DCIB Book Club: Anne of Ingleside! A Bunch of Short Stories of Varying Quality, and Anne Makes Mistakes!

Well, I had to stay up almost to midnight but I finished it! The problem is, I enjoy these books so much that I keep putting them off as a special treat for the weekend. And then I have so much to do on weekends that I finish them late. Anyway, I’m starting Rainbow Valley TOMORROW! It makes me happy, why not read it right away?

This is the last book Montgomery wrote before she died, so her most mature vision of the world. And it’s an interesting mix. I feel like she spent a lot of time looking back at early childhood in a way she had never seen it before, and really captured the illogic and fear and misery of childhood along with the poetry. She also got downright DARK in some places, that Peter Kirk funeral section is fierce. And she let Anne be flawed a few times, thank goodness, miss things with her children sometimes, offend Aunt Mary Maria, make a total hash of her attempt at matchmaking, and be petty and jealous and menopausal in the end. But truly, there’s no plot. It just covers the years from Rilla’s birth through to right before the start of Rainbow Valley, with an assortment of stories most of which could be about any family but were grafted on to Anne’s for the sake of getting the book published.

Now, discussion questions!

What do you think about the sudden arrival of Class as an issue? Is it because they are living in a larger town, or because Gilbert is a doctor, or because the modern world allows trains and telephones so towns aren’t as tight?

Reading all the books in a row, it really struck me with this one how suddenly class is a problem for the first time. In House of Dreams, they were friends with the only 4 people who lived in walking distance, an old sailor who ran away to sea as a child, a teenage bride turned impoverished farm woman, and a well-off single woman with a large farm. That was just a few years before this book. But now they live in the larger part of town, and suddenly Anne isn’t doing housework because that’s what Susan is for, and they are picky about who their children take as friends, and Anne is hosting the Ladies Aid which is CLEARLY made up of the proper nice people of the town and not the fisherfolk or any of the others. Part of the charm of the early books, to me, was how mixed together everyone was and how they all rubbed along somehow. And how hardworking life was, you pulled weeds and did laundry and all kinds of tough jobs. Now this reads like a middle-class family from almost any era and place.

Anyway, I’m gonna say it is both a sign of changing times within the books, and changing times within Montgomery herself. In the books, suddenly trains and telephones mean Anne and Gilbert can be part of the larger Island society, they are above and apart from the hardworking locals around them. And at the same time, Montgomery herself is no longer idealizing her childhood in a tiny farming community but instead dreaming of an easier life she might have had as a wife and mother, with a wealthy doting husband and a hired girl who magically does everything for her.

What did you think of the split between Susan as the practical caregiver and Anne as the wise one feel odd to you?

First, of course, all those children saying “oh, mother, you are the BEST!” was very “anne is perfect” kind of irritating. But on the other hand, was she the best? Yes she could give them wise loving words blah blah blah, but Susan was the one who took care of them when they were sick, welcomed them safely home, worried about them when they were lost, remembered and made for them all their favorite foods, and so on and so forth. I’ll put it this way, I think those kids could have survived without Anne, I don’t think they could have survived without Susan. Like, what would they EAT?

Could you tell Di and Nan apart in their stories? Because I couldn’t.

I think Montgomery put in the twins because she wanted to fluff up the family, make it truly large. Plus, one of them has to be set aside to have a romance in Rainbow/Rilla. But I honestly can’t remember which one of them it is. They are just so similar!!!! Jem is a nice solid good boy, Walter is all dreamy and perfect, Rilla is a little spoiled and silly, and Shirley is the sane baby. But the twins? Montgomery can say as much as she wants about how one of them is this way and one of them is that way, but their stories could have been interchanged and I wouldn’t be able to tell.

There were three kinds of sections in this book, the Anne first person sections, the stories from the children, and the dialogue of village gossip. Which was your favorite?

100% the village gossip. That quilting bee scene is classic! And then the Peter Kirk story that ties into it. The kids’ stories were pretty well-done, some of them so well-done I had to skim (I haaaaaaaaaaaated spending the night away from home as a kid, and all the sections where they go to someone else’s house and it’s WEIRD and WRONG upset me). I don’t mind the Anne first person sections, because they are set up to show how she is thinking the wrong things, which is nice. But the book comes alive with the village gossip.

What WAS up with the Peter Kirk story?

I think before the section starts, Anne thinks to herself “this is not a story for children”. And it really isn’t. Yet it is dumped in the middle of this light book mostly about children and which is marketed to children. I have to read Montgomery’s last unpublished book still, I have a copy somewhere, it was so dark and strong that her publisher refused to release it. If it’s got stuff like the Peter Kirk scene, I can see why. Coercive control and abusive relationships and all the rest of it existed long before modern day started giving them names, and Montgomery really showed some ugliness in this section.

Okay, that’s all I’ve got! What did you think?

7 thoughts on “DCIB Book Club: Anne of Ingleside! A Bunch of Short Stories of Varying Quality, and Anne Makes Mistakes!

  1. You should really really read Elizasky’s fanfic series, i think you’d like it. It’s a “truer” AOGG, but not like Anne with an E, just…truer. She really brings the twins to life there, as well as Shirley and Faith and Una and I just love everything she writes. It’s on Ao3 (there’s an FF.net version as well, but she’s reworking it on ao3, so that’s the one I’d rec.)

    What do you think about the sudden arrival of Class as an issue? Is it because they are living in a larger town, or because Gilbert is a doctor, or because the modern world allows trains and telephones so towns aren’t as tight?

    I’m wondering if class always was an issue in AoGG. With the references to “Sloanes are Sloanes” and “the Gillis coming out”, etc., class has always been a presence. It’s more pronounced now, since yes, they live in a bigger town and they’re rich, and Gil is a white collar worker (literally!), unlike Avonlea, where everyone was farming. But my FAVORITE depiction of class is from Emily of New Moon!!

    What did you think of the split between Susan as the practical caregiver and Anne as the wise one feel odd to you?

    *shrugs* I don’t really feel much about it. I’ve seen it too often and this also helps create a distance so we never see Anne making any parenting mistakes. Like (again, refer to Elizasky), what is up with Shirley?? L.M. definitely ignored him, but so did Anne???

    There were three kinds of sections in this book, the Anne first person sections, the stories from the children, and the dialogue of village gossip. Which was your favorite?

    Village gossip was very…ugh for me, just because I don’t like gossip, but I think it’s the one that makes the most sense, so I’ll go with that.

    What WAS up with the Peter Kirk story?

    I think TBaQ has a fuller version of the story! Not exactly Peter Kirk, but what it could have been if it were allowed to stand alone, rather than as a snippet in a story. And it’s great.

    TBaQ, as annoying as it can be, also has my favorite LMM poem from Walter about the reality of war. So am I totally fan of TBaQ? No. I think LMM was caught between the modern world and its harshness and providing readers with a sense of nostalgia. But some things are GOOD.

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      • I really didn’t expect to like it as much as I did. I started reading because I was out of AoGG fic to read and then I was HOOKED. stayed up all night and have read it at least 4 more times since then.

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    • In AoGG, the biggest class stuff I saw was against Anne herself. The occasional references to her being an orphan and no one knows where she came from and stuff. Which is really interesting when you look at this book where Anne is saying to her kids “don’t play with that kid”. The book even nods to that when Anne tells her kids that she was hungry a lot as a child. I guess going to Redmond and becoming a doctor’s wife magically makes her high class? But by that marker, shouldn’t we be open to any of the kids on the shore having that sort of intelligence within them too? It doesn’t make sense!

      Ooo, true! We have stories where Susan panics and loses a kid and whatever, and then Anne sweeps in last minute and solves it all. I am VERY excited to read Gift of Wings and get a better sense for how Montgomery was as a mother herself.

      And now I am also interested to read TBoQ! Okay, I finish Rainbow Valley and Rilla, then I read Gift of Wings, and Blythes are Quoted. What a fun summer for ME!

      On Sun, Jun 19, 2022 at 11:50 PM dontcallitbollywood < comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote:

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  2. I don’t remember much from this book at all except for the fact that Anne had six kids and somehow after that I wanted six kids (plus of course Susan because how else will I take care of them!?). I was 13 when I read the novel and I remember writing to my best friend over the holidays about how I was determined to have six children. It really threw my friend, and later on, the girls in my class, to an uproar. They thought it was the wildest notion to have so many, and finances and the assumed pain of childbirth aside…. In the eloquent words of one of my classmates, “but Saireee that means you gotta DO IT … SIX times! Bleargh!!” They also quickly pointed out that any guy who’s willing to “do it” six times is probably sex obsessed, “like Ashe, and ugh you don’t want to marry Ashe.” … “Nor do you want to have six mini Ashes” πŸ˜‚

    Ok this aside, I don’t remember the “class” demarcation, I suppose it’s because I always found an undercurrent of it in the novel and this didn’t feel all that different. I loved the village gossip part of it. That was the best, it felt so true to life and for a long while later I would imagine what the village gossips should say about me when I am as old as Anne.

    You raise an excellent question about Susan. Now that I have a baby myself, it’s such an important question — what does it mean to be a mother? And if there’s someone else who’s doing all the caregiving, then what does a parent do? Earn for the family? Be a mentor and guide to the child? I don’t know… I am figuring out the answers myself. I also think that the now me, since I am working and all that, I have at times found myself jealously wondering if my child would end up loving someone else (nanny, grandparents) more if my husband and I aren’t around to take care of him the most.

    I don’t actually remember the Peter Kirk story (but I found it now and whoa is it dour!? LMM!!) What I do remember is poor Walter walking all the way home some night … That really kept me on tenterhooks. It was good to know that it was only a little baby coming… I somehow didn’t make the connection to the baby then as he walked (probably my English comprehension could have been better or maybe I was only half attending to that chapter) …

    ( I have typed this out separately and will try multiple times to post this — once again I lost my comment for the earlier Anne post because of some weird WordPress issue. 😭 Will try again later)

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    • Reading this book, the Susan-Anne divide felt so striking to me, and very class also? Like, Susan is the one who does all the messy stuff and is loved but overlooked as “just Susan”, while Anne is the magical wise understanding worshipped Mother. I don’t have a child myself, and of course things vary in every culture, but I feel like there is a way to do paid childcare where it is two equals sharing the exact same kind of work. Instead of the employee does the boring stuff, and the Mom does the fancy stuff. Maybe it’s that the divide is less categories of work and more just time? Like, 6-8 hours a day, the paid person does everything from giving advice to teaching things to changing diapers, and 16 hours a day the parents do the exact same stuff. But Susan is live in, so Anne just NEVER does that stuff. And Susan NEVER gets to do the wise advice stuff.

      The Walter story was the one I remembered too! Something about being afraid, and staying at a strange house with strange people, and something scary and secret going on among the adults, it was such a perfect evocation of childhood.

      On Mon, Jun 20, 2022 at 7:21 AM dontcallitbollywood < comment-reply@wordpress.com> wrote:

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