Avonlea Days

28 08 2010

In June I had a childhood flashback and read the whole Anne of Green Gables set.  Most of the books were free for Kindle, so it was cheap summer reading.  I’m so sad now that I missed this as a child.  I would have loved it then as I loved it now.  Anne Shirley and I would have been friends just as much as Laura Ingalls, Nancy Drew, Nan-Bert-Freddie-and-Flossie, and Elizabeth & Jessica Wakefield were. Through the Avonlea books we follow Anne Shirley’s calamitous childhood and somewhat picturesque adulthood covering 42 years of her life. 

  • Anne of Green Gables is about 11-year-old orphan Anne Shirley being adopted (somewhat mistakenly) by Marilla and her brother Mathew to ‘help on the farm’.  Anne is immediately transferred from a tragic childhood to a wonderful world of farms, friends, and mischief.  She constantly tries the patience of Marilla and the other adults in the area but never ceases to amaze them at the same time.  Anne comes to love life in Avonlea and excels in school.  She and several of her friends attend Queen’s Academy and become licensed teachers.  Anne gives up a prize to go on to university after family circumstances change and takes a teaching position near home.  Gilbert (an old childhood nemesis turned friend) gives up the Avonlea school in order for Anne to be even closer and thus cements and even stronger bond between them. 
  • Anne of Avonlea follows Anne from ages 16 through 18 and her trials and tribulations as a teacher at her own local school.  It also introduced twins Dora and Davy which Anne has a part with raising.   Anne and Gilbert continue studies at home in order to stay fresh and continue with college the next year. 
  • Anne of the Island covers ages 18 through 22 and Anne’s stay at Redmon College to get her college degree.  Gilbert and many of their friends from Queen’s Academy are there to provide many an anecdote.  We also meet Anne’s first love interest Roy Gardner.  She finds after a while that she cannot marry him though and returns alone to Green Gables with a degree and find Gilbert home and deathly sick.  She finds she loves him more than she knew and praying for his safe recovery.  He does, and after a brief courtship Gilbert proposes and Anne accepts. 
  • Anne of Windy Poplars (also published as Anne of Windy Willows) covers ages 22 through 25 and written as a series of letters, journal entries, and stories between Anne and Gilbert.  Anne is staying at an old house called Windy Poplars with two widows, their housekeeper, and a cat while she works as principal of a high school and meets challenges from colleagues, students, and parents alike.  In true Anne fashion she finds a way to make everyone love her in the end.  At the book’s conclusion Anne is headed back to Green Gables to marry Gilbert. 
  • Anne’s House of Dreams has Anne aged 25 through 27 and married to Gilbert.  They move to a small fishing village where Gilbert will be a doctor.  They have their little house of dreams, new neighbors the Ford’s and Ms. Cornelia Bryant who are all colorful characters, and a few tragedies.  It sets the stage for the rest of the series as Anne and Gilbert are adults and encountering adult life. 
  • Anne of Ingleside is about Anne’s life aged 34 through 40 in their new (and final) house of Ingleside.  The book is full of stories of Anne and Gilbert’s five children (with one more born during the book) and the seemingly never-ending visit of Gilbert’s detestable Aunt Mary Maria Blythe.  Towards the end of the book we see Anne worried that her husband doesn’t love her anymore, and of course it’s all ok in the end and quite a bit heartwarming.
  • Rainbow Valley shows Anne at 41 but is mostly about her children and the new minister and his three children.  We meet the Meredith children running wild and trying to behave with no one to teach them how to.  There are quite a few great stories about the children punishing themselves for misdeeds and their father completely oblivious until the end when he feels guilty and tries to find a solution by way of a new mother for the children.
  • Rilla of Ingleside 49-53 and told mostly from the point of view of Anne’s daughter Rilla.  It has a completely different feel as it centers around the men and boys going off to war (World War I).  Rilla is taken from a silly girl of 14 to a mature woman of 18 through the course of losing her brother’s and friends one by one to the ‘call of the piper’ and by her own choices about things she encounters.  Her secret crush and good friend Kenneth Ford (son of the Ford’s from House of Dreams) is injured and returns home during which time they court before he returns to war once healing and leaving Rilla in a state of emotional turmoil.  The book ends with all returning, but never to normal and key people are missing and everything has been changed by the war. 

My impressions of the series as a whole are of a great girl turning into a woman and having all of her dreams come true interspersed with personal tragedy.  My favorite books were the first and the last.  Seeing Anne at the beginning in my head was just so fun.  You can’t help but laugh when she mistakenly gets her friend drunk by opening the wrong bottle in the pantry for lunch, or dying her hair green when a traveling salesman sells her something while Marilla is away.  She’s precocious and precious.  Then there’s Rilla, who is the baby of the family and a very immature 14.  She has to grow up quite quickly as her world is turned upside down by World War I.  Her brothers and friends leave her to fight in the war, her older sisters leave for college, and Rilla is left all alone at Ingleside.  She rises to challenges of starting a Youth Aid group and raising an abandoned baby.  Both these acts, and many others, shape her into a mature young woman by the end of the novel. 

Truly, I’d love to go back in time and live in Avonlea.  A world without the stress of today.  I mean, seriously, there’d be no worrying about how much you have to catch up on Facebook.  It wouldn’t matter if you forgot your cell phone (in fact, you wouldn’t even have a home phone!).  Anyone who wanted you would find you in person, send a message through a friend, or send a letter by post.  Leisure activities included knitting, crocheting, sewing, reading, and visiting with friends.  Cooking and baking were all from scratch with ingredients you or someone near you produced yourselves.  Sure there’s no running water, air conditioning, electricity, etc; but the focus of life was on family, community, and God.  There’s something to be said for that. 

Ok, ok.  I’m a little off topic.  So sue me.  Read the books if you haven’t already (and possibly even if you have already).  They’re good, wholesome entertainment. 

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