Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Anne's House of Dreams - L.M. Montgomery

Anne's House of Dreams
To say that life has been a bit stressful lately is an understatement. Consequently, I am struggling to get through the heavy tomes of the 100 Best Novels list.  Right now, in my life, I need reading to be an escape and require little thought.  It could not be a better time for a return to Prince Edward Island.

Last fall, in my effort to read a book a week, I indulged in the first three books of the series: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, and Anne of the Island.  This trio captures Anne's teenage years.  Here, we meet the imaginative, passionate character that we all treasure in her rawest form.  This winter, I read Anne of Windy Poplars. As I mentioned then, L.M. Montgomery uses the fourth book of the series to transition Anne to her adult years.  The same girl is still there, but she is becoming a woman.

Anne's House of Dreams completes the transition.  The book opens as Anne and Gilbert Blythe are married.  Their three year engagement is over.  They leave Avonlea to settle in Four Winds, where Gilbert will start his career as a doctor. In Four Winds, they settle into their "house of dreams."  Its little garden and sweet history charm Anne instantly.  It proves to be the perfect place for them to begin life together.

Unlike some of the other Anne books, namely Anne of Windy Poplars, the fifth installation of the series does not come off as a collection of stories.  Windy Poplars jumps around quite a bit and, at times, seemed like an endless collection of gossipy anecdotes about the residents of the town.  House of Dreams steers away from that mold by introducing strong characters in the first few chapters.  Those characters, along with the Blythes, anchor the book and fill most of its pages.  Certainly, other creations of Montgomery's imagination are mentioned, but few outside that core group get much attention.  

This added a flow and consistency that was not as prominent in the book's predecessors.  It contributed to the feeling that Anne is more settled now.  She has become an adult; that maturity is reflected in the writing itself.

Of course, Montgomery has not allowed Anne to grow out of her imagination or zeal for life.  Both are fully present.  Anne, like many of us, has simply matured in her execution of those attributes.  Her passion is still there, however, and seen clearly, particularly in her private moments with Gilbert.  As always, Montgomery paints a beautiful picture of P.E.I. Nothing has ever given me such a desire to visit Canada as this series.

The truest marking of Anne's adulthood is her entry to marriage and motherhood.  While I was not at all surprised that Montgomery leaves out any mention of physical intimacy between the newlyweds, I was taken aback by her aversion to mention pregnancy.  Anne is pregnant twice in this book.  The first time, there are several allusions to her impending "happy event," but it is never actually spelled out.  The second time, there are not even any leading clues.  Rather, the stork makes an abrupt appearance.  The whole thing reminded me of 1950s television.  When Lucy Ricardo was pregnant on I Love Lucy, the cast could not even use the word "pregnant" or any derivation of suck.  Instead, they had to stick to "expecting" or the French word, "enceinte."  

With the entry of motherhood, also comes the entry of tragedy.  Anne's first baby, a daughter named Joyce, dies within hours of her birth.  The labor was difficult and Anne struggles to regain her physical and emotional strength.  While no one wants to see their heroine in pain, I did appreciate Montgomery's decisions here.  Up to this point, Anne has experienced little true tragedy - at least in comparison to her neighbor, Leslie Moore.  This issue comes up before the birth of Joyce and Anne herself agrees to it.  I know devoted readers would cite the loss of Matthew Cuthbert or Anne's rocky childhood.  I think that even remembering those events, the loss of a child far surpasses any pain Anne has felt before.  This event contributes to that depth of character and maturity that Anne is acquiring.  It also makes the later birth of James Matthew all the more joyous.  

By only frustration with the story is small.  Anne gives up an semblance of a career to marry Gilbert.  She does not continue teaching, obviously, but she also gives up her writing.  I understand that in the context of their time period, this is normal. Still, I sympathized with Gilbert when he casually states that some might see Anne's new position as a waste of her education.  I would never see education as a waste in any circumstance, but I do think Anne could have continued to enjoy some of her own pursuits and run a household.  Alas, my modern, feminist ideas clash with historical context.

As expected, a visit with Anne proved just the medicine I needed.  Her positivism is infectious, even through written word.  I read the whole book in less than 24 hours.  I was reminded, as well, how I look forward to reading this series to my daughter some day, should I have one.  Anne is truly a character for the ages.

Pages: 256
Date Completed: October 6, 2013


  1. Nice review! It's been so long since I've read these; I should get back to them. I remember my dad read these to my sister and me when we were little girls, and we actually lost interest in them once Anne had kids. I wonder if it was our sensing of what you described so well--Anne's giving up her own passions.

    1. I remember losing interest about this point as a child, too. I definitely think part of that was that grown-up Anne was unrelatable for me as a child. Now, I connect with adult Anne almost more than her in the early books.