Whimsy and delight, tenderness and heart. These are the four tracks which Anne follows while traipsing along the marvelous trail of this story. It may take place on Edward Island, but the real journey is one through the depths of the soul. And to go there is an adventure not soon to be forgotten.
This is one of those stories that you finish and think, “Why can’t every book be like this? Why can’t they all be this beautiful, this endearing, this playful, and this full?” More than that, reading the tale Montgomery here spins makes the reader long for a time and place when the world was truly like this. When the greatest scandal was painting the town hall blue and suffering the indignity of pharmaceutical advertisements along a farmer’s fence. When neighbors would stop by for a visit unannounced it that was a cause of great joy? Where are the Paul Irvings and the Davies and the Miss Lavenders and the Gilbert Blithes of this age? And when shall they come calling in a carriage to take me with them to the Lake of Shining Waters?
A recipe for delight
Here is a story several parts laughter, a few dashes of heartache and dismay, heaps of daydreaming wonder, barrels of wit, and all topped by the red-haired cherry of a girl herself, Anne Shirley. This time Anne’s every bit of 16, but blossoming rapidly into someone ageless. Into the sort of person we all should be, or at least should want to know, undefined by age, uncompromised in her principles, and undaunted by whatever trials or triumphs should come crashing upon her shore.
Like the first book in the series, this one is episodic in nature. Anne is as spirited as ever, though noticeably more wise and thoughtful as she goes about the business of taking on a classroom full of children, helping Marilla shepherd the dear twins who have landed on their doorstep, and of doing her absolute, honest-to-goodness best at living life as poetry rather than prose.
Does this mean she is flighty and useless, a mere dreamer fit for nothing useful in life? Perish the thought. Anne is more industrious by two in the afternoon on Monday than most modern folk would be in an entire week. But she infuses her chores and tasks and meetings and appointments with such a zest and elan that you are almost breathless trying to keep up. And yet somehow all that’s “happened” in the book is that Anne has taken a wrong turn on her way to evening tea at a neighbor’s! There is an ancient and little understood word for all of this and it’s called LIFE. And Anne knows how to live it like nobody’s business.
Impossible to measure
I laughed out loud with this one. I cried out loud, too. From the sheer beauty of it and the awfulness of how seasons change and time marches on and much that is beautiful must be left and will never come again. In a way, this book is all so very ordinary, but that is why it is all the more precious. Because, like the best of fantasy, it returns us to this present darkness with lamps in our eyes, charged and expectant to see all the wonder that is this thing we call living.
After how dearly beloved book one was for me, I did not see how the second book could be any better. And like all great art one cannot say that this is indeed better. Because when it is the best, we have run out of things to say. Comparing artistic works is always a chancy affair anyway. Does it make sense to say that this book is “best” and that the first book is “best” as well? No, well then language is a paltry and inadequate thing. For that is how the land lies. When two stars are both a million miles from earth, does it make any difference what their exact measurement is when both shine equally bright? So let them both be stars and admire and be guided by them and let it be done with. For that is what stars, and great books are for.
But enough of my gushing. The only thing left to be said is that this is a book worth reading in every sense of the word. And finally, go and read it, or read the first one if you’ve not read that, and then come on to this beloved country. Only don’t come too fast. Nor tread too quickly. For this is a story meant to be savored and enjoyed. Page turning? Ha! That’s for folks who don’t have time to think, or see, or live. Here are beauties meant to be mulled over again and again. One…glorious…page…at a time.
Thank you, Anne, for sharing your days with us. For those of us who have traveled those windswept roads and open fields alongside you will never be the same.