When I last tallied up the books I'd read for the 4th Canadian Book Challenge, making sure I'd read at least one book from each province or territory, I realized that once again I'd-- through no lack of effort on my part-- left the Yukon and Prince Edward Island for last. I had Pierre Berton and Lucy Maud Montgomery books sitting there on my shelf the entire time, but those seemed like such predictable choices. It felt like I should at least try to highlight some of their other authors. But besides the Collected Robert Service, which I'd already read, Montgomery and Berton were it.
Luckily, I at least I enjoyed them and was reminded just how good they are. Granted I enjoyed Berton's Prisoners of the North more, I was still taken with Anne of Avonlea.
Anne of Avonlea, as many of you know, isn't plot heavy and much of it revolves around Anne's teaching. Normally these would be two strikes against it. Alice Munro has turned me from near plotless CanLit, but most of the chapters in Anne of Avonlea had just enough plot to make them almost short stories, had a few surprises here and there, a love story of sorts tacked onto the end, and it wasn't as sleep inducing as I feared. As for the reservations with the teaching part, it's mostly because I am a teacher. And while that might make the book appeal to some other teachers, I usually feel like I'm reading professional development material when I read about fictional teachers. It's not that I don't love my job, but I don't want it to be the last thing I think about before I go to sleep. Fortunately, I didn't find it too bad this time, and it was interesting to compare Anne's teaching career with mine. Classroom life before iPad 2s? I'd almost forgotten.
One thing I was pleasantly surprised with this time around was the satire. I'd only read Anne of Green Gables before and I don't recall the satirical barbs at rural life in that first book. (It may have been there and I'd just not noticed at the time.) Gossip, the self-consciousness, the judgements. Of course the satire is light and presented more like endearing idiosyncrasies than a harsh appraisal. It's charming, but with real, flawed yet likeable characters, and it's more believable than Pride and Prejudice.
I was also a little surprised at how little of a role Marilla seemed to play in this one. I remember her being more substantial in Anne of Green Gables and my readers, who are generally more informed than I, recently chose her over Anne as a better literary character. Then again, even Anne's character occasionally took a back seat to other Avonlea characters. It's like in the 5th or 6th season when the Simpsons started expanding to highlight other Springfield characters. See? It's not all Alice Munro and Jane Austen references around here.