Wednesday, February 09, 2011
Anne's House of Dreams
Anne's House of Dreams / LM Montgomery
Toronto: McClelland-Bantam, 1983, c1922.
Next in line in my LMM rereading project is Anne's House of Dreams. In this book, #5 in the Anne series, Anne and Gilbert have finally been married. Gilbert, now a doctor, is taking over his uncle's practice in Glen St. Marys, a town on the other side of PEI from Avonlea. It is right on the shore, at Four Winds Harbour, and Anne comments on the nearness of the ocean, something that wasn't evident in Avonlea at all. Once again, not sure the cover artist read the books...Gilbert has red hair! At least I hope that is supposed to be Gilbert walking arm in arm with Anne... ;)
This is one of my favourites of the series. While I do miss Avonlea -- it doesn't appear much after the first chapter or two, and Marilla and Rachel spend a Christmas at the House of Dreams, which felt weird and I seriously felt sad thinking about Green Gables alone and dark at Christmas! -- I also love this new setting for Anne.
The House of Dreams is a quaint cottage with a fireplace for Gog and Magog to sit alongside, with little glass cabinets, with a yard and trees and a brook in the corner. Here Anne lives the happy early days of her marriage and has her first experience of maternity. There are some twee references to pregnancy throughout the book, but Anne's first birth is anything but twee. She meets the first awful, unbearable moment of her life in the birth and death of her first daughter, Joy. LMM wrote this book during a time of struggle in her own life, and used her own experiences to colour Anne's life. In this instance, she used her emotions and reactions to the death of her second son, Hugh John. It is quite heart wrenching and emotional -- very raw. LMM also brings in questions of why such things happen, and questions the cultural niceties of accepting things like this as "god's will".
I really like this book because of the new sense of community that LMM creates at Four Winds Harbour. Anne and Gilbert have neighbours on all sides, and they are all fascinating. Captain Jim lives down at the lighthouse, and he is an old sailor who is full of tall tales and whimsy. Cornelia Bryant is an absolutely hilarious man-and-Methodist-hating woman full of spit and vinegar. Her constant refrain of "isn't that just like a man?" made me laugh, repeatedly. Her surprise ending, while perhaps not entirely predictable or believable, was still delightful. And then there's the most dramatic, thrilling storyline ... that of Leslie Moore, a beautiful middle-aged woman who is saddled with a husband who is brain damaged after a bar fight in the tropics. She is a touchy, depressed, melancholic woman with few friends, due to her shame about her husband (nasty before the accident) and her conflated sense of suffocation and duty. Each of these characters has a bit of LMM in them, and she lets her frustrations arise in the character of Leslie Moore (as Elizabeth Waterston points out in Magic Island, this character has the same initials as Lucy Maud herself.)
All of these stories weave together to make a very tightly constructed book that focuses on adult themes and the darker side of experience. I found this to be more of a novel than some of the other books in the series, which can sometimes read like a collection of brief stories or anecdotes (though always enjoyable!) I hadn't remembered much of this from my last reading, years ago. And I found it well done, full of interesting characters and situations, with of course much description of the natural world -- especially the ocean, which hasn't figured highly in the previous books.
All in all, I think this one takes its place as one of my favourites of the series, next to the first and original Green Gables. This isn't particularly due to Anne though; it's more the other, new characters, and the lovely House of Dreams which I covet. But reading the whole series at once is proving to be a great way to feel familiar with all the stages of Anne's life, and the characteristics of each. I am feeling a bit of the disillusionment of adulthood in Anne as she ages, and becomes more sensible and less fey, situated in her family life. There are parts to like about each of these life stages, but also a certain restriction of possibility. It's a strange feeling to read through somebody's life like this; it makes me wish LMM had written Anne into grandmotherly status. As it is we can just dream and surmise where their lives will go...