Sunday, 17 April 2011
Anne of Ingleside, L. M. Montgomery
Seven years has passed since the end of Anne's House of Dreams. Anne Blythe, née Shirley, is about thirty four years old, mother to five children: Jem, Walter, twins Nan and Di, and Shirley, with a sixth on the way. (Rilla.) Anne of Ingleside chronicles the adventures of the whole Blythe family across a span of six years.
Despite its title, this isn't really Anne's story any more. After a lovely nostalgic few chapters on vacation in Avonlea, where she revisits her old haunts and relives old memories with her best friend Diana, Anne fades somewhat into the background, where she is more "Mrs Doctor, dear," wise and respected wife and mother, than the impetuous girl of old.
Anne of Ingleside is the most anecdotal book of the whole series, with chapters focusing in on one family member at a time. There are enough children to ensure that there is only room for one case of matchmaking, one cantankerous, pessimistic old lady and one stream of gossip about people we don't know, but it also means that I don't really get to know any of the younger Blythes as people, except perhaps Walter. Shirley, the youngest son, doesn't get any attention at all.
I wrote in my review of Anne's House of Dreams that it ended on a melancholy note. Although the stories told in Ingleside are entertaining enough, I sense a bitter undercurrent to many of the stories. When the narrative returns to Anne's perspective in the end of the novel, she doesn't seem like the same person at all, consumed with jealousy of Gilbert's old flame, the spiteful Christine. She fears that Gilbert has fallen out of love with her and become complacent, their marriage a comfortable old habit after fifteen years.
Although Anne and Gilbert's love story has a happy ending, this is not the only troubling moment of Ingleside. In the aforementioned gossip chapter, allusions are made to a really nasty incident at the funeral of an unpleasant man. Di Blythe, aged ten, after two ill-judged friendships, vows not to trust anyone any more, because they'll only let her down. Then, finally, a throwaway line not only foreshadows a future tragedy, but tells it outright. If House of Dreams ended wistfully, Ingleside leaves me feeling like I've been kicked in the stomach. Just a sentence or two from an omniscient narrator, in the middle of a tender scene of Anne looking in on her sleeping children, then the last page is a stunned blur.
Don't get me wrong, Anne of Ingleside is an enjoyable read, but the magic of the earlier books is missing. Reading Ingleside I could sense Montgomery's darker state of mind at the time of writing, and her weariness with the Anne series.