Wednesday, 24 February 2016

'Anne of Avonlea' by L.M. Montgomery (1909)

Synopsis: Anne of Avonlea is the second novel in the Anne of Green Gables series and follows the life of Anne Shirley from the ages of 16 to 18. In this book Anne starts a new teaching job at her old school in Avonlea, becomes a founding member of a village improvement society, and helps Marilla to raise two orphaned young twins called Davy and Dora who are the children of a distant cousin of Marilla's. Dora is a sweet, quiet and well-behaved young child but Davy turns out to be extremely naughty and is constantly getting into trouble. Meanwhile, Anne also meets a young American boy called Paul Irving when he becomes one of Anne's new pupils. Paul has come to live with his grandmother in Avonlea while his widowed father is doing work in the States. Paul's imaginative ways remind Anne very much of herself as a child and he soon becomes Anne's favourite pupil. Anne then finds herself becoming involved in a romantic subplot when she meets a sweet but lonely woman in her 40s called Miss Lavender Lewis who was once engaged to Paul's father 25 years before.

I have to say that I didn't enjoy Anne of Avonlea anywhere near as much as Anne of Green Gables despite there being some genuinely funny moments in the early chapters (e.g. the Jersey cow incident, Annetta Bell's letter to Anne, the Town Hall getting painted the wrong colour) and L.M. Montgomery's descriptions of Prince Edward Island being as beautiful as ever.

One of the major reasons why I was so disappointed with this book was because I was so annoyed at everyone's attitude towards the Keith twins. We're told that Dora is a quiet, nice, obedient, and respectful little girl and yet Anne, Marilla and Mrs Rachel Lynde all put her down several times; saying that she's monotonous and boring and too perfect and is somehow less loveable than her brother Davy who needs them more. Now I think that's a horrible attitude to have! Okay, yes, Dora is a boring character from the reader's POV since she's so underdeveloped but... still! It seems awfully cruel to have all of the characters prefer Davy over her especially when he's such a brat to her! Davy even locks Dora up in a neighbour's cold, dark tool-shed because he thinks it would be funny to make everyone worried (what?!) and then lets a very alarmed Anne and Marilla spend several hours frantically searching for her. They even ask their other neighbour Mr Barry to drag the well for her body! Then when Anne eventually finds Dora she learns that the poor girl has been sobbing for hours and was extremely hungry and frightened during that time. Gah! Davy is clearly supposed to be an adorable, funny, mischievous little scamp in this book when really he's a scary little psychopath!

Unfortunately even those parts in this book that didn't involve Davy and Dora's chaarcters were mostly a disappointment to me as well. Anne of Avonlea felt far more cloying and preachy to me than Anne of Green Gables ever did and I found Anne's interactions with Paul Irving in particular downright nauseating. Seriously, how can Anne think that Dora is too perfect and not Paul?! He is such an Oliver Twist/Tiny Tim type!

I did really like Anne of Green Gables and I am still planning to read the next book in this series which is Anne of the Island although that book will now need to be a huge improvement on this one if I'm going to continue with the rest of these books. So, erm, yeah, I didn't like this book very much at all I'm afraid. I hope I haven't ruined anyone's childhood! *runs away*

Rating: 2/5


Hayden said...

haha. As much as I love the Anne series, not every book is a gem (for me, that book is Anne of Ingleside- I just don't care for it very much) I do like Anne of Avonlea, though, although I admit that I was never a big fan of Paul either...I always thought he was rather boring. ...but...I do like Davy. *hides* Don't get me wrong: he needs a good spanking and I agree the view of Dora is not particularly admirable, but I'm afraid I do think Davy is funny.

Anne of the Island is one of my very favorites though--mainly because I like Philippa Gordon so much and I enjoy the turn-of-the-century college setting.(although beware that Anne's love life can be pretty frustrating in that one!)

Hamlette said...

Well, that's it -- you've ruined my childhood for me!

Heh. Not so much.

I just finished reading this today, actually, and I agree it's not nearly as good as Anne of Green Gables. It feels like a "middle book" to me, one of those that gets us from the events of one book to the next, but isn't great to read by itself. I didn't remember much from it aside from the bit where Anne falls through the chicken coop roof, though I know I read it at least twice as a tween/teen.

So... I feel you. I don't hate Davy or Paul Irving, though. They're both one-note characters, like Montgomery split Anne in half and gave her mischief to Davy and her dreaminess to Paul, but they both amuse me. And Paul reminds me of my 8-year-old son in a lot of ways, always thinking serious and different thoughts, and misunderstood by his fellow children.

Hannah said...

Hayden - Fair enough! I can't say that I found Davy at all funny myself (oh alright that preserves line was *kinda* funny but apart from that...) although I'm sure that there have been plenty of characters in fiction that I've enjoyed simply because I found them amusing when in all other respects they probably weren't all that likeable. And yes, from what I've gathered 'Anne of the Island' seems to be most people's favourite book in the series after 'Anne of Green Gables' so I am thinking that I'll probably like it more than this one. I certainly hope so!

Hamlette - I'm not sure if this is true or not but I've read that 'Anne of Green Gables' was originally supposed to be just a standalone novel until L.M. Montgomery's publishers put pressure on her to put out a quick sequel to that book. I guess that could be why this book is nowhere near as good? And awww! Your 8 year son sounds utterly adorable! :)

Hamlette said...

I'm pretty sure that's the case for a lot of series. The first one sold well, so the publishers asked for more, and suddenly the author who was used to writing stand-alones is faced with figuring out how to write a series. It'll be interesting to see if you like book 3 better or not!

Manette said...

I couldn't agree more about Paul Irving! The whole Miss Lavender storyline is waaaaay too sickly-sweet. Is this the book where Anne and Gilbert's friends give gifts for the two of them on some special occasion and Anne gets Shakespeare's complete plays while Gilbert gets... a pen? I get that it was a "fancy" kind of pen that cost loads more those days than they do now, but still I thought that was terribly unfair. :'D

Hannah said...

Manette - Hahahaha! That's hilarious! :D Poor Gilbert! That scene doesn't happen in this book, I've looked it up and it's in the next one. How many of the books have you read in this series? I'm just wondering what your overall opinion of the books is :)