Anne of the Island by Lucy Maud Montgomery //Book Review// Where do I begin? Adjectives like "splendid", "delightful", "charming" and "lovely" come to my mind, however, they still seem to fall a bit short in forming a complete picture of this novel. In addition to Montgomery's stylized, descriptive sweetness, we experience a greater depth in the characters and their experiences in Anne of the Island, the third book in this series. This book begins where Anne of Avonlea leaves off as we, the reader, experience Anne's continued transition from girlhood to adulthood. The story is full of heartache and joy, love and loss, new beginnings and sad goodbyes. Themes of growing up, identification, community, friendship, acceptance, education, family, perseverance, respect, maturity, love, marriage and living life to its fullest are layered throughout the story. We see Anne determine who she is (she no longer views herself as an orphan) while she explores what her purpose should be in life. Anne states, "The little things of life, sweet and excellent in their place, must not be the things lived for; the highest must be sought and followed; the life of heaven must be begun here on earth."
The book begins as Anne leaves Green Gables and sets off for college in Kingsport. Anne perfectly describes "home" to one of her roommates at college. Montgomery writes,
I’m going home to an old country farmhouse, once green, rather faded now, set among leafless apple orchards. There is a brook below and a December fir wood beyond, where I’ve heard harps swept by the fingers of rain and wind. There is a pond nearby that will be gray and brooding now. There will be two oldish ladies in the house, one tall and thin, one short and fat; and there will be two twins, one a perfect model, the other what Mrs. Lynde calls a ‘holy terror.’ There will be a little room upstairs over the porch, where old dreams hang thick, and a big, fat, glorious feather bed which will almost seem the height of luxury after a boardinghouse mattress. How do you like my picture, Phil?"
"It seems a very dull one," said Phil, with a grimace.
"Oh, but I’ve left out the transforming thing," said Anne softly. "There’ll be love there, Phil—faithful, tender love, such as I’ll never find anywhere else in the world—love that’s waiting for me. That makes my picture a masterpiece, doesn’t it, even if the colors are not very brilliant?"
The love Anne has received from Marilla (and Matthew) while growing up, has laid a firm foundation in Anne's character as she prioritizes what matters most to her.
I also love the section of the novel when Anne returns to the house where she was born. The current resident had met Anne's birth parents and saved a bundle of letters she found in the house. Montgomery writes,
The letters were yellow and faded and dim, blurred with the touch of passing years. No profound words of wisdom were traced on the stained and wrinkled pages, but only lines of love and trust. The sweetness of forgotten things clung to them—the far-off, fond imaginings of those long-dead lovers. Bertha Shirley had possessed the gift of writing letters which embodied the charming personality of the writer in words and thoughts that retained their beauty and fragrance after the lapse of time. The letters were tender, intimate, sacred. To Anne, the sweetest of all was the one written after her birth to the father on a brief absence. It was full of a proud young mother’s accounts of “baby”—her cleverness, her brightness, her thousand sweetnesses.
“I love her best when she is asleep and better still when she is awake,” Bertha Shirley had written in the postscript. Probably it was the last sentence she had ever penned. The end was very near for her.
“This has been the most beautiful day of my life,” Anne said to Phil that night. “I’ve FOUND my father and mother. Those letters have made them REAL to me. I’m not an orphan any longer. I feel as if I had opened a book and found roses of yesterday, sweet and beloved, between its leaves.”
There are too many noteworthy passages to recount, so my best recommendation is to start at the beginning of this series and soak up the goodness of these special books! Enjoy!