Saturday, June 25, 2011

Reader's Diary #725- Lucy Maud Montgomery: Anne of Avonlea

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.


Becky said...

I love Anne, I do. I seem to remember this one for the introduction of Davy and Dora Keith. And the oh-so-cranky neighbor, Mr. Harrison, and his parrot. And doesn't his wife come back near the end after the bird dies? Anyway, while Anne of Avonlea isn't my favorite-and-best from the series, I do enjoy it.

raidergirl3 said...

I'm glad you didn't hate it, which seems to be what you worried about.

I don't know why there aren't more books written by Islanders that you could read. David Weale has written several books - some children, some that are quotes and stories about 'them times'. Or Milton Acorn has some poetry books?

John Mutford said...

Becky: That's the one and yes, his wife does come back at the end. I did find Davy a little grating though, made worst by Anne and Marilla's amusement.

Raidergirl: Actually I do have a Milton Acorn collection on my shelf too, but like the Robert Service book I have already read it-- just forgot to mention it above. I wanted to read David Helwig's Saltsea, but couldn't justify spending $ on it when I had a perfectly good Montgomery just waiting there. Our local library doesn't have it, but I guess I could request they get it in. And I'd really love to get my hands on the Bannock, Beans, and Black Tea book by John Gallant and Seth.

Melwyk said...

In my recent reread of this whole series I found that I was really enjoying LMM's more pointed social satire. Very entertaining. I didn't really like Dora or Davy and would have been fine with them not even being in the series at all. Glad you found this one bearable ;)

Also, I hope you will interlibrary loan Saltsea because I'd love to hear what you have to say about it. Maybe too meandering for you? I would love to hear your thoughts. (I am a big Helwig fan, by the way...)

Anonymous said...

I read a literary analysis of this one that mentioned Anne felt almost like a supporting character, so I can see your point there. Anne comes back to the forefront in the next couple of books in the series, as far as I can recall!