Anne of the Island #20BooksofSummer #AnneofGreenGables

Anne of the Island by L.M. Montgomery, published in 1915

Book #3 of the Anne of Green Gables series

Be sure to read my reviews of Book #1 (Anne of Green Gables) and Book #2 (Anne of Avonlea)

I want to commend Montgomery’s choice of titles. Little 11-year-old Anne first belonged to Green Gables. When she became a teacher, she represented the community, and thus was of Avonlea. Finally, Anne has left Prince Edward Island to go to college in Nova Scotia, so she now represents the island. Book #3 takes place over those four college years. This isn’t like Queen’s Academy; Anne can’t run home on the weekends! Her first year is spent in a boarding house, but for years 2, 3, and 4 she rents an adorable home called “Patty’s Place” with some college girls, including new friend Philippa Gordon. The most prominent theme in Book #3 is marriage. All girls are expected to be engaged or married, and Anne gets her share of proposals, both romantic and hilarious.

anne of green gables

Right on page 1 I felt Montgomery’s writing was noticeably more beautiful than it had been in Book #2. She describes the setting:

…the Lake of Shining Waters was blue — blue — blue; not the changeful blue of spring, nor the pale azure of summer, but a clear, steadfast, serene blue, as if the water were past all moods and tenses of emotion and had settled down to a tranquility unbroken by fickle dreams.

Book #3 was difficult to put down. We readers are all thinking the same thing: Will Anne Shirley and Gilbert Blythe EVER get it together??? And that’s why we keep reading. If Montgomery is to follow what readers want and expect (and she does and always has), then we can be happy knowing Anne and Gilbert are meant for each other, but how they get there — and all the close calls that almost prevent them from doing so — sure get your heart pounding and your eyes misty! As a result, Book #3 is my favorite so far.

The rhythm in Montgomery’s dialogue is spot on (don’t count Paul Irving in this generalization). Anne meets a variety of people, whom Montgomery capture with dialect. When Anne goes to substitute teach for a summer at a new school, she is picked up from the train station by Mrs. Skinner, who arrives with a wagon loaded with bags of mail. Anne scrunches in, and a whole chapter is spent with fat huffy-puffy Mrs. Skinner talking about how she was only recently married because there was another man after her. The whole story is funny — Montgomery makes it so by having us believe it is difficult for a fat woman to “catch” a man, but also Mrs. Skinner’s way of speaking. She cautions Anne about a swamp:

“If you take that way be awful keerful. If you once got stuck in that black mud you’d be sucked right down and never seen or heard tell of again till the day of judgment, like Adam Palmer’s cow.”

That same summer, a man named Sam, in patched trousers and a straw hat (where I come from, we call them hillbillies), asks Anne a question. I’m going to quote a bit here because it’s so funny and absurd, and Montgomery’s rhythm in Sam’s speaking is spot on.

“Wall, I’ve been thinking some of gitting a place of my own. There’s one that’d suit me over at Millersville. But ef I rents it I’ll want a woman.”

“Yes, I suppose so,” said Anne vaguely.

“Yep.” (<—notice that here you can tell this goon is just waiting for Anne to catch on!)

There was another long silence. Finally Sam removed his straw hat and said,

“Will yeh hev me?”

“Wh — a — t!” gasped Anne.

“Will yeh hev me?”

“Do you mean — marry you?” queried poor Anne feebly.

“Yep.”

“Why I’m hardly acquainted with you,” cried Anne indignantly.

“But yeh’d git acquainted with me after we was married,” said Sam. (<—get what he’s implying here??)

Anne gathered up her poor dignity.

“Certainly I won’t marry you,” she said haughtily.

“Wall, yeh might do worse,” expostulated Sam.

Anne of Avonlea

As much as the dialogue and rhythm were excellent, and the love story kept me reading, there were a number of things that bothered me. For instance: this book contains the four years Anne is at college. But not once do we learn what happens in a classroom. It’s always, “oh, and the semester flew by and everyone studied themselves nearly to death, and then it was break and Anne went back to Avonlea.” Sure, the characters might quote a professor (but who can quote a professor at length??) and the narrator might mention Anne is doing tops in English, but still.

Really, Montgomery’s series is given life through the characters, not the more intellectual stuff. Mrs. Rachel Lynde, whose bossiness is amusing, is still around and trying to be helpful:

Mrs. Lynde gave Anne a patchwork quilt [ to use at Patty’s Place] and loaned her five more.

“You take them,” she said authoritatively. “They might as well be in use as packed away in that trunk in the garret for moths to gnaw.”

No moths would ever have ventured near those quilts, for they reeked of mothballs to such an extent that they had to be hung in the orchard of Patty’s Place for a full fortnight before they could be endured indoors.

Diana Barry is around a bit to help Anne’s dreams along, too! When Anne has trouble getting a story she wrote published, Diana takes action, submitting the story to a competition sponsored by a baking soda company. The only rule: the story must include the company’s name! Some changes had to be made to Anne’s story… Diana tells Anne,

“…and then, in the last paragraph, where Perceval clasps Averil in his arms and says, ‘Sweetheart, the beautiful coming years will bring us the fulfillment of our home of dreams,’ I added, ‘in which we will never use any baking powder except Rollings Reliable.”

New character Philippa Gordon, too, is amusing. She’s a rich girl who calls everyone honey, she’s highly intelligent, and a gorgeous flirt with several beaus. But… can she really pull her weight in Patty’s Place, where the girls must share in shopping, cooking, and cleaning? Philippa’s never done those things! The “common” life affects her:

“I never noticed before what exquisite things snowflakes really are. One has time to notice things like that in the simple life. Bless you all for permitting me to live it. It’s really delightful to feel worried because butter has gone up five cents a pound.”

Yet, there were a series of pages in which Montgomery allowed her characters to be a bunch of animal killers. A cat is trapped in a box and poisoned with chloroform, and then 8 pages later Anne is reading a letter from Davy (one of the twins Marilla is raising) that says her neighbor tried to hang his dog, but it didn’t work the first time, so he did it again. I was pretty disturbed by how casual everyone was about killing animals when Montgomery has led readers to believe all the plants and water and stars are full of fairy magic people.

Anne of the Island

There’s also a pettiness in Anne that I would have accepted as normal in my youth, but with which I grew exasperated in Book #3. Anne’s nose; how many times do I have to read it’s her best feature, which gives her comfort and saves her from being hideous? Describing people’s physical characteristics: someone’s big ears or walk or the shape of their eyes. Everything is game for criticism, and it grows tiresome. One character is so pleased she could love an ugly man, and isn’t that just delightful of her! None of this is more shallow that the dozens of Sweet Valley Twin novels I consumed in my youth, though.

For a long time in Book #2 and #3, I resented the narrator for not helping readers better understand why Anne refuses Gilbert’s love. It isn’t the “carrots” grudge from Book #1. What is it? It takes most of Book #3 to really understand that Anne wants nothing to change. And oh, how true that rings. Anne is caught in the middle of people marrying and dying and moving away, and houses changing ownership. There is mostly the fear that others are “growing up” without her (college doesn’t seem to count — only marriage is “grown up”). When Anne is at Patty’s Place with her college girl friends, she misses Green Gables, and vice versa. How familiar to me! When she’s with Gilbert, she doesn’t want his love, when he’s with other girls, she’s instantly mean.

But Gilbert waits patiently, as he always has. And really, he’s a good friend who socializes with everyone; he doesn’t force himself on Anne or her space. Think about movies that are deemed “romantic” that, upon further examination, normalize stalking behavior: Daniel Cleaver in Bridget Jones’s Diary, Peter Venkman in Ghostbusters, Mr. Big in Sex and the City.

Anne of the Island is my favorite book in the series so far. Montgomery hasn’t lost her sassy humor, her lifelike characters, or her ability to create suspense.

20booksfinal

#20BooksofSummer

This book was read as part of Cathy 746’s challenge to read 20 books between June 1st and September 5th.

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45 thoughts on “Anne of the Island #20BooksofSummer #AnneofGreenGables

  1. I congratulate you for getting so well through your list, but having to read the entire Green Gables series sounds humorously nightmarish to me. (Perhaps how my enforced excursions into feminist theory sound to you!) It’s a really good one for the summer challenge. I loved it too as a kid, but I would imagine, and it seems bourne out by your experience, that it has not dated well. And something about that “peppy girl with a good personality who isn’t pretty but oh, has one good feature” stereotype really bothers me. My vague memory of Anne as an archetype for little girls makes me suspect she’s not a good one. Isn’t she that kind of “sassy and gets into scrapes, but humorously gets out of them” ur-female romance heroine who has inspired generations of clumsy cupcake bakers in chick lit?

    I hope you don’t mind me heckling your reading list. 🙂

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    1. I’m about 2/3 through Book #4 and I’ve come to realize that Anne herself does little with the story anymore. It’s the minor characters who are so alive and bring joy into the book. I especially love the “rural folk” Montgomery drops in. I can tell she’s making fun of them; they’re uneducated, they use the wrong words, and they’re truly misinformed about how pretty much anything works because they’re so busy being nosy. But the way they talk — especially when they all use the word “et” to mean “eat” — really reminds me of my grandpa. And some of those other minor characters remind me of other family members of mine, so I find great comfort and joy in them. It’s Anne who’s annoying, truth be told, not the books themselves. At one point in Book #4 a maid says she wishes everyone could be pretty — that there were a magic wand that someone could wave and make that happen. But then who would clean things, she wonders. It sounds shallow at first, but there’s a lot to unpack there, too, whereas Anne obsessing over the 7 freckles on her nose rings totally differently.

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      1. I agree that a lot of what she writes sounds shallow at first, but when you think about it, it’s just what people really think and say (at least it was 100 years ago, but a lot of it still seems very relevant to me – we still obsess over our looks, don’t we?), and LMM was brave enough to write about it.

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        1. That’s true… I suppose I’ve set up my personal space — home, friends, spouse — si that I don’t encounter much of this shallow stuff. If I do encounter it, I say something. This is surprising to me, but you’re right; it’s everywhere, and Anne is also aesthetically-oriented.

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  2. I agree with you about normalising stalking behaviour. Over and over, women writers make their female protagonists bow down to ‘strong’ men, whatever resistance they have shown over the course of the novel. Too many romance novels end up being about women placating men.

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    1. If you buy the box set it’s cheaper. It’s weird how the quality of the books goes up and down. Book #1 and Book #3 are great. Books #2 and #4 are pretty iffy. I think the problem is that L.M. Montgomery didn’t want to keep writing about Anne, but everyone nagged her to. You can tell at the end of some of the books that she really planned for it to be THE END instead of “the end…until the next book.”

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      1. Yeah, I remember some were not so great when I read from the library. There was one about a lady waiting on a mad guy who she thought was her husband and then falling in love or something like that. Anne’s neighbours I think. My memory is really shaky. It was one of the later books and I really disliked it

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  3. Great review – you bring it all back to me! Ah, Anne! And ah, Gilbert! And aw, Roy!! I always kinda felt that if Anne took Gilbert I could probably do quite a good job of comforting Roy – rich and gorgeous can surely make up for a little bit of dull… 😉 I love the way the books grow up along with Anne – the subject matter becomes a little more thoughtful somehow, although the wit is still there. I love the bit with the necklace… *sobs a wee bit* And that long night of despair and awakening… *sobs even more*

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    1. I sort of get like Roy wasn’t dull–he was well-educated and quite authors just like Anne and her friends–but he JUST WASN’T GILBERT. I enjoyed the minor characters greatly, especially the people who aren’t highly educated, and I’m going to talk a lot about that in my next Anne review.

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  4. The attempted cat killing in this book really stuck out to me. I did not care for that scene and didn’t see the humor in it. I think Montgomery wrote that scene to be humorous, but for this modern reader it didn’t fly. I know that’s how things were done back then, but I still had an issue with it.
    But I did really love the end scene, and all the scenes with Gilbert. I really enjoyed how Anne & Gilbert’s relationship was written. This is as far into the series as I’ve read – I need to hurry up and read book 4!

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    1. Yes, and there is a scene in which Davy, I believe describes to Anne how Mr. Harrison hanged his dog, but it lived and limped off to the barn, so he hanged it again. Not as memorable because it’s only Davy’s quick memory, but the cat scene goes on for a while, so it sticks out! I wonder if people just weren’t spaying/neutering their pets constantly like we do now (I can still hear Bob Barker in my head saying it), so there were animals EVERYWHERE. It seems like starting in Book #3 everyone has a cat.

      The Gilbert parts are the best… which is why you may be disappointed with my review of Book #4 on Monday!

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      1. Yeah I don’t think there was any spaying/neutering at that time.
        That Davy scene sounds vaguely familiar. I think it just was the way of life at the time. And what struck me is that none of the girls raised any complaint about what they were trying to do.
        I really need to finish this series up!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Popping in to defend the book here! I totally think that’s just the way it was then (not that I like it!). Even when I was little, we lived out in the country, and we had a lot of cats. It was the norm to drown all the kittens as soon as they were born rather than have all the cats spayed and neutered. My parents kept it a secret from us as long as they could, because as soon as we figured out what was going on, we complained endlessly. Mostly because we wanted ALL the kittens. 🙂

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  5. I love this series! Read it last year for a read-along. Now I want to read more of Montgomery’s writing. There is also a book entitled Before Green Gables by Budge Wilson that I want to read. Thank you for reminding me of this book! I was so angry with Anne for going steady with someone other than Gilbert!! 😀 But at the same time I could understand her attraction.

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    1. I saw the read-along link on your page but didn’t click it because this is the FIRST time I’ve read Anne and don’t want any spoilers! Do you have a Nook? If so, you can get her two novels for adults for$1.99. She also has a lot of corrections of fiction that are published by theme. I bought the one about going to the alter and the one about ghosts! Thanks for stopping by! I love new bloggy friends 😊

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  6. I loved reading this review – it brings it all back – and you include so many great details! The details are what makes the books so great, I think. As the books go along, there’s less and less of Anne, but she is still used as the jumping off point for all the books that follow.
    There is definitely a lot of emphasis on the way people look, but I think that, too, was the way things were. Partly because life was all about who you married, and if you weren’t pretty or handsome your options were not as great. Even though all that ‘old’ stuff rubs us the wrong way now, I find it all so interesting, historically.
    So glad you loved it! I can remember exactly the first time I read Anne of the Island – I couldn’t put it down, so I brought it on a hike my family was doing that day and finished it at the stopping point before we turned back. I think I hugged it all the way back. 🙂

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    1. Aw, that’s so sweet! I’m starting to think only every other book is good, starting with #1. Honestly, the more attention given to other characters, the happier I am (unless it’s Anne AND Gilbert). There will be a lot of discussion of my feelings toward Anne and how LMM is writing “around” her in my next review!

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  7. I stumbled across your blog today and had to comment because my ten-year-old daughter just finished reading Anne of the Island today. She moved straight on to Anne of Windy Poplars. I grew up with Anne and it makes me happy to see others enjoying her.

    I think we have to be careful to read books with the time period they were written in kept clearly in mind. Otherwise, attitudes, types of speech, and behaviors can be grating to our modern sensibilities. For example, I know the cat scene bothers many but I can’t remember how many books of that time period mention drowning kittens. It was just what was done. I wonder what in modern books will grate on the ears of readers in the future.

    I know that, like all books, the Anne series has its flaws. But they are beloved books of my childhood and, going by my daughter’s reaction, still beloved today. I am glad you are enjoying them as well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Jennifer! Someone else just said the same thing about my cat complaint. However, in Anne’s House of Dreams a character berates people who abuse animals, and there is a man in Windy Poplars who spends a whole day saving motherless kittens. This past spring semester I had a student ask me if I judge books based on the time period or by how people feel today (especially about race, sexuality, class, etc.). I said neither. How we feel about what’s right or wrong doesn’t really change due to the time period; it’s due to our empathy. Anne and her friends didn’t want to deal with a cat, so they immediately decided to kill it. They didn’t ask if it belonged to someone or see if someone wanted it — despite nearly everyone having a cat or three in Windy Poplars. Clearly, people enjoy cats. When it comes to race or sexuality, you have to imagine actually being in someone’s place. Were minorities, immigrants, and LGBT completely friendless and cast out? No; they had their own groups and friends. They were artists and neighbors and lovers. LMM can present only one piece of what’s going on because this is a children’s series. Let’s face it; there are no illegitimate children, murders, rapes, theft… Anne and Gilbert don’t even consummate their marriage (or come remotely close to it) on the page. To say that LMM was writing how it really was isn’t accurate. I think our enjoyment of the Green Gables series comes from how INACCURATE it is. We feel better, more peaceful, like dreams are possible, and long for a time that didn’t exist.

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      1. Of course, LMM was not depicting an accurate viewpoint of life. As you said, these are children’s books. I have never encountered a child like Paul Irving…and I am not sure I want to! (I can’t be the only one who found him irritating?) But maybe when these books were written he was viewed as charming.

        I disagree when you say that views of what is right and wrong do not change. For us as individuals they may not but for society as a whole they do. You mention Anne and Gilbert not consummating their marriage on the pages of the book. They also didn’t sleep together before they got married. It would have been viewed as wrong. Would we say the same about how society as a whole would view that today?

        As for as the cat episode, of course I agree it is disturbing. I have a cat. But we have to acknowledge that doing things like drowning kittens was common in the past. That does not mean we have to like it or that everyone liked it back then but it did happen. Ways of speaking about immigrants and minorities were different. We read it and find it shocking, of course we do, but we also have to read with the awareness that it would have been less shocking to the reader at the time. Being aware of the differences does not mean we are condoning them or that everyone back then felt the same way. There were people back then who disapproved of drowning cats and speaking badly of immigrants just as there are people now who believe sex before marriage is wrong.

        The Green Gables series is inaccurate in the way most fiction is. It makes us “feel better, more peaceful, like dreams are possible, and long for a time that didn’t exist.” But it is accurate in the same way all fiction, whether we want it to or not, reflects the times in which it was written. That is a skewed and an incomplete reflection, but it is still a reflection.

        Thank you for taking the time to write such a detailed response to my comment.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thank YOU, Jennifer, for engaging with my writing. I started Grab the Lapels thinking I would promote authors are women, but I’ve gotten so much more out of it, especially new friends and great conversation.

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  8. I have to admit that my memories of the later books are dim (I think this may even have been the last one I read). It’s good to hear the Anne/Gilbert romance still stands up today. I loved that part of the story so much as a kid, and there have been a bunch of other romances I enjoyed when i was a teenager that I now find really disturbing.

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