DCIB Book Club: Anne’s House of Dreams, a New Trilogy Starts

Woot, another Anne book! Which has absolutely no harem-scarem Anne hijinks at all. In fact, she barely leaves her house, and doesn’t interact with the wider community at all. What’s that about?

I am so glad I looked up the publication dates before I read it this time. I knew that the first three books were a solid trilogy, but I hadn’t realized how close together the last 3 were written. They are more of a cohesive whole than the first three, coming out within 4 years of each other. This is a solid continuation of Anne’s life story, a maturation and finding a home and family and all of that. But it is also beginning to hint at WWI in ways large and small.

Anne and Gilbert are finally married, and move as far from Avonlea as possible while still staying on the island, to a larger sea faring town where Gilbert has a new doctor practice. Their new house is tiny and out of the way of everything, their only neighbors are the eccentric Miss Cornelia, the tragic young wife of a mentally damaged husband Leslie Moore, and the genlemanly saintly old man lighthouse keeper Captain Jim. Miss Cornelia and Anne become friends immediately, and Captain Jim is a favorite of Anne and Gilbert, but Leslie Moore is harder to know because she feels awkward about her tragic life (married young to an abusive husband, now the caregiver for that same husband). Anne gets pregnant, but her baby dies after one day. In the trauma, Leslie and Anne finally bond and become close. Next summer, Leslie agrees to take a vacation boarder, a young writer, who falls in love with her and vice versa. But they can never be together because she is married to a husband she can’t leave. Her life gets worse when Gilbert finds a possible treatment for her husband which could return him to the abusive horrible man he was before his accident. Anne and Gilbert fight over whether it is right to offer that treatment to the husband, and Gilbert wins. The treatment is successful, his memory returns, and miraculously they learn it isn’t Leslie’s husband at all! It’s his similar looking cousin! Leslie is a widow. The writer returns and proposes, and they decide to buy Anne and Gilbert’s small house as a vacation home while Anne and Gilbert (and their new baby) are moving closer to town and a much larger house.

Now, discussion questions! Does this book have more of a narrative than Windy Poplars, or is it just more short stories strung together?

I think yes, it does have a narrative. It’s a narrative of Anne and Gilbert living together, dealing with grief together, having their first serious disagreement, and slowly coming to a place where they are ready to leave their honeymoon cottage and rejoin the real world.

And in a more traditional narrative story sense, Leslie’s horrible story plays out over the course of the book in a very dramatic ridiculous way. Which brings me to my next question!

Is Leslie’s story just too TOO tragic and perfect?

I’m gonna say yes but also no. The parts of her story that treat her as an abused wife/rape survivor I think are handled really REALLY well. Her sort of “stay away, but also come close” attitude towards friendship, and the way the book deals with the horror of her life as a marital rape victim, without needing to spell it out, that’s all perfect. But then you add on her over the top beauty, and the crazy “turns out it wasn’t your husband after all!” twist, and the book loses me. Well, me-in-present-day. Me-at-age-12 looooooooooooooved it.

What do you think about the increasing philosophical discussions?

I really like the little bits of questions as to the nature of God and plans that Joy’s death brings out. I think Montgomery handles the balance of not answering the questions, but showing how life makes her characters reflect on these questions really well. I also think it is a sign of how WWI is starting to affect Montgomery herself, along with her own experience of infant death. The deeper darker tone fits with the next two books of the trilogy, Rainbow Valley and Rilla.

Matthew Versus Captain Jim, Miss Cornelia Versus Rachel Lynde?

I feel bad that Marilla is so short changed in this book. But I sympathize, I think Montgomery probably just didn’t feel she had anything more to say about her. Anyway, there is no “new” Marilla, but Miss Cornelia is definitely a “new” Rachel Lynde. Bossy woman, strong opinions, runs the church and the community. And for me, I think Miss Cornelia is a hair better than Rachel Lynde. I like that she hates men and Methodists for literally no reason, I like that she aggressively supports all women all the time always, and I really like that she takes the time to do fine sewing for an 8th baby so that it will feel welcome.

On the other hand, Matthew versus Captain Jim, NO CONTEST! Always Matthew!!!! I’m VERY upset that Jem is named for Captain Jim first, not Matthew.

On a scale of 1 to 10, how is the “Anne is Perfect” problem in this book?

I’m gonna say it’s around 8. I really miss the scrapes! She gets the perfect wedding to the perfect husband who thinks she is beautiful, she is immediately embraced and adored by her new community, and she puts not one foot wrong (except in disagreeing with Gilbert over the operation for Dick Moore).

The only reason I’m making it 8 instead of full 10 is that this is the honeymoon book, after all. We mostly see her with Gilbert who adores her and thinks she is perfect, as he should. Maybe loads of people at the church hate her, and Gilbert’s patients are jealous of her, and she offends folks left and right, but that’s not what this book is about. It’s about their perfect little honeymoon world where nothing goes wrong ever.

And fun questions: Which would make you happier, if Leslie was just normal pretty instead of Beautiful, or if Anne at least one time horribly offended someone in this book?

For me, Leslie as normal pretty. I think her story would be even better if she was just normal-pretty, but smart and not interested in Dick Moore and that’s why he obsessed over her. And if in modern day she was just normal-pretty and a little faded, and Owen fell in love with her because he could see the person underneath.

Which Miss Cornelia phrase is more satisfying “you belong to the race that knows Joseph” or “just like a man”?

In today’s world, I think “just like a man”! I love the way everything bad comes under that heading.

2 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: Anne’s House of Dreams, a New Trilogy Starts

  1. Ooh, I didn’t even realize the original Anne series could be split into 2 trilogies, but that makes total sense! I got 1-3, but not 5, 7, 8. Also, query, why is the guy on the cover blond?? Gilbert is a brunette! Did they think, “well, we’ve made Anne’s hair red, nobody will notice Gilbert”? WE noticed!!!

    Okay, question time.

    Does this book have more of a narrative than Windy Poplars, or is it just more short stories strung together?

    Definitely more of a narrative. Every character has something to do with the other, even the schoolmaster and Lost Margaret. It’s also like Leslie is a mirror of Anne. Anne’s life started getting better around 11 and Leslie’s life went downhill around 9 or 10. And we see the path Anne could have gone down on.

    Is Leslie’s story just too TOO tragic and perfect?

    Hmm…she’s definitely a Main Character in the story (she’s even better than Anne at certain things, quelle horreur!). I think I liked the beauty angle – goes to show that beauty can be a curse as well. And it’s all very fairytale-like, which, again, maybe it’s meant to be??? But the twist at the end, however fairytale-like, had me rolling my eyes. And Owen’s whole speech about her beauty reminded me a bit of Josh from Clueless. You can’t find anything besides, “she’s beautiful”??

    What do you think about the increasing philosophical discussions?
    Took them as a sign of Anne growing up, but honestly, didn’t think too much about them at all. The Anne books have always felt philosophical to me, so this didn’t feel out of character.

    Matthew Versus Captain Jim, Miss Cornelia Versus Rachel Lynde?

    Matthew and Miss Cornelia!! Who incidentally both have something to do with taking initiative in the matter of clothes.

    On a scale of 1 to 10, how is the “Anne is Perfect” problem in this book?

    I see your viewpoint about how her small circles see her as perfect and it’s not as bad as other books (I shuddered through AoI, TBaQ, and Windy Poplars). and yet…okay, I’ll also say 8 for this one line about Leslie and Anne laughing: “Anne’s was silver and Leslie’s gold.” Not sure if it’s one of those things were silver < gold or just showing how Anne's beauty is more delicate, but at this point, I'll take it.

    And there are two things that yanked me horribly out of the book and Anne and Gilbert's perfection. One was Anne reacting in HORROR to Owen's confession of love for Leslie, that it only happens in books. Like, Anne, come on!! You've seen too much unhappiness in your life and the lives of others around you to be shocked by this!

    And the other was Gilbert talking about Leslie before they knew her and commenting on her bad marriage: "a fine woman would have made the best of it. Mrs. Moore has evidently let it make her resentful and bitter." Like, go die, Gilbert. Do you have any, ANY idea what it's like to be in a bad relationship of any kind?

    But it also lets me see how they could be unkind about Mary (Rainbow Valley) and Mr. Pryor (RoI), so I'm glad I had the heads-up.

    I think it's the "everyone worshipping at their feet" after that which made me want to kick them.

    Which would make you happier, if Leslie was just normal pretty instead of Beautiful, or if Anne at least one time horribly offended someone in this book?

    Anne horribly offending someone, no contest. And she IS in the wrong, and they DO NOT forgive her.

    Which Miss Cornelia phrase is more satisfying “you belong to the race that knows Joseph” or “just like a man”?

    Just like a man!

    Like

    • The 2 Trilogies really hit me on this read of Dreams. We meet the parents of what will be the central couple in Rilla, and some of the main adult characters of Rilla. You can enjoy Rilla fully without reading any of the first 3 books, but it doesn’t really work if you haven’t read Dreams.

      I am FASCINATED by the journey of covers of the Anne books! My Mom’s edition had these really lovely classy covers, and seem to have been the same editions from the 1940s through the early 60s. But then after that you have these really cheesy covers that are increasingly unrelated to the books, and more look like misc. romance novels. And then in the early 2000s (after the paperback editions I read), it suddenly switched to “classy” covers again. This particular cover is clearly just “romance novel cover #453, with red hair”.

      I was also thinking of Leslie as a mirror! But not the way you said, more in the “schoolteacher who gives up her dreams to marry young and it is a terrible mistake”, while Anne was stubborn and independent and Gilbert was patient and respectful and they married in maturity. You’ve added on so much more to that! Anne didn’t have a family and love in her childhood, and then had a sort of plain unromantic love from Matthew and Marilla. But then we see Leslie, who was let down by everyone around her again and again, and who received love with strings attached always, and maybe it was better that Anne had this empty hard life instead of a full tragic one. Oh, and Cornelia and Jim are other mirrors. It’s a whole book about marriage and what it can and should mean. Cornelia decides to marry in the end, after taking her own sweet time about it. Jim chooses to live alone instead of settling for a lessor love. Leslie rushed thoughtlessly into it and now is trapped. Gilbert and Anne moved slooooooooow and were rewarded with happiness. That could also be why there are so few characters and we see them so intimately, it’s about the inner world of relationships, not a whole community.

      I really wish the ending had been less “magical”. Although I also like that Gilbert was RIGHT. And it’s a legitimately good moral question. It wouldn’t be today, when divorce is a thing, but back then to choose between locking Leslie forever to a terrible terrible person, and letting that person live a seemingly fairly happy life with brain damage. Anyway, why not just straight up kill him? We have all these comments about the irritating naughty things he does. What if he had one more time done something dangerous, and Leslie had risked her life and done everything she could to save him, and failed? Then she could have been torn by guilt and pain and it would have been a happy ending, but not as ridiculous. And I was irritated by how much her beauty was discussed, although at least they also talked about her wit and charm and all of that.

      The philosophy stood out to me more because of thinking of it as the start of a trilogy. Rilla has so much deep deep discussion of the meaning of things and the value of life and death and all of that, more than is in any of Montgomery’s other books I think. And this feels like the start of that.

      I was interested in the whole mistery of the Leslie-Owen thing. When I was reading about Montgomery’s life, it was mentioned that there were only something like 250 divorces IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY in 1919. So divorce was really just unheard of. With that in mind, if marriage is this unbreakable things, then maybe Owen and Leslie falling in love is crazy? And Leslie did say she’d taken in boarders loads of times before. But on the other hand, I don’t think people were different back then, I think they just didn’t get divorced. Surely the idea of affairs and falling in love outside of marriage was a thing that happened?

      And to Gilbert’s point, if divorces just don’t exist, and most people get married fairly young, then the totally in love Anne and Gilbert marriage most be more of an oddity than the norm. Montgomery certainly has plenty of stories about couples who just irritate each other. If I am very VERY charitable, I will say that Gilbert is such a sweet boy he can’t imagine an actually abusive marriage, he is just thinking of one where the husband drops tabacco on the rug or something.

      I am very excited to read Ingleside! Because I am pretty sure Anne messes up at some point in there. I know there is that short section where she and Gilbert are all grumpy with each other, I love that.

      And yes, “just like a man” thrown in after literally any story about anything is just so satisfying. I think I will borrow it! “The hardware store app messed up my order and placed it 3 times and I had to fix it at the store this morning….just like a man”.

      On Sun, Jun 12, 2022 at 7:06 PM dontcallitbollywood < comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote:

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