Maybe if I had heard of Reeder Reads’ Green Gables Read-a-long straight off, I’d’ve reread more diligently but, as it was, I learned of it at the end of February; at first I just dabbled in the rereading and I only got serious about proper cover-to-cover reading at the end of May. But now, having finished rereading the first seven volumes and having begun, at long last, Rilla of Ingleside, I am glad for the incentive.
When I was a girl reading Anne of Green Gables, my favourite parts surrounded Anne’s daring and her mischievous escapades. When I was a little older, I most enjoyed her times at school, both as a student and as a young teacher. In my 30s, I discovered that there was more to Marilla’s character than I had recognized as a girl reader.
This time around, I looked for the green and growing things, and the importance of the natural world.
When Anne wakes on the first morning at Green Gables, there are cherry blossoms in the orchard to one side, apple blossoms in the orchard to the other side, dandelions in their grass, and lilacs in the garden below.
She feels badly for the tiny trees planted around the asylum that couldn’t grow, and muses “How do you know but that it hurts a geranium’s feelings just to be called a geranium and nothing else?”
And on Christmas morning, “The firs in the Haunted Wood were all feathery and wonderful; the birches and wild cherry trees were outlined in pearl; the plowed fields were stretches of snowy dimples; and there was a crisp tang in the air that was glorious.”
This continues in Anne of Avonlea, but it’s her ongoing efforts at writing stories that I found more interesting this time around.
She scribbles down the dialogue she imagined between the asters, sweet peas and wild canaries in the lilac bush and the guardian spirit of the garden at the Copp sisters’ house. But she explains Diana that there is no point in submitting it for publication.
“Oh, no, it wouldn’t be suitable at all. There is no plot in it, you see. It’s just a string of fancies. I like writing such things, but of course nothing of the sort would ever do for publication, for editors insist on plots, so Priscilla says.”
My feelings about Davy have changed a lot over the years; he was nothing but an annoyance at first, then he was entertaining for a spell, and on this reading the twins were neither here nor there, other than as a curious parallel to Anne’s experience as a young orphan settling in Green Gables.
The first two Anne books were always my favourites as a young reader; the older that Anne got, the less interested I became.
When she asks “So you think, Diana, that being grown-up is really as nice as we used to imagine it would be when we were children?” I wondered why she’d ever imagined such a thing. Who would want to be a grown-up?!
Now, as an older reader, I find the way that LMM nudges Anne into adult-hood fascinating (especially given that she hadn’t wanted to have Anne age either). She wanders across the lines and insists on finding her own way: girlish and fanciful and mature and committed.
“Oh, Anne, things are so mixed-up in real life. They aren’t clear-cut and trimmed off, as they are in novels.”
And, yet, perhaps because Anne felt so immediately at home there, I visited it regularly (often skipping either AoA or AotI to get to the fourth book more quickly).
“I fell in love with it at once. You know, there are houses which impress themselves upon you at first sight for some reason you can hardly define. Windy Poplars is like that. I may describe it to you as a white frame house – very white – with green shutters – very green – with a ‘tower’ in the corner and a dormer window on either side, a low stone wall dividing it from the street, with willows growing at intervals along it, and a big garden at the back where flowers and vegetables are delightfully jumbled up together. But all this can’t convey its charm to you. In short, it is a house with a delightful personality, and has something of the flavour of Green Gables about it.
‘This is the spot for me. It’s been foreordained,’ I said rapturously.”
The idea of Anne’s house of dreams obviously appealed greatly to her, but it wasn’t something that I was eager to visit.
“Our house! Doesn’t that sound ‘mystic and wonderful’, Gilbert. I’ve been building dream-houses all my life, and now one of them is going to come true.”
I simply did not want Anne to leave Green Gables. In fact, my favourite part of Anne’s House of Dreams was the image of Anne’s dress on the cover (second, only, to the yellow dress that I coveted on the cover of the sixth book).
On this reread, I did enjoy the fifth volume more than I had in the past. Before hand, I was more conscious of Anne’s house being Not-Green-Gables. Much as Anne feels pulled between parts of herself and stages of life.
“Henceforth it would be hers no more; fifteen-year-old Dora was to inherit it when she had gone. Nor did Anne wish it otherwise; the little room was sacred to youth and girlhood — to the past that was to close to-day before the chapter of wifehood opened.”
“And how this little house, consecrated aforetime by love and joy, had been re-consecrated for her by her happiness and sorrow! Here she had spent her bridal moon; here wee Joyce had lived her one brief day; here the sweetness of motherhood had come again with Little Jem; here she had heard the exquisite music of her baby’s cooing laughter; here beloved friends had sat by her fireside. Joy and grief, birth and death, had made sacred for ever this little house of dreams.”
Previously I think I was more annoyed than charmed by Captain Jim. (Perhaps I resented his thoughts on women writers? “Captain Jim thought women were delightful creatures, who ought to have the vote, and everything else they wanted, bless their hearts; but he did not believe they could write.”)
On this reading, I appreciated his character much more; that bit about them not being writers still stings, but his complaints about A Mad Love were, perhaps, justified. “A writing woman never knows when to stop; that’s the trouble. The p’int of good writing is to know when to stop.”)
Neither Anne of Ingleside nor Rainbow Valley are favourites of mine, and I think that is due to the amount of “mischief and high spirits” depicted therein.
Ironically, I avoided these volumes when I was a girl because I had no interest in reading about Anne as a wife and mother.
But now, with experience of both those roles myself, I find myself less interested in the shenanigans of the young Blythe children (and, in Rainbow Valley, the Meredith children).
Their escapades remind me of the way that I felt about Davy’s “mischief and high spirits” in AoA. So, I might have enjoyed these stories more as a girl after all, despite Anne’s persistent grownup-ness.
Nonetheless, I still love the romance of the story and the maybe-he-forgot-surely-he-didn’t anniversary in Anne of Ingleside, and the note of promise and solidity upon which that volume sets.
And even though I find the children’s tales a bit precious at times, I still love the idea of the boisterous and over-sized family. (Yes, I loved “Eight is Enough” and “The Brady Bunch” too. Yes, I am an only child.)
And I do appreciate the near-Marilla-character and the near-young-Anne-character finding their respective happinesses in Rainbow Valley. I also love the way that so many of Anne’s propensities exist, in a modified form, in the next generation as with the children’s affection for Rainbow Valley, which reminds me of Anne’s devotion to her beloved Lover’s Lane.
The ultimate irony, however, is that L.M. Montgomery did not find her happy ending in real life; this makes these final tales in the series that much more poignant for me on rereading, even though these are not my favourites amongst her novels.
There is also the fact that I have never finished this series. Rilla of Ingleside and A Tangled Web are the only two of LMM’s books that I have not yet read. (When I was a girl, I did start to read A Tangled Web, but I didn’t get too far with it.)
Initially, my avoidance must have been because I knew that Anne was still grown with kids of her own (i.e. boring). And, in fact, even more grown, with her youngest child now having a book all to her own nearly-grown-girl-self.
But, later, after not having adored the most-grown-up-Anne-stories that I did read back in the mid-00′, with the intention of finishing the series, I think I set Rilla aside because I was afraid of being disappointed.
Now, however, having spent a lovely hour on the back porch with my battered-but-never-read-by-me 1947 reprint of Rilla of Ingleside, and having enjoyed every minute of it, I think my affection for my LMM-reading will remain intact.
Which means that I am, officially, caught up with my #GreenGablesReadalong reading. Just in time for the final act.
And you? Have you been reading or rereading, officially or just because? Or do you have fond memories of Anne-reading or LMM-reading from your own childhood?