In this review, I lament how disappointed I was in Anne of Avonlea after having loved Anne of Green Gables so much. I am happy to report that I found Anne of the Island to be a vast improvement on Anne of Avonlea. Still not as good as the original, it is a worthy follow-up to an iconic children’s classic. In Anne of the Island, Montgomery has given Anne sufficient time to move out of one age bracket and into another. This gives the story a fresh and original feel while also allowing Montgomery plenty of room to create new characters and new dynamics – a little bit Anne and a little a whole new story.
One of my complaints about Anne of Avonlea is that Anne isn’t old enough to be independent and is too old to be cute. I suspect that most teenagers feel this way for a time – straddling two worlds and not really belonging to either. As much as I sympathize with everyone who has to grow through that transition, I don’t think Montgomery did a very good job of making a story out of it. The good news about Anne of the Island, however, is that Anne and her friends are mistaken for children no longer. Their transition into young adulthood is more or less complete and the storylines shift to themes of romance, college, work, and death.
I grew up loving the two Kevin Sullivan mini-series/movies. (Ahem, the first two. Not that travesty that some people call the third movie. We don’t speak of that. Well, I guess that I did speak of it, but only because I must disclaim any kind of approbation for that train-wreck.) While I was reading Anne of the Island I appreciated how much of the second series Anne of Green Gables – The Sequel came from this third book. Obviously the series was greatly reimagined, but the fingerprints of this book are all over the production.
In this third book, Anne shares her time between college and Island life. Montgomery delights us with new characters, but one in particular whom I love: Philippa Gordon. Philippa is bright, animated, free-spirited, and absolutely charming. Part of her charm is how she blends her unabashed joie de vivre with a sincere and tender heart. Our dear Anne has, naturally, become more serious, so Montgomery spoils us with another version of Anne’s old spirit. It lets us have our cake and eat it too.
This story spans the college years for Anne and Gilbert. Anne’s Island friends are busy teaching, getting married, having babies, and doing all of the things that young people do. Anne is studying to become a “full fledged B.A.,” Gilbert is studying to become a doctor and, like their college friends, they are enjoying the many activities associated with college life. Returning home for regular visits, Anne learns that one of their childhood friends is dying of consumption, so Anne spends much time with that friend helping her to face death with courage. The night before the impending death (I am trying to avoid spoilers), the friends have an interesting, perhaps a bit strange, conversation about what death and heaven are like.
In Diane’s review of the Emily books, she mentions how tired she was of Emily’s long string of beaus. As Diane and I chatted about various other Montgomery books we noticed the same device. The heroines have many romantic options. In this book, Anne receives six marriage proposals. Okay, only five suitors, someone rather important proposes twice. Kevin Sullivan was right to edit it to two.
By the end of Anne of Green Gables, we know whom Anne is going to marry. (Even if we haven’t seen the movies.) Montgomery never leaves us in doubt about how things will play out for Anne and Gilbert. In Diane’s review of the Pat books, she mentions that the two could have been consolidated into one solid book and been improved by the change. I think the same is true of Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. While the side stories in Anne of Avonlea are interesting, they could have been just as interesting if they had appeared in her Chronicles collection instead.
Anne of the Island is a welcome improvement on Anne of Avonlea. For fans of Anne who just want something delicious to enjoy, this book will not disappoint. After this, the series gets darker and harder. Parents of young readers will want to use caution with this book, due to the romances and the death of a young character, as well as the rest of the books in the series.
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