Anne’s House of Dreams #20BooksofSummer #YAlit #Canada #AnneofGreenGables

Anne’s House of Dreams by L.M. Montgomery, published in 1922

Book #5 in the Anne of Green Gables series

Please be sure to first read my reviews of Anne of Green Gables (Book #1), Anne of Avonlea (Book #2), Anne of the Island (Book #3), and Anne of Windy Poplars (Book #4).


Things are finally going in the direction readers have wanted since Gilbert Blythe called Anne Shirley “carrots” and then slid her a candy heart as an apology: they got married. Some things are left static: Marilla and Mrs. Lynde remain unchanged. Apparently, there’s not enough room for the plot to express how they’ve aged, especially Marilla’s worrisome headaches. Diana’s family is practically forgotten, though Diana always comments on how fat she’s getting. Yet, some things are different: there are finally phones in Avonlea homes, which Mr. Harrison calls “modern inconveniences.” The twins are in their middle teens. The biggest change is Anne no longer teaches — women at the time worked until they were married and then stopped, even after having put years into their schooling. Instead, she and Gilbert move to a harbor, “half way between Glen St. Mary and Four Winds Point,” where Gilbert will establish himself as a doctor and Anne will be wife and, we hope, mother. Of course, a new setting provides the opportunity to meet new characters!

House of Dreams

I appreciated that LMM didn’t mess around. Within 20 pages, Anne and Gilbert are married. However, the author has a tendency to describe nature and beautiful women/girls, but not so much emotions. I wasn’t sure how anyone felt during the wedding; LMM tells us, briefly, that there was a wedding. Immediately, the newlyweds head to their new home — Anne’s House of Dreams — to honeymoon there. No sojourn in Europe or the States (again, I appreciate not dragging it out). Because we’re now set at a harbor, LMM has no shortage of descriptions: the mist is emerald, the mist is purple, the mist is moonlit like curls of ribbons, there’s a misty rain. What’s with all the mist?! I may not have lived on a harbor, but I do know that mist is mist, no matter how you spin it. Other descriptions are so flowery that I had trouble focusing. At one point, the sky is described as a jeweled cup that fell over to spill ink on the sky. I kept thinking, The ink spill is gorgeous, but what makes the cup jeweled? I felt like Miss Stacey, who, back when Anne was in the one-room school house, tightened Anne’s language to make her a stronger writer.

To make up for the descriptions that caused my eyes to glaze over, LMM provides new characters who are more complex than previous Anne books. Instead of overwhelming us with mini stories, like she did in Anne of Windy Poplars, LMM creates a few new people with whom Anne engages. Her house of dreams is located far enough from everyone else that she only has a select number of neighbors to befriend.

There’s Miss Cornelia, whose main trait is that she hates men. She even claims that she doesn’t want to have the right to vote because women would get it, vote, and then men would blame all the problems in the country on women! (“That’s their scheme,” she says). Miss Cornelia rags on men on both sides of the harbor. For instance, she tells Anne:

“Mrs. Roderick was a Milgrave, and the Milgraves never had much sense. Her nephew, Ebenezer Milgrave, used to be insane for years. He believed he was dead and used to rage at his wife because she wouldn’t bury him. I‘d a-done it.”

Miss Cornelia looked so grimly determined that Anne could almost see a spade in her hand.

But what I remember most is that Miss Cornelia isn’t all thorns, evidenced by the fact that she is constantly sewing for unwanted babies born around the harbor, babies whose parents already have too many children:

“I s’pose I’m a fool, to be putting hand embroidery on this dress for an eighth baby. But, Lord, Mrs. Blythe, dearie, it isn’t to blame for being the eighth, and I kind of wished it to have one real pretty dress, just as if it was wanted. Nobody’s wanting the poor mite — so I put some extra fuss on its little things just on that account.”

For all of Miss Cornelia’s grumpiness about men, this moment stuck with me through the whole book. I kept thinking about families I know that have more babies than that can afford, and instead of wondering what their parents are thinking, I started thinking good thoughts for the poor babies.

Then there’s Captain Jim, a man in his 70s who used to sail the seas, but now is the lighthouse keeper. When he and Miss Cornelia get in the same room, the conversations are more akin to watching fencing! Captain Jim has countless yarns, but he’s also a reader. Again, we have a character that doesn’t quite match expectations. He shares with Anne and Gilbert his latest read:

“It’s called A Mad Love. ‘Tisn’t my favorite brand of fiction, but I’m reading it jest to see how long she can spin it out. It’s at the sixty-second chapter now, and the wedding ain’t any nearer than when it begun, far’s I can see.”

Is it possible that LMM is making fun of herself just a bit? She did prolong the Blythe wedding for 5 books!

you got me

The most complex new character is Leslie, Anne and Gilbert’s closest neighbor. Extremely beautiful and about the Blythe’s age, Anne is thrilled. But Leslie vacillates from cold to warm, and Anne is frustrated because she’s never failed to win someone as a friend. But Leslie has problems at home, including a marriage at 16 that she was practically forced into, and a husband who causes a range of problems over 12 years. Leslie’s story creates mystery, ethical questions, and challenges for Anne. It’s not often Anne has sorrow, but in Book #5, she does throughout. It makes Book #5 more real and gripping than in the previous books. I guessed what would happen to Leslie, and was wrong.

LMM brings back some traits of Anne and Gilbert that made me love them. Gilbert still studies; he’s never stopped, which causes other doctors to become complacent. Anne’s temper flares up, too. After the Blythes get a second opinion from Captain Jim about an important decision, Anne is mad that the captain sided with Gilbert: “At least, Captain Jim’s tea and conversation calmed Anne’s mind to such an extent that she did not make Gilbert suffer so acutely on the way home as she had deliberately intended to do.” Doesn’t that sound like old Anne, who punished Gilbert for years for calling her “carrots”? I like that LMM includes bits of their personalities from the early books, as opposed to constantly having the characters recall things they did as youths.

Finally, I want to touch on my expectations of characters. In my Book #3 review, many of you pointed out that I could not hold LMM’s characters to contemporary standards when I noted that there were two scenes in which animals are killed (or almost killed) simply because the characters did not want those animals. In Book #5, Captain Jim notes that it is horribly cruel for people to let animals die. The harbor is a summer vacation place, so people take on pets and then abandon them behind when they leave. Because Captain Jim was able to identify a dead cat curled around her living kittens, he went to the owner the next summer when she came back and tore her a new one. Now, you might be thinking, “Come on, Melanie, those cats starved to death. Anne and her friends were going to straight-up kill their cat. It’s not the same — letting animals starve is cruel.” I’ll say it again: in both cases, people did not want cats. In both cases, no one tried to re-home the cats. Since Book #3, LMM has made cats a staple of her stories, and they are frequently re-homed, which means it’s something people do.

Early in Book #5, though, Anne mentions that foreign missionaries encounter cannibals. This, I did not mind. Think about it: Avonlea just got phones. Anne’s never left Canada. Her sources are print books, local newspapers, and what she’s heard. For instance, Heart of Darkness was published in 1899 and based on Joseph Conrad’s own experiences. He writes that there are cannibals in the Congo. For someone without Wi-Fi, whose never traveled, Anne only has the information about Africa that is provided to her, whether or not it’s accurate.

Book #5 was a great read, and I thoroughly convinced LMM writes a hit every other book in the series.

20booksfinal

#20BooksofSummer

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

  1. Harley and Me by Bernadette Murphy
  2. On Air by Robin Stratton
  3. Single Stroke Seven by Lavinia Ludlow
  4. Girls of Usually by Lori Horvitz
  5. Retelling by Tsipi Keller
  6. The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
  7. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
  8. Nickel and Dimed by Barbara Ehrenreich
  9. Twenty-Five Years Among the Poorest Children in America by Jonathan Kozol
  10. Terror in Taffeta by Marla Cooper
  11. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  12. Anne of Avonlea by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  13. Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  14. Anne of Windy Poplars by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  15. Anne’s House of Dreams by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  16. Anne of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  17. Rainbow Valley by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  18. Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery
  19. Bobby Blanchard, Lesbian Gym Teacher by Monica Nolan
  20. Fluke, or, I Know Why the Winged Whale Sings by Christopher Moore
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26 thoughts on “Anne’s House of Dreams #20BooksofSummer #YAlit #Canada #AnneofGreenGables

  1. Holy freaking, cow, this is one of my absolute favorite books in the series, and I’m so pleased you enjoyed it! I MUST now go back and reread the entire series–your posts have made me ultra-nostalgic. Captain Jim is one of favorite characters throughout this series as well. I could go on and on about this book, but your review already has hit all the main points. As far as the “misty like emeralds, misty like mist” (lol) stuff, I think it was primarily because of reading the likes of LMM that made my British Lit prof my sophomore year of college remark that I really needed to make sure my style didn’t distract from my point. She said, “Think of CS Lewis. Beautiful message, complex feelings, but words don’t get in the way. Try it out.” So I hear you on this point, but I secretly love LMM’s style (I’m the worst, hahaha). Can’t wait for your review of #6!

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  2. I love this book (as I love all of them, except maybe AoWP). I feel like Anne suddenly (and understandably) grows up a lot, and I especially think it deals with grief well–maybe even better than in AoGG.

    One of my favourite things about the Anne books is their focus on female friendship, as well, and I enjoyed seeing Anne having to work hard for her peer relationships, as she never has done before. One of the least realistic things about the books (in my opinion) is the way that people absolutely fall over themselves to be friends with Anne, which doesn’t ring true–so I loved seeing how she genuinely cared about Leslie and persevered at the friendship.

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    1. Yes, I don’t like how Anne feels that everyone should like her because she doesn’t work hard for it. The situation with the Pringles in Book #4 was bad, but so quickly summarized in the writing. It was one thing I thought the movie did better (if you watch the miniseries). I wanted to strangle those Pringle kids! Leslie hates Anne buy shouldn’t for the reasons she gives, so I was happy to see the back and forth.

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  3. So glad you enjoyed this one! Haha! I love all the flowery language, maybe because I read them all when I was a child. I’d probably want to strangle an author who wrote like that today. But it was the done thing back then – Dickens could write pages of straight description and I just love it! And I’m one of the few people I know who loves when Jerome K Jerome goes all flowery in Three Men in a Boat – loads of people just skip those bits. The jewelled cup sounds to me like it’s jewelled with the stars in the heavens… 😉

    From memory I really didn’t get on with the next one, and stopped reading them at that point. And though I read these early ones again and again I was never really tempted to go further. I wonder if you’ll tempt me?

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      1. Nope. I’ve just read the first three. Was debating on picking up book four this week, haven’t decided yet. But now that you say book five is good, I think I may get back into the series.

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  4. Weird, I did not remember about the cats. I can’t read that kind of stuff now, so I’m really glad you mentioned it and I’m gong to have to think about whether I re-read these or leave them in my childhood!

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  5. This isn’t one that I enjoyed as a girl; I never wanted Anne to get married (I mean, if she had to, obviously Gilbert was the guy, but I thought she was much more interesting before she grew up)! I think it’s funny that your books of summer list is mainly Anne-ish but ends with Christopher Moore (as if, oh, finally, done with that old-fashioned pigtailed red-headed girl, and now for something to laugh about)!

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    1. And don’t forget that before Moore comes a lesbian gym teacher! 😀 Next summer, when I do the #20BooksofSummer challenge again, it won’t have a series like this. I really wanted to read it to do my great-grandma a solid. In fact, reading about Anne led me to search for more information about my great-grandma’s days in a one-room school house. I found some writing! I’ll be sharing that on Grab the Lapels tomorrow, so if you’d like to hear more, be sure to come back! Also, I think you are the first person to not want Anne to get married. The funny thing is I didn’t need them married, I just wanted some obvious romance. In Anne of Windy Poplars, when she’s just writing him letters about her day, I felt cheated that they weren’t together. Then again, in the late 1800s people didn’t really “date” like we know it today. I was also positive that someone’s loins would bust if they were truly celibate until they were 25 and 27.

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      1. Heheh It’s true that the romance doesn’t overwhelm. *coughs* If I was a hypothesizing sort, I might suggest that has something to do with LMM’s experience of romance (and her rather practical marriage to a minister). If you haven’t read her journals, they are truly eye-openers! Not that I want to add to your next 20 Books of Summer challenge list already!

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          1. It is quite a commitment. But really, if you just read the first volume, which covers the years approaching her marrage, you will have a complete picture of her which you would have never guessed from her novels. Then, you would know if you want to continue on (maybe you know all you need to know by then).

            If you decide to buy/borrow, I would recommend the more recent volumes, which include the photos that LMM included in her scrapbook, and a lot more detail than was afforded in the original publications (which were seriously edited). I still have those older versions, pretty pastel-covered volumes. But the new ones, with their stark B&W covers, are for real fans, and I fully intend to add them to the collection in time.

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  6. When I first started reading this review I was worried. I’m so relieved to hear that you liked it in the end – it’s one of my favourites (I don’t say that about them all, do I?). I appreciate the back-and-forth between Anne and Gilbert in this one. Like their disagreement about what to do about Leslie’s husband. And, I also love the friendship between Anne and Leslie for the reasons you pointed out.

    I got a kick out of Cornelia. And her character continues to be a part of the rest of the series.

    I suspect that you’ll be less enthusiastic about the next two, although of course they’re still good, and I feel are important lead-ups to the last one, which is another favourite.

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