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.