Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Revisiting Anne, Part 6: Anne of Ingleside

After my somewhat disappointing re-read of Anne's House of Dreams, I was pleasantly surprised by the 6th in the series, Anne of Ingleside. It almost felt like a return to the Anne I knew and loved; little details and remarks indicating that grown-up Anne is somewhat the same as adolescent Anne, with the same romantic view of the world and a bit of that driven individuality.

Once again, Anne's world is expanding—as is her family!—as Anne moves beyond the beloved "house of dreams" of her and Gilbert's early married days. Ingleside is their new home, and though Anne misses that cute little first home dearly, she's finally fallen in love with Ingleside as well. Gilbert and Anne are parents to 5...6? (I lose count), and they start to take center stage in this installment. We meet the Blythe kids through their own stories—the same kind of hijinks and heartbreaks that we followed with Anne as she grew up. Jem, the eldest and most independent, yet a sensitive soul; Nan and Diana, the fraternal twins who constantly fall victim to the emotional traps of girlhood; the romantic Walter with an imagination that runs wild; and I think there is another one or two, but I can't remember him/her. We also spend a lot of time with Susan, the hired help we met in Anne's House of Dreams. She's that wonderful nanny figure who just adores the kids she, actually, helps raise.

I think the rest of my thoughts on this book can best be summed up in a nice PRO and CON list, but overall, I did like it much better than the last one. It does have that bittersweet sort of feeling, though...where you feel Anne's story is almost done, and the childhood innocence and upbringing is over. We've moved on to the next stage in her life, which, to us readers, can feel much less entertaining, but to Anne, you're certain it's even more exciting.

PRO: The story begins with a great interaction between Anne and Diana (bosom friend, not offspring) in Avonlea, reflecting on their childhood days and giggling like kids again. You realize they've never lost it.
CON: See above paragraph.

PRO: We reunite with characters like Marilla and Rachel and Miss Cornelia.
CON: It's a very very brief reunion. I fear they are lost to us now, fellow reader.

PRO: We get a snippet of an Anne motivated outside her matronly role; she does a bit of writing, including one very troublesome obituary.
CON: I emphasize "a bit" because this is definitely not the focal point of Anne's life. She has settled down, and the motivated Anne of her youth seems to have fizzled. Maybe she's okay with this life of wifehood and motherhood, but I am always disappointed that the Anne stories didn't give her more. It feel so much like settling for the precocious girl we knew.

CON: Where is Gilbert? Seriously, he's such an outlier, it's like he doesn't exist. Movie Gilbert is so much better than book Gilbert. (Jonathan Crombie, be still my heart.)
PRO: The scenario involving Gil's old flame, Christine Stuart, with Anne and Gil was pretty fabulous. It finally made Gilbert an active character, albeit briefly. And it showed an Anne with flaws and jealousy...just like a normal person.

I'm afraid, from what I remember at least, that Anne of Ingleside is the last of the true Anne stories that actually involve Anne—though I think many Anne fans would argue that House of Dreams is that. (I thought she still played a large role in this one, though she did share the limelight with her kids.) The last two books in the series are so majorly focused on her children that Anne becomes a true background character, if she's in them at all (can't remember!). Farewell, dear Anne!


Aarti said...

I completely agree with you on this book! I guess there's not much more one can DO with Anne after five books, and maybe Montgomery was writing at a time when women's household activities weren't deemed interesting enough for a novel, but I think Anne's humor would have been great to see in raising a bunch of kids.

And i agree - WHAT HAPPENED TO GILBERT? I don't know how they had six kids when they seem to have stopped talking to each other.

Kari said...

Good point about the times. Though it's interesting, because she kind of hints about Anne writing...but it's like she's scared to fully commit to the idea of Anne doing more than housewife activities.

And I definitely don't remember Gilbert being so absent from my first reading of these! It is definitely affirming that my Gilbert love must come from the movies.