Sunday 10 April 2011

Anne's House of Dreams

After three years of waiting, Anne finally fulfils all her friends's prophecies and marries Gilbert Blythe. Gilbert is now qualified as a doctor and has taken a position sixty miles from their home town of Avonlea. The newlyweds move to a tiny village called Glen St Mary which overlooks the Four Winds Harbour, and set up their "house of dreams" in a tiny cottage with a beautiful seaview. If you think of the Anne series primarily as a romance, it makes a nice change to see the couple after the wedding, and the ups and downs of "happily ever after."

Anne's House of Dreams comes as a welcome return to the cosy, familiar Anneishness that makes the series more than just a friend but a "kindred spirit." We don't get to see much of our old friends - Marilla, Rachel Lynde and Diana - but when we do they are just as alive as ever. In Windy Willows, I realised retrospectively that the Avonlea scenes weren't quite alive, the characters described as from a distance but not captured upon the page. Though three years have passed, it picks up where Island left off, and I think it wouldn't do any harm to skip Windy Willows altogether.

It could have been all to easy to find Anne's new home to be a poor imitation of the old one, but Glen St Mary and Four Winds have their own, very distinct, feel. In Avonlea, "although [Anne] had lived in sight of the sea, it had not entered intimately into her life. In Four Winds it surrounded her and called to her constsantly." With Montgomery's word-perfect descriptions, I could almost hear the crash of the waves in the background, smell the salt in the air and feel the coolness of a sea breeze. Four Winds Harbour is a busy port, with fishermen constantly coming and going, guarded over by the lighthouse and its faithful keeper, Captain Jim Boyd. I loved Captain Jim immediately, an old sailor, rough in appearance and speech, but a true gentleman, a captivating storyteller and a hero.

Anne's House of Dreams is situated rather out of the way, just outside the village itself, and as such there are not too many new characters, meaning that each one is properly fleshed out, and that there is more of a continuous plot in this book than in its predecessors. Beside Captain Jim, we meet the stubborn and outspoken Marshall Elliot and Miss Cornelia  Bryant. If you're a Methodist or worse, a man, don't expect Miss Cornelia to have a good word for you. From tactlessness to tantrums to dying at an inopportune moment, Miss Cornelia's catchphrase is, "isn't that like a man?"

And then there is Leslie Moore. Leslie forms a strange, hostile friendship with Anne, but although Anne knows they could be "kindred spirits," there is a barrier between them. Leslie's life is like the photo-negative of Anne's, for while Anne is perfectly happy (even with her red hair) with a wonderful husband and joyful life, Leslie has experienced tragedy after tragedy, ending up trapped in a loveless marriage. The barrier between the women comes down later, but at such a cost!

Although marketed as children's books, it is clear that this is no longer a kids' series. Anne's House of Dreams is full of adult themes - unhappy marriage and the moral dilemma of whether a doctor's duty is worth heaping more suffering onto a life already full of pain. And Anne and Gilbert suffer such a heartbreak that changes their lives forever. Afterwards, "there was something in the smile that had never been in Anne's smile before and would never be absent from it again." This marks a turning-point in the tone of the series. Sorrow has touched upon a care-free, happy-go-lucky world. There can be no going back from that. The end of the book depicts Anne and Gilbert leaving their House of Dreams for a bigger house, better for raising a family in, but it happens so suddenly, in the space of a few pages, that neither the reader nor Anne is quite resigned to it. Although Anne will grow to love her new home, at the time of leaving the House of Dreams, and this volume, she hasn't yet done so, and I found it quite a melancholy note to end on.

1 comment:

  1. I was wondering, where can I follow your blog? I can't find a followers button anywhere.


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