Friday, March 22, 2013

Revisiting Anne, Part 5: Anne’s House of Dreams


In re-reading this series for the first time since late high school, I’ve realized something about the story of Anne: I like the movies better. I keep reading these books expecting to feel wrapped up in a big cozy blanket of daydreaming, romance, simplicity, and nostalgia for my first encounter with Anne. But really, I just keep feeling underwhelmed by the series; I guess my Anne love comes from the movies.

So yes, I said it. I’m citing this ONE TIME that I think the movie is better than the book. Perhaps it’s just a case of preferring whichever was first experienced, but in the case of the book series, they’re all starting to feel the same. Anne moves and meets new people; she loves them all; they all (eventually) love her.

In Anne’s House of Dreams, Anne finally becomes Mrs. Blythe; Gilbert’s finally a doctor; and the couple leaves their beloved Avonlea behind as Gilbert’s job takes them elsewhere. They land in Four Winds Harbor, a small coastal town with its own set of notorious characters. Luckily for Anne, their first little home is exactly as she hoped it would be; it’s their dream house, cozy and romantic with a wide open coastal view. Gilbert is away often, mending the sick and all, so Anne takes it upon herself to make friendly with the neighbors (because really, what else is there for her to do?). She meets Captain Jim, the lighthouse attendant blessed with the gift of storytelling; Miss Cornelia, who would be the outspoken match to Ms. Rachel Lynde but has a series bias against men (the phrase “isn’t that like a man” was quickly retrieved from the depths of my 11th grade mind); and the tragic but beautiful Leslie Moore, a young woman with a dark past that Anne is determined to befriend.

It’s lovely to meet new characters through Anne, because, though the pattern feels the same, it’s just like meeting new people in real life; they all have their own stories to tell. My disappointment with the series doesn’t lie in this aspect of the books; it’s instead with the way Anne’s story is going.

For one, I’m upset with the lack of Gilbert. He’s not much more than “Anne’s husband,” occasionally present for a conversation, serving as a “voice of reason” to Anne’s flightier ideas. But, even though this book celebrates their marriage and continuously mentions how “happy” they are, I don’t see much evidence of that. They just don’t interact very much.

I think my biggest issue is with the development of Anne herself. I was actually quite annoyed with things she said in this one, because her romanticism wasn’t just optimism; it was selfishly upholding an ideal. (Spoiler details: she doesn’t want Gilbert to suggest medical treatment that may improve the well-being of one character because it will make another’s life less enjoyable. REALLY, ANNE?) Overall, she’s predictable. She still has some of that old sense of daydreaming romanticism that’s always been so refreshing and endearing, but it’s also not adding anything new. She’s lost a lot of her spunk from childhood…and I don’t think that should disappear with age! A girl that had a penchant for writing, excelled in school, earned a college degree, and succeeded as a “working woman” is suddenly doing nothing with her time except keeping house and staying updated on local gossip? Now she’s just a wife. Then a mother. The end. I can’t believe it.

I still love the Anne stories for their well-drawn characters and quaint, nostalgic simplicity. But dare I say I prefer the Anne from the often-criticized movie #3 to this one?

1 comment:

roygbiv said…

i feel the same, apart from the bit about the movie because i haven't watched it. i read and fell in love with the first three books, and i REALLY loved gilbert. i would literally perk up whenever he appeared in a scene, but every time it was a disappointment because, as you said, he serves as nothing more than a (really handsome) 'voice of reason'!! arghh. even in Anne of the Island their conversations are like monologues by anne and cursory, superficial, albeit affectionate responses from gilbert.

and yeah everything else you said is true. anne's house of dreams is just a tad too familiar. i'll just re-read the first book another billion times and enjoy that version of anne, which i simply can't let go of 🙂