Gilbert Blythe is finally a doctor, and at long last he and Anne are ready to say their vows. Soon husband and wife will be bound for a new life together in their own house of dreams, on the shores of Four Winds Harbor, near Gilbert’s new medical practice in the village of Glen St. Mary. Of course, a new life brings fresh surprises and fresh problems to solve. Anne and Gilbert soon find themselves entangled in the lives of their neighbours, including the lighthouse attendant, Captain Jim, with his sad stories of the sea; Miss Cornelia Bryant, a formidable woman who always speaks her mind; Owen Ford, who longs to write the Great Canadian Novel; and the tragically beautiful Leslie Moore, to whom Anne grows closer when her own perfect life is touched by heartbreak.
Please note: this is the fifth in the Anne of Green Gables series to be discussed on this blog. If you missed the previous recaps, please click on the tags below to find previous articles. As this was first published in 1917, we’re going to presume that storylines will be discussed, and that spoilers are unintentional.
Welcome back to Anne, no longer of Avonlea but now of her own tiny home just outside the bustling town of Four Winds Harbour. Anne is a married woman now, and as such, this book is mainly about Anne and Gilbert, with a small cast of new characters to be introduced.
There are three in particular who become close to our Anne and Gilbert. Cornelia Bryant supplants Mrs. Lynde as the all-knowing wise voice of the village, while Leslie Moore helps to fill the void left behind by the girls of Patty’s Place and Diana back home. To my mind, however, the best new character we’ve met thus far is Captain Jim, the long-standing lighthouse keeper and keeper of the tale of his Lost Margaret. Captain Jim fills a hole that has been missing in Anne’s life since the passing of Matthew, and I loved how Montgomery portrayed him in this book. He is a keeper of stories as much as the lighthouse, and it only seemed fitting to have Owen Ford (most Canadian of author-y names!) appear to take down his narrative. Captain Jim isn’t perfect, but he’s still very much the beacon for the town, much like the lighthouse he tends. I still weep bitter tears at his passing every time I read it, and am only comforted by the knowledge that he lives on in little Jem and in his book.
There’s actually a lot of sorrow in this book, perhaps reflecting the losses that Montgomery herself had gone through around the time of this book. Having lost a child herself, the story of little Joyce is especially poignant, and you can feel the author’s own bruised emotions coming through the pages. The subject matter is less fanciful and much more adult as well; politics comes into play, and there’s even an election thrown in there. I loved the Marshall Elliott storyline, as it reminded me of a story my father told me of a man in Prince Edward County who had done a similar thing, much to the consternation of his wife!
I also loved that the sea-faring nature of PEI and Nova Scotia comes through in the book; if you lived any time in the Maritimes, you know how important the water was and remains to the livelihood and history of the people who live there. The Dick Moore storyline intertwines nicely with Captain Jim’s journeys, but also reminds us that families would lose people to the see for months, years and even forever. It was a very prevalent force in people’s lives, and it had the power to tear families apart.
Originally, I hadn’t noticed the comments that are evidently Montgomery’s views on the capability of women, and the roles they held in society at that time.This time around, I was very aware of the conversation Anne has with Gilbert that illustrates how Montgomery believed in the potential for everyone to make something of his or herself:
“Weren’t you listening to Captain Jim and yours truly the other night when we discussed that subject generally? We came to the comforting conclusion that the Creator probably knew how to run His universe quite as well as we do, and that, after all, there are no such things as “wasted” lives, saving and excepting when an individual wilfully squanders and wastes his own life – which Leslie Moore certainly hasn’t done. And some people might think that a Redmond B.A., whom editors were beginning to honour, was “wasted” as the wife of a struggling country doctor in the rural community of Four Winds.”
I think that it’s important to recognize that Anne chooses her life with Gilbert, and she continues to write. She could have had the same career as her friends – travelling like Katherine, moving far away like Jane – but the reality is that all Anne has ever wanted from the first chapter of the first book is a home and family of her own. I notice now how much admiration there is in the writing for those women who not only go off to explore there dreams, but also for those who stay at home to pursue them in a different manner.
For every sorrow there must be a joy, and the loss of Joyce is tempered by the arrival of baby Jem, the first son and the second in what will eventually become a whole brood of Blythes in the next book. The loss of Captain Jim is only tolerable because Leslie and Owen find their happily ever after, amidst much angst and tribulation. This book is more about real life to me, and about the realities of friendships and marriage.
“I am your friend and you are mine, for always,” she said. “Such a friend as I never had before. I have had many dear and beloved friends – but there is something in you, Leslie, that I never found in anyone else. You have more to offer me in that rich nature of yours, and I have more to give you than I had in my careless girlhood. We are both women – and friends forever.”
Did you read Anne’s House of Dreams last month ? Are you joining the readalong? Join Lindsey at Reeder Reads and the rest of us as we read (or re-read) the Anne series over the first eight months of the year.