Thursday, March 3, 2016

Book Review: Anne of Avonlea

(Recaptured from Blogspot: Anne of Green Gables seriesCanada in fictionchildren’s bookfamily-friendly fictiongirls’ novelLucy Maud Montgomerynovels about orphansPrince Edward Island in fictionRomanticist worldview in comic fictionstudent teachers in fiction.)

Title: Anne of Avonlea 
Anne of Avonlea (Anne of Green Gables, Book 2)Author: Lucy Maud Montgomery
Date: 1909 (Page), 1992 (Bantam--as shown)
Publisher: Page (1909), Grosset & Dunlap, Bantam
ISBN: 0553213148 (Bantam)
Length: 276 pages
Quote: "Anne had certain rosetinted ideals of what a teacher might accomplish if she only went the right way about it; and she was in the midst of a delightful scene, forty years hence, with a famous personage...Anne thought it would be rather nice to have him a college president or a Canadian premier...assuring her that...his success in life was due to the lessons she had instilled so long ago in Avonlea school."
Anne of Avonlea is the second volume in the chronicles of the most famous character in Canadian fiction. In this volume, sixteen-year-old Anne Shirley is teaching school, as all the best teen heroines of nineteenth century novels did; Anne is close enough to the twentieth century to think wistfully about earning a college degree. She also gets to practice mothering on two younger orphans, Dora and Davy.
What this novel has in the way of a plot is a romance, but it's not Anne's--we already know Anne's going to be stuck with Gilbert Blythe for life, she's too young to marry him in this book, and Montgomery does readers like me the favor of keeping Gilbert mostly out of the way. (Maybe it's because Anne of Green Gables promoted the idea that children "really like" their official school enemies, which I never did...I never liked Gilbert.) Anne's worldview is Romanticist enough to allow Anne to project her idealistic fantasies onto other people's lives and relationships. She considers meddling in the personal life of one of the older people she knows; Montgomery saves her, and him, from the consequences, and lets her know it. As a reward for her non-meddling, Montgomery lets Anne have some part, conscientiously not meddling, in the reconciliation of two more older friends, so in the last chapter Anne gets to be a bridesmaid.
However, one reads the Anne of Green Gables books for the sweet oldfashioned comedy, so it's worth not skipping to find out who tells Anne "I'd rather look like you than be pretty" and what becomes of the cow. In the end all of Anne's adventures prove that a wholesome, family-filtered story can be fun.
How many volumes were there? Since the series entered the public domain and returned to bestseller status, this depends on which publisher you consult. Some call volumes one through three a trilogy, some count twelve of Montgomery's books as basically "chronicles of Avonlea" (that's also the title of one of the books), and Bantam listed eight novels about Anne and her family, three about Emily of New Moon, sixteen more books of fiction, and a biography of Montgomery as being sufficiently "akin to Anne" (another title) that Bantam expected "YOU WILL ENJOY" the whole stack. You probably will, too, although naturally some volumes contain more Edwardian moments of painful cognitive dissonance than others.
Bantam chose that name for a reason. Bantam chickens are deliberately bred to look like smaller versions of various full-sized breeds, and Bantam Books are designed to look like various full-sized books while fitting into a coat pocket (if not a hip pocket). So, although Montgomery can't use a dollar, none of her books is a Fair Trade Book, and I still have to charge $5 per book + $5 per package + $1 per online payment, I can offer a total of $45 (or $46) for eight or $65 (or $66) for twelve of these books.