Sunday, March 2, 2008

Anne's House of Dreams

Anne's house of dreams is not Green Gables. I figured that out years ago from reading the book's synopsis, and I was reluctant to begin the book for that very reason. For me, Green Gables was Anne's essence. I didn't want her to get "older" than me. I didn't want her start a home elsewhere than Green Gables. She was my childhood heroine, and my vision of her was etched in stone. So, over the past few years, I've reread Anne of Green Gables but I've never gotten beyond Anne of Windy Poplars. I finally decided to put an end to that irrational nonsense, and I'm glad I did.

Anne's House of Dreams is the saddest of the Anne books I've read so far, but it is nonetheless a rewarding and life-affirming read. The book follows the tales of the tragic Leslie Moore and the delightful Captain Jim almost more than it follows Anne herself. Anne marries and sets up her new home with her beloved Gilbert in Four Winds, a harbor town miles from Avonlea. She finds great pleasure in domesticity, and suffers great sorrow with the loss of her firstborn. Through the character of Leslie Moore, L.M. Montgomery suggests that only by experiencing personal tragedy can one understand another's tragedy. Anne's loss is her initiation into this sisterhood of suffering.

I couldn't help but feel disappointed that Anne had abandoned teaching and writing, even though I understand the conventions of the times. I agreed with Gilbert when he half-jokingly said:
And some people might think that a Redmond B.A., whom editors were beginning to honour, was 'wasted' as the wife of a struggling country doctor in the rural community of Four Winds. (p.88 Bantam Classic Edition, 1987)
But is my attitude fair to Anne? Is my idea of (academic or literary) success the only road to a life well lived? Certainly not. I struggled to silence my prejudices and allow Anne's contentment to speak for itself. While puzzling over why Lucy Maud Montgomery did not make her Anne a successful, married writer (like herself), it crossed my mind that Montgomery might have wanted to give Anne something more, something that she herself did not have, rather than make Anne a mere clone. Montgomery's life had its share of stresses - a depressed husband, a dead child, her own depression and illness, difficulties with publishers... etc.* Reading Anne's House of Dreams has helped me to appreciate how immature my own dreams and measures of success still are.

Anne's House of Dreams was full of endearing (and eccentric) characters and descriptions of the scenery of Four Winds. There is one man who vowed not to shave or cut his hair until the Conservatives were out of power, and as a consequence had become a "perambulating haystack" (p. 211). My favorite, is of course First Mate the orange cat:
A gorgeous beastie, with a face as round as a full moon, vivid green eyes, and immense, white, double paws. (p.58)
And the breathtaking views of Prince Edward Island... Possibly my favorite passage, capturing the eye-blinding clarity of winter so well:
The last day of the old year was one of those bright, cold dazzling winter days, which bombard us with their brilliancy, and command our admiration but never our love. The sky was sharp and blue; the snow diamonds sparkled insistently; the stark trees were bare and shameless, with a kind of brazen beauty; the hills shot assaulting lances of crystal. (p.97)

* A short biography of L.M. Montgomery, with links to additional resources

5 comments:

scb said...

I just love Captain Jim. And his dear old Matey. And the story of Lost Margaret.

This book is *very* different from the preceding Anne books, but I love it as well.

I'm so glad you finally read this one, Little M! Are you going to read Anne of Ingleside, Rainbow Valley, and Rilla of Ingleside, too? (I hope you are.)

Whenever you mention trepanning, or trephining or however it's spelled -- that thing they used to do to the skull -- this is the book that comes to mind. You'll know why, now.

Maw Books said...

I've read all the Anne of Green Gables up until the last two I think because I was missing one in my series. But now it's been so long that I'm afraid I'll have to start over with the exception of the first few. I hope to finish some day.

little miao said...

scb - I have the next Anne book with me already, just waiting to be read. I was so thrilled there was a trephining/trepanning reference! And a successful one, at that! :)

Hi Natasha! Thanks for dropping by. The Anne books are really delightful to read and reread. I still have three left, and then there are oodles of other L.M. Montgomery books I've never read.

Framed said...

What great memories. I love all the Anne books.

little miao said...

They're such endearing, enjoyable books. :)