first book, Anne is a brand new character and this keeps her adventures intriguing. They are often very funny as well. In the second book, we know what to expect from Anne, and that’s pretty much what we continue to get — lots of imagination, impulsiveness, and rash actions repented of later. It’s charming and amusing, but it doesn’t surprise anymore, and there’s no other plot arc or source of tension or suspense.

I’m also not sure what I think of Anne’s brand of imagination, either. She lives in — or at least frequently retreats into — a dreamworld of fairies, elves, dryads, and other mystical creatures, and I have no problem with this whatsoever, but when Miss Lavendar and Paul Irving arrive on the scene sharing similar imaginative fancies, I wonder where they all picked up such similar ways of dreaming. Did they all grow up reading the same kinds of stories? Was every imaginative person of the time dreaming in the same kind of way? All this stretched plausibility a bit, which made me feel more at a distance from the story than I expected to be.

But, that said, I already have the next book in the series on the way through Book Mooch (Anne of the Island), and I’m looking forward to reading it, maybe soon or maybe in a year or two. I do like Anne, and I like the process of reading through the series again. I may read through other childhood favorites as well, as the mood strikes. Doubts and mild disappointments as I reread books don’t bother me too terribly much, and they are always interesting to think about.

14 Comments

Filed under Books, Fiction

14 responses to “Revisiting Anne

  1. I think the similar brands of imagining are all courtesy of Victorian romanticism – Anne is pretending to be the Lady of Shalott when she floats down the river, and I don’t think it’s unbelievable that a lot of the dreamier characters of the time would share an appreciation for the semi-gothic, romantic atmosphere of Tennyson & the pre-Raphaelites.

    When I re-read these books it bothers me a bit that she gives up her dreamy creativity as soon as she gets married. But I still love them!

  2. Oh such lovely books. Yes it is crazy that Anne could be in charge of a classroom, it also seems mad when you watch Little House on the Prairie. However she seems to cope amazingly well, possibly because she is still so full of child-like imagination and fun that she can understand the kids she takes care of.

  3. I’ve never read these at all, but I think it’s a very good idea to find short, accessible, comfort books to read mid-semester. It’s funny how what we love as children – repetition, mystical atmospheres, implausibility, security, can seem tepid as an adult. I do think that children and grown-ups are completely different creatures, and in some ways, the ‘old favourite’ children’s books show that. And some times it’s right and necessary to go back to that place in time in reading, and sometimes something different hits the spot.

  4. I never read the Anne books when I was a kid for some reason. I’ve never gone back and re-read any of my favorite childhood books for fear of meddling with that hazy and dreamy impression I have of them.

  5. I’ve been in need of books like this lately, too, though I think I’m starting to feel like something more challenging finally. I also never got around to reading any of the Anne books–since I always chose my own reading material I must never have come across these books. I’d like to read them now, but I never seem to get around to it. Although I really find I like rereading books I’ve never picked up any from when I was really young. I think I’m a little afraid my fond memories might be spoiled. They probably would be interesting to think about as an adult–from such a totally different perspective!

  6. I have never read the Anne books, and feel I’m missing out as so many adult women I know just love them!

    I don’t have a problem going back and reading old favorites — it’s like a window to the past, and I can appreciate them in a new way. I still have all my stories from childhood, and the scary thing is, I even quote from some of them in my adult life. And not just “I will not eat them in the rain, I will not eat them on the train!” (eggs!!) either. There are some eternal truths in the stories that cross age barriers.

    On a different note, I read The Secret Garden for the first time a couple of years ago, and really enjoyed it — I’m only sorry I hadn’t discovered it sooner.

  7. I read them all as a kid. My favourites were (in order): Emily of New Moon, Kilmeny of the Orchard, Anne of Green Gables, Jane of Lantern Hill. And then all the others. Some wear better than others. I also loved Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm and everything by E.E. Nesbitt. My school library had a lot of old books!

  8. Emily — yes, I suspected it was something like that. I’ll probably read through the entire series at some point and will get to the marriage eventually; I’m curious what I will think of it as an adult. I wasn’t bothered by her giving up her creativity at marriage then, but I might notice it more now.

    Jodie — yes, and I do think we underestimate today how grown-up young people can be, if we only gave them a chance. And yes, I can see that being close in age would help her sympathize and understand.

    Litlove — definitely, and I just started 84 Charing Cross Rd., which is another comfort book that’s great for the middle of the semester, except that I will finish it all too quickly. And yes, the security in particular is making me feel uncomfortable this time around; it seems so very implausible to me, but I can see why my younger self loved it.

    Stefanie — it is a little dangerous to go back and reread things I loved a long time ago. But I like it because it’s an interesting way to think about who I was then and who I am now; it’s fun to chart the changes.

    Danielle — well, these books are perfect for some light comfort reading if you ever do get around to them at some point. But there’s no need, of course! And they are interesting to think about as an adult; I learn things about myself, which is fun. I’m glad you’re starting to feel as though you’re ready for more challenging things. I might be feeling that way around the middle of December! :)

    Debby — The Secret Garden is wonderful! That’s another of my childhood favorites, and it would be fun to reread that. I’m glad you like rereading childhood books. The Anne ones are good if you ever get the urge to read more young adult literature you haven’t so far gotten to.

    Lilian — I never read Emily of New Moon, and I should give that one a try. It’s fun that there are Montgomery books out there I haven’t read yet. It leaves me something fun to look forward to. I never read Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, although I heard of it a lot, and I never read Nesbitt either. I probably would have loved them.

  9. I think I read the first Anne book (and maybe the third…?) back in elementary school but I wasn’t really impressed by them. I knew someone who really liked the series and read through all of it, but I didn’t like Anne as a character and couldn’t stand the books… I like the idea of revisiting childhood favorites, though, and hope you have fun with the rest of them. Now I’m suddenly in the mood for some kids classics…

  10. Anne of the Island is one of my favourite Anne books. There’s something about Anne being in college that just fills me with glee. Anne of Avonlea was kind in the middle for me. I wasn’t crazy about it though I didn’t dislike it. I quite liked the twins, especially Davy.

    Are you going to get a copy of The Blythes are Quoted?

  11. Love the Anne books and started rereading a few years ago, but didn’t get very far.

    The fairy fascination reminds me of A. C. Doyle and his belief in the Cottingley Fairies! That was in the 1920’s, I think.

    I once took a graduate class with a woman who believed in fairies! She was an older grad student and took offense when questioned by the professor.

  12. For some reason, I never read these as a child (or if I did, I don’t remember), but as you know, read your copy of the first one and really enjoyed it. I had a few problems with it as an adult (I actually thought it got off to a bit of a slow start), and I came away wishing it had been one of those beloved childhood books, because I think I would have liked it better (and also think it would have been right up my alley as a child). Anyway, when I shelve books at the library, I keep thinking I’ll read more in the series (there are now all kinds of mini-series derived from the original books), but I never seem to do so.

    I find as an adult, when I read children’s books, I tend to enjoy most the ones I enjoyed as a child, almost as if they help me relive my childhood. There are a few exceptions, though (like Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book), which I’ve found to be fantastic as an adult. With those, I mourn the fact they weren’t around when I was a child. (There’s no pleasing me!)

  13. I was a devoted reader of the Anne books until I was in my early twenties, and though I have the complete set, I haven’t reread them in years. AoGG was wonderful, and Anne of the Island was my ideal of what college life should be like. When I was a kid, I read them all repeatedly except Anne of Windy Poplars–the epistolary format turned me off, but then I finally read it and it turned out to be one of my favorites.

    I confess, however, that Paul Irving used to irritate me to no end–those d%*@ shore people of his! It was okay for Anne to have an active imagination, but the others, and Paul in particular, stretched my patience.

    I’m still hoping to go to PEI someday for a look around.

  14. Biblibio — they are great to reread, and I hope you enjoy the ones you end up picking up, if you decide to revisit some of your favorites! I can see why not everyone would love Anne. I really like her, although I have more distance now that I’m older.

    Sassymonkey — I don’t know much about The Blythes are Quoted, and I’ll have to look it up. It would be a fun book to turn to after I finish the series, if I do make it that far. It’s good to hear how much you liked Anne of the Island because I’ll be there next!

    Jenclair — that’s too funny about the student. She didn’t feel embarrassed at all? How unusual. I don’t know anything about Doyle — how interesting!

    Emily — I’m glad you liked Anne, and I can see that coming to her as an adult would be a different experience; I might not like her nearly as much if I read her for the first time now. I really wish the Philip Pullman books had been around when I was young — I love those now, and I’m sure I would have loved them then.

    Jane — I’m so glad to hear you got irritated with Paul too! I felt mean-spirited, so it’s nice not to be alone. I don’t remember what I thought of Windy Poplars when I was younger, so I’m eager to get to it again to see what I think now.

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