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.