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#GreenGablesReadalong – Anne of Ingleside

I’m still working my way through the Anne books for the Reeder Reads Readlong: one Anne book a month from January to August. So the post is a little late but I swear I did read Anne of Ingleside in June!

You can catch up with this series by starting here if you’re so inclined.

ingleside

Anne Blythe is now the mother of 5, soon to be 6, children! Her wonderful house, Ingleside, has been invaded by the likes of Aunt Mary Maria Blythe, who was only supposed to stay for two weeks. Aunt Mary Maria makes it difficult for everyone in the family to be in the house, always commenting on the kids’ manners, the things they say, eat or do. Gilbert is away working a lot and Anne doesn’t want to force her to leave. Meanwhile we get to know the Blythe children: Jem, the oldest, desperate for his own little dog to love; Nan and Di, the twins, one favouring her mother in colouring and her father in temperament, the other with brown hair and eyes and her head permanently in the clouds; sweet, lovely, sensitive Walter, convinced his family sent him away; Shirley, who doesn’t actually have much of a role in this book at all; and darling lisping baby Rilla, convinced that carrying a cake through town is the absolute worst thing that could ever happen to a girl.

When I read this book as a kid I was delighted with it. I loved how Anne was exactly the kind of mother she always said she’d be, taking all the cares and troubles of her little babies seriously. I loved that there was a series that so completely showed the life of it’s character – that we got to know both Anne as a mother and her little children. I loved how each child was so different but that they all seemed to go together. And to a certain degree, I still love those things about it.

But this time I found Gilbert such a disappointment. I know, I know. At the time, he was just like any other man working hard to provide for his family. And he does work so hard. But when he is around, which is rare, he doesn’t seem like the Gilbert we used to know and love. He seems hard somehow. Like he doesn’t understand his little children, even though so many of them are just like Anne when he loved her as a child. Even his interactions with Anne seem clipped and curt. Only at the very end does Gilbert find any kind of redemption and I’m still wondering if it was enough, or too little too late?

That said, I have a whole new level of love for Susan Baker. Especially when she and Rebecca Dew discover that they are kindred spirits. The letters they write to each other! I just loved those.

If I remember correctly, this was kind of the last book to feature Anne so prominently. The last two books are more or less given over entirely to the Blythe children. I’m sad to leave Anne, even though I know she will still exist in the last two books. It won’t be the same though.

Rainbow Valley here I come!

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#GreenGablesReadalong – Anne of the Island

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.

anne of the island

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!

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Re-Reading Anne of Green Gables

Last year I found the time to re-read the Harry Potter series and it was magical.

Ha.

But seriously, it was wonderful to go back and visit with Harry, Hermione and the Weasleys, to rediscover the magic of the Wizarding World, and find that the whole thing was every bit as fantastic as it was the first time.

The other series I’ve been meaning to re-read is Anne of Green Gables so when Lindsey at Reeder Reads was like ‘I’m going to host an Anne of Green Gables Readalong” I was like I’m IN!  

It was just the nudge that I needed to allow myself to get back to Avonlea.

I’m right on schedule for this readalong – a book a month til August (there are 8 books).

The last time I read Anne of Green Gables was probably when I was a teenager. There was some concern that maybe I would be too old to enjoy these the same way I did then. Anne Shirley is 11 when the first book starts after all, what could I possibly have in common with her now?

Anne

I definitely look at Anne differently now than I did when I was closer to her age. Now she make me smile with her irrepressible optimism, her incredible imagination and her inability to filter anything she says but it’s the way an indulgent adult would smile. I recognize bits of the child that I was in her but I’m not that person anymore. When she thinks her world is over because her hair is green or when she flies into a rage because Mrs Lynde calls her ugly – I sympathise with her but I also understand that it’s not the end of the world as she isn’t able to do just yet. I used to think that Marilla was kind of harsh but now I see her in a whole different light. She adores Anne in a way that probably terrifies her at first. She can’t help but laugh at Anne but knowing how important it is to Anne to be taken seriously and how important it is to her that she teach Anne certain things, she doesn’t laugh at her to her face.

I’m not sure that I ever noticed before how much Anne grows up in the first book. She goes from being a wild dreamer who bursts forth with a stream of consciousness and is always getting herself into scrapes, to being a thoughtful young woman who hardly hesitates before giving up her dream to help out at Green Gables.

And even though Anne is swept up in all kinds of romantic notions of courtship in her imagination, in her real life she could not be more practical and as such she’s a refreshingly real heroine. I never noticed before that she isn’t interested in boys at all. She works hard in school so that she can be first in the class, ahead of all the boys. She holds a grudge against Gilbert Blythe for years because he calls her Carrots but when it starts to thaw it’s not because she’s falling in love with him. Rather she recognizes that they could probably encourage each other as friends and help each other to carry on with their studies. She thinks of him as an equal in a way that’s not actually that common in literature.

If none of this makes any sense and you don’t even know what Anne of Green Gables is, then I think you need to sign up for the Readalong too. It’s not too late.

I will just be over at the bookstore, buying the entire series. Again.

PS you can follow the fun on twitter! #GreenGablesReadalong