04/09/2018

Anne of Avonlea (by LM Montgomery)

I was looking for something else to read while travelling, and spotted that I had several of LM Montgomery’s books on my Kindle. I had downloaded them free from Project Gutenberg, as they are out of copyright. Since I had recently re-read ‘Anne of Green Gables’, I decided it would be a good idea to re-read the first sequel, ‘Anne of Avonlea’.

The story starts when Anne is sixteen, about to begin work as teacher of Avonlea school. She’s excited about the prospects, and has high expectations and ideals; but she is also a bit nervous. The book covers the next couple of years in her life, including some scenes in the classroom.

It was a good book to read while away; I could pick it up or put it down at any moment. The writing is nicely paced, the characters mostly fairly three-dimensional. Rather than having one overriding plot, there are a series of subplots - so Anne meets new people who become friends, makes some mistakes, and matures as a person. Gilbert, whom she disliked heartily in the first book, has become a good friend. He would like to be more than a friend, but Anne still imagines a romantic hero who looks very different from Gilbert.

There's a nice ongoing thread running through the book involving some young twins, fostered by Anne and Marilla, after being orphaned. Dora is almost too good to be true, but Davy is a delightful creation, questioning everything, and mischievous in the extreme.

Inevitably some of the beliefs and practises of the book are now dated, particularly methods of teaching and discipline. But for a book written over 100 years ago, it’s remarkably modern in outlook and style. I don’t recall any authorial asides, or moralising, other than via some of the old stalwarts of the town. Anne is a delightful character, prone to mistakes and misunderstandings, but also full of imagination and generosity. And I appreciated the way that both Anne and Marilla are so fond of Davy, finding him more interesting and lovable than the beautifully behaved but dull Dora - something quite unusual for this era.

Although it could possibly be read as a standalone, since each storyline is complete in itself, this is much better read after the first ‘Anne’ book. It references many of the same people, and some of the incidents in the previous few years since Anne was adopted.

I also like the feeling of returning to a town I’ve previously visited, if only in my mind, and re-meeting people I became attached to in the earlier book.

Recommended to anyone who read and enjoyed ‘Anne of Green Gables’. There are many editions available, both in print form and electronic. If you decide to buy a copy,  it's worth checking that you have a full edition rather than an abridged one.

Review by copyright 2018 Sue's Book Reviews

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