There are many things I love about March. The first signs of spring (normally anyway, this year those started in February. Go ahead and get your hatred out on me East Coasters), St Patrick’s Day, longer brighter days, my birthday, and fresh new fashions.
This year, the Green Gables Readalong provided another thing to love about March: the chance to re-read Anne of the Island.
Before this readalong allowed me to go back and re-read these books, I always thought that Anne of the Island was my favourite. Anne has grown up and has left the Island to pursue her dreams of going to college. She lives in a darling little house with lovely roommates and always seemed like she lived this perfect existence, cozy under Mrs Lynde’s quilts, with lots of social events to attend, surrounded by wonderful friends.
But this time I found Anne of the Island was kind of melancholy. Anne is finally confronted with the realities of growing up: close friends start getting married and moving further away, her ideals of romance don’t seem to match up with the reality, and death starts summoning friends home with alarming regularity. We’ve all been waiting for Anne and Gilbert’s relationship to finally take off and instead are distracted with a number of awkward proposals and the seeming perfection of Anne’s romantic ideal, Royal Gardner.
Anne struggles to figure out what she really wants and feels like she doesn’t belong in this world her friends are moving into so eagerly.
I also found that this one was even more a product of its time than the first two books. The struggles and triumphs of childhood seem to be universal through time. Being a grown up when Anne was, is quite different than what it’s like now. I had a hard time reading about Mr Harrison trying to hang his dog twice and when they try and chloroform the cat! I don’t remember those parts reading it before. And as her friends get married, you get more of a sense of how restricted life was as a young woman then: teach or get married.
But you take the good with the bad right? While both previous Anne books have been more of a collection of short stories, there was more of a narrative arc through this one. It’s the story of Anne’s time at Redmond, the people she meets and ultimately, the relationship between her and Gilbert. Anne is finding that she has an independent streak. I appreciated the fact that she didn’t settle for what she thought she should have, but waited for the right person. Even then, she doesn’t need to run right out and get married. She’s content to work and dream for another few years. In that respect, she’s thoroughly modern.
And that delicious ending only makes me want to get to April so that I can start Anne of Windy Poplars!