Anne of the Island by L. M. Montgomery: A-

From the back cover:
New adventures lie ahead as Anne Shirley packs her bags, waves good-bye to childhood, and heads for Redmond College. With old friend Prissy Grant waiting in the bustling city of Kingsport and frivolous new pal Philippa Gordon at her side, Anne tucks her memories of rural Avonlea away and discovers life on her own terms, filled with surprises… including a marriage proposal from the worst fellow imaginable, the sale of her very first story, and a tragedy that teaches her a painful lesson.

But tears turn to laughter when Anne and her friends move into an old cottage and an ornery black cat steals her heart. Little does Anne know that handsome Gilbert Blythe wants to win her heart, too. Suddenly Anne must decide if she’s ready for love…

There were so many things to like about Anne of the Island that they almost allow me to forget the things I wasn’t wild about.

As usual, I loved anything that pertained to Anne and Gilbert. Some of Montgomery’s best writing yet was in the scenes between them, I thought, as well as the scene where Anne refuses Gilbert’s only serious rival for her affections. I also liked how, through various encounters with suitors and the true hearts of even gallant-looking men, Anne was stripped of many of her unrealistic romantic illusions. Lastly, I appreciated the wistful lamentations on the necessity of change.

The things I didn’t like may seem trivial by comparison, but they were irksome enough before the Anne and Gilbert bits overshadowed them in my memory. I would’ve liked more detail on Anne’s school life. There was occasional information about the subjects she was taking or exams she was studying for, but no scenes at all of her in class. It seemed there was actually more detail on Davy’s exploits than on her education.

And speaking of Davy, how I dreaded his appearances! I knew that he’d get up to something, be overcome with guilt, and then learn a valuable lesson. Every time. I was also beyond tired of his constantly saying, “I want to know.”

Finally, I disliked the bit where Anne and her roommates attempted to euthanize a cat simply for hanging around their house. Thankfully, the chapter was constructed in such a way that his survival was already known before the act was described. And then, a few chapters later, some dude is hanging a dog! What’s up with all the pet killing?! Also, a male cat is described as calico, which would make him an extremely rare genetic anomaly. It isn’t impossible, but I rather think Montgomery just didn’t know that tricolor cats are almost exclusively female.

Incorrect Item from Pantry Tally:
1. currant wine instead of raspberry cordial
2. linament instead of vanilla
3. red dye instead of freckle lotion
4. white pepper instead of ginger

Anne of Avonlea by L. M. Montgomery: B+

From the back cover:
At sixteen Anne is grown up… almost. Her gray eyes shine like evening stars, but her red hair is still as peppery as her temper. In the years since she arrived at Green Gables as a freckle-faced orphan, she has earned the love of the people of Avonlea and a reputation for getting into scrapes. But when Anne begins her job as the new schoolteacher, the real test of her character begins.

Along with teaching the three Rs, she is learning how complicated life can be when she meddles in someone else’s romance, finds two new orphans at Green Gables, and wonders about the strange behavior of the very handsome Gilbert Blythe. As Anne enters womanhood, her adventures touch the heart and the funny bone.

There were some things that irritated me about Anne of Avonlea, even though it’s similar to its predecessor in pacing and story. Chiefly, I missed the adult perspective I enjoyed so much in the earlier work. There weren’t many segments at all from Marilla’s point of view this time around and without that fond yet practical outlook, Anne and her dreamy ramblings sometimes got on my nerves. I also found irritating two little boys, one mischievous and one fanciful, that it seemed I was supposed to find precious.

I did, however, like any scene where Anne and Gilbert were together or any where a potential relationship between them was discussed. The entire final quarter of the book—featuring a storm, a death, a wedding, and several departures—was also very good. Marilla made me all sniffly again, too, by arranging for it to be possible for Anne to go to college after all, an aspiration she had set aside in order to stay with Marilla, whose eyesight was failing. The college setting should put Anne and Gilbert together more often, and I’m looking forward to that.

As a final note, I’m going to start a tally of how many times Anne gets into a scrape as the result of grabbing the incorrect item from a pantry. So far, from the first two books, I have:
1. currant wine instead of raspberry cordial
2. linament instead of vanilla
3. red dye instead of freckle lotion.

Feel free to alert me in comments if I’ve missed any.

Anne of Green Gables by L. M. Montgomery: A+

From the back cover:
The Cuthberts of Green Gables had decided to adopt an orphan—a nice sturdy boy to help Matthew with the farm chores. The orphanage sent a girl instead—a mischievous, talkative redhead who’d be no use at all. She would just have to go back.

But the longer Anne was there, the more no one could imagine Green Gables without her.

It’s really a wonderful thing when one can revisit a childhood favorite, unread for twenty years, and find that one loves it just as much as ever. It’s better still to find new things about it to love that went unnoticed by one’s younger self.

The things I’d remembered about this book were mostly Anne’s scrapes. I remembered too the characters who were important to Anne—Diana her bosom friend, Gilbert her rival, Matthew who loved her, and Marilla who was stern—but not a great deal about the adult characters beyond that. This time, I really noticed them, and was surprised to find how much I liked them in their own right, particularly Marilla.

I only recalled that Marilla came to love Anne eventually, but this time I could see how quickly it actually happened. I had no memory of noticing the frequent headaches she’d get, or how she reacted in desperate terror when an unconscious Anne was brought to Green Gables after a fall. Near the end of the book, when Marilla finally came out and told Anne she’d loved her all this time, I cried like a great big sap. I also began to see Anne more from the Cuthberts’ perspective, vulnerable and neglected at first and then later a source of tremendous pride.

I could pick out a few trifling matters to criticize, but my joy at rediscovering this book is so great that I don’t feel inclined to do so. I never did finish the series as a kid—I think I lost interest as Anne moved into adulthood—but am determined to rectify the matter.