Anne of the Island
is the third book of the Anne of Green Gables
series, written by L.M. Montgomery
. As mentioned at the end of the last book
, after two years' working as a schoolmadam, Anne has saved enough money for the Redmond
college; also Mrs. Rachel Lynde has come to live in Green Gables after losing her husband, so she need not stay to help Marilla either; therefore, she finally has a chance to pick up her dream of going to Redmond for college education, something which she had a chance to do two years ago but sacrifice
d in light of Matthew's death and Marilla's eye and financial troubles. This book portrays Anne's four years of college life, the changes of her old friends at home during that time, and of course, her love troubles.
Now comes the detailed review. Spoiler warnings apply as usual, for I really find it hard to write a comprehensive review aimed at those who have read the book, without including too much "spoiler" material.
Well, the most important feeling after reading this book is that time surely goes by fast! Four years of college life passes like a wind in this little book, a much faster pace than the previous ones, and it actually goes faster every year. To be honest, I feel that myself, too: the middle and high school years seemed so long, but after entering a university everything felt like a flash before I graduated; a somewhat sad feeling, actually.
Anne has good company in college, and really good ones at that too, in that everyone takes their lessons seriously without being nerds (luckily I have had mostly as good a luck). Except for the first year when everyone resorted to a boarding house, Anne lived with three diligent girls in a lovely hired house named Patty's Place. Two of the girls are her old "chums" at Queen's, namely Priscilla and Stella, the latter coming one year later than others, and the other is a rich and queer girl named Phil. Besides the four girls, Stella's aunt also lives there to help the girls, and she brings a cat in addition to two preexisting ones. The ambitious Anne, "dream-girl" Priscilla, serious Stella are somewhat different already, but Phil, a girl who could not decide between two rich lovers before actually loving a poor third one, seems even more out of place. Anyway, the girls together with Stella's aunt and their feline friends get along remarkably well, with much fun and almost no misgivings, all graduated as a B. A. with some kind of honor, and rich Phil actually finds economic life an exciting thing. Besides, Phil happens to be from Bolingbroke, Nova Scotia, Anne's birthplace, so with her Anne has had a pleasant visit to the house where her long-deceased parents once lived.
Meanwhile, back at home, much has happened to the family members and the old friends. To be sure, Marilla and Mrs. Rachel Lynde have not changed much, while between Marilla's adopted twins, Dora is as prim as ever, and Davy as naughty and funny, his letter full of characteristic "What is $INTERESTING_THING, Anne? I want to know." things, generous supplies of x's representing kisses, and his constant "transgressions" brings constant trouble and horror to Marilla, Mrs. Lynde and Anne, though even the old women find him more interesting than Dora who hardly ever does anything wrong.
Diana is still Anne's bosom friend, their friendship as beautiful as ever, with frequent delightful mutual confidences, and they "never marred it by one quarrel or coolness or unkind word". But even for them "things can't be quite the same after this", partly because of Anne's fear that Diana would leak things to her sweetheart Fred Wright, partly because they will just have different interests. This is another sad point about the story; just use "grep -wc" to see how the name of Diana, Anne' s other friends, and latter even Anne herself, occurs less and less frequently throughout the eight books. Anyway, Diana married Fred after Anne's third year, as planned by their engagement before Anne left for the college. As Anne has predicted in her childhood fancies (see the first book; it is quite exhilarating), she becomes Diana's bridesmaid, yet other predictions do not come true: although she does have some misgivings, her heart is not really breaking for "losing" Diana, and she surely does not hate Fred. At the end of the book, when Anne returns with her diploma, Diana has even become a "proud little mother".
As for Anne's other old schoolmates... Jane Andrews takes Anne's place as a schoolmadam for some time, then goes west for a change, and in time finds a husband who happens to be a millioniare. Jane is much like Meg in Little Women, a neat, solemn character who has much more interest in womanly things like dresses than in studying or the children at school. Evidently she is not Anne's kindred spirit, but the old friends get along mostly well, defending each other against gossips. The frivolous Ruby Gillis is as interested in beaux as ever, unlike Anne, but her early death of consumption still gives Anne, her kins and the readers many sad moments. It is quite unlike seeing the death of very good people, such as Matthew or Beth in Little Women, for then one feels that they are getting their rewards in Heaven, even for a non-believer like me. It is also unlike the death of bad ones, when one does not have much feeling at all, except a little lament for their soul that got damaged long before and now has no chance to be fixed again. The death of Ruby, who has only interest in earthly things like beaux and pretty dresses and parties, gives no feeling but sadness, for "Heaven won't be what I've been used to", as Ruby herself says, and her failed attempts to pretend her well-being undoubtedly add to the sadness.
Now, if you have read Anne of Avonlea, you will surely remember Miss Lavendar, and Anne's favorite child Paul Irving at school, whose father married Miss Lavendar after long years of misunderstanding during which he married another, had Paul and saw the death of his first wife. This book also dedicates a chapter for the new couple, who lives happily with Paul much grown up and losing his old fancies.
Oh well, the review is getting too long already, with me barely beginning to say about Anne's trouble with lovers, which is arguably the most important part of this book. As those who have read the first two books probably know, ugly redheaded little Anne actually grew into a handsome woman, who now has more men falling in love with her than she cares for, from old friends Gilbert Blythe and Charlie Sloane to the "prince charming" in the college, Roy Gardner, and even Jane's brother Billy who is too bashful to propose himself, and some men whom Anne barely knows of. She readily rejected everyone except Gilbert and Roy early, of course, with the only misgiving being a little animosity from the man and his family. With Gilbert, however, she has been unable to decide whether she loves him or not, anymore than Phil who has as many "beaux" and is known for her lack of decision in this aspect. After rejecting Gilbert for the first time, when he wants love from her with friendship being the only thing she is willing to give him, her folks from Phil to Marilla to Miss Lavendar all advise against her, but Anne chooses Roy instead according to her instincts instead of her sense, with an illusion that she loves him, while Gilbert seems to be courting Christine, though they are actually only friends, both knowing that Christine is already engaged. It is only when Roy actually proposes to her at a time near her graduation, and after Mrs. Gardner's visit, that Anne finally discovers that she does not really love him as she has loved Gilbert. The break-up now costs Anne much in terms of emotion, so it much marrs the happiness of graduation, while having to leave the beloved Patty's Place and seeing Phil and Diana marry before her certainly do not help either, and when Gilbert nearly dies of typhoid when she needs him the most, the dark history in the first book where a great mishap happens to her just after great "dreams and glory", seems to repeat itself. Fortunately, Gilbert recovers, and all misunderstandings between them clears up like the clouds after a thunderstorm, so Anne's love story does have a nice ending after all.
Besides studying and "lovering", Anne also has had some experiences with her literary dreams, stemming from their old "story club". Her first story is an ignominious failure, being first criticized by Diana and Mr. Harrison, then rejected by the editor, and the worst part comes when it becomes an advertisement, for Diana has sent it to a prize offer thinking she was doing Anne a favor. Her second attempt two year later proves to be a success, however, and Anne is so happy she declares she will squander the money "in a wild soulless revel of some sort", which she would not do with the money coming from the first attempt, being regarded by her as tainted money.
Okay, I think that should be enough review for those who have read the book. For those who haven't, I will only say that this is an engaging and wholesome book, as much as Anne in Green Gables and IMHO more so than Anne in Avonlea, and I finished it in a whole day and a half, neglecting everything else. If you like this one, you may continue to Anne of Windy Poplars, which describes the following years with Anne being a principal of a high school and Gilbert studying in a medical school, and their love in blossom.
This book is in Project Gutenberg, #51 (See? A book with such a low number is almost always a must read).