Sunday, March 31, 2013

Sunday Salon: Reading Anne's House of Dreams (1917)

Anne's House of Dreams. L.M. Montgomery. 1917. 227 pages.

Anne's House of Dreams is a lovely book in L.M. Montgomery's Anne series. It opens with Anne marrying Gilbert Blythe. The two honeymoon in their new home on the other side of Prince Edward Island. The two adjust to life together and settle down within the community. There are plenty of kindred spirits to be found, though in this book and in subsequent books, they are now known as 'the race that knows Joseph.' Readers meet Captain Jim and Cornelia Bryant--two extremely vibrant and eccentric characters. Who could not love Captain Jim? And isn't Cornelia fun?!

Leslie Moore is also Anne's friend, but their friendship is strained at times. Anne being too happy by her friend's reckoning. Leslie has had a sad life: her younger brother killed in a farm accident, her father committing suicide, having to protect her mother from the harsh realities of life by agreeing to marry a horrible man, being trapped in an abusive marriage, etc. When readers first meet Leslie, her husband is deserving of pity himself, a tragic sea accident having changed him dramatically, he has the mind of a child but the strength of a man. And then there is Susan Baker! Susan plays a much larger role in other books in the series--particularly Rilla of Ingleside.

The book chronicles the first few years of Anne's married life. There is a focus on friendship, family, community. There is also a mingling of hope and sorrow.

Favorite quotes:
"Stoutness and slimness seem to be matters of predestination."
"Jane was not brilliant, and had probably never made a remark worth listening to in her life; but she never said anything that would hurt anyone's feelings--which may be a negative talent but is likewise a rare and enviable one."
"Ah, there's the rub," sighed Anne. "There are so many things in life we cannot do because of the fear of what Mrs. Harmon Andrews would say."
"That evening Green Gables hummed with preparations for the following day; but in the twilight Anne slipped away. She had a little pilgrimage to make on this last day of her girlhood and she must make it alone. She went to Matthew's grave, in the little poplar-shaded Avonlea graveyard, and there kept a silent tryst with old memories and immortal loves."
"My very happiest moments have been when I had tears in my eyes--when Marilla told me I might stay at Green Gables--when Matthew gave me the first pretty dress I ever had--when I heard that you were going to recover from the fever. So give me pearls for our troth ring, Gilbert, and I'll willingly accept the sorrow of life with its joy."
"It's rather hard to decide just when people are grown up," laughed Anne.
"That's a true word, dearie. Some are grown up when they're born, and others ain't grown up when they're eighty, believe ME."
"Soul ache doesn't worry folks near as much as stomach-ache."
"Our library isn't very extensive," said Anne, "but every book in it is a FRIEND. We've picked our books up through the years, here and there, never buying one until we had first read it and knew that it belonged to the race of Joseph."
Fun with Captain Jim:
"Life may be a vale of tears, all right, but there are some folks who enjoy weeping, I reckon."
"I've kind of contracted a habit of enjoying things," he remarked once, when Anne had commented on his invariable cheerfulness. "It's got so chronic that I believe I even enjoy the disagreeable things."
"Heretics are wicked, but they're mighty interesting. It's jest that they've got sorter lost looking for God, being under the impression that He's hard to find--which He ain't never."
"But it ain't our feelings we have to steer by through life--no, no, we'd make a shipwreck mighty often if we did that. There's only the one safe compass and we've got to set our course by that--what it's right to do." 
Fun with Cornelia:
Anne looked in some surprise at the white garment spread over Miss Cornelia's ample lap. It was certainly a baby's dress, and it was most beautifully made, with tiny frills and tucks. Miss Cornelia adjusted her glasses and fell to embroidering with exquisite stitches.
"This is for Mrs. Fred Proctor up at the Glen," she announced. "She's expecting her eighth baby any day now, and not a stitch has she ready for it. The other seven have wore out all she made for the first, and she's never had time or strength or spirit to make any more. That woman is a martyr, Mrs. Blythe, believe me. When she married Fred Proctor I knew how it would turn out. He was one of your wicked, fascinating men. After he got married he left off being fascinating and just kept on being wicked. He drinks and he neglects his family. Isn't that like a man? I don't know how Mrs. Proctor would ever keep her children decently clothed if her neighbors didn't help her out."
As Anne was afterwards to learn, Miss Cornelia was the only neighbor who troubled herself much about the decency of the young Proctors.
"When I heard this eighth baby was coming I decided to make some things for it," Miss Cornelia went on. "This is the last and I want to finish it today."
"It's certainly very pretty," said Anne. "I'll get my sewing and we'll have a little thimble party of two. You are a beautiful sewer, Miss Bryant."
"Yes, I'm the best sewer in these parts," said Miss Cornelia in a matter-of-fact tone. "I ought to be! Lord, I've done more of it than if I'd had a hundred children of my own, believe me! I s'pose I'm a fool, to be putting hand embroidery on this dress for an eighth baby. But, Lord, Mrs. Blythe, dearie, it isn't to blame for being the eighth, and I kind of wished it to have one real pretty dress, just as if it was wanted. Nobody's wanting the poor mite--so I put some extra fuss on its little things just on that account."
"Any baby might be proud of that dress," said Anne, feeling still more strongly that she was going to like Miss Cornelia.
"I s'pose you've been thinking I was never coming to call on you," resumed Miss Cornelia. "But this is harvest month, you know, and I've been busy--and a lot of extra hands hanging round, eating more'n they work, just like the men. I'd have come yesterday, but I went to Mrs. Roderick MacAllister's funeral. At first I thought my head was aching so badly I couldn't enjoy myself if I did go. But she was a hundred years old, and I'd always promised myself that I'd go to her funeral."
"Was it a successful function?" asked Anne, noticing that the office door was ajar.
"What's that? Oh, yes, it was a tremendous funeral. She had a very large connection. There was over one hundred and twenty carriages in the procession. There was one or two funny things happened. I thought that die I would to see old Joe Bradshaw, who is an infidel and never darkens the door of a church, singing `Safe in the Arms of Jesus' with great gusto and fervor. He glories in singing-- that's why he never misses a funeral. Poor Mrs. Bradshaw didn't look much like singing--all wore out slaving. Old Joe starts out once in a while to buy her a present and brings home some new kind of farm machinery. Isn't that like a man? But what else would you expect of a man who never goes to church, even a Methodist one? I was real thankful to see you and the young Doctor in the Presbyterian church your first Sunday. No doctor for me who isn't a Presbyterian."
"We were in the Methodist church last Sunday evening," said Anne wickedly.
"Oh, I s'pose Dr. Blythe has to go to the Methodist church once in a while or he wouldn't get the Methodist practice."
"We liked the sermon very much," declared Anne boldly. "And I thought the Methodist minster's prayer was one of the most beautiful I ever heard."
"Oh, I've no doubt he can pray. I never heard anyone make more beautiful prayers than old Simon Bentley, who was always drunk, or hoping to be, and the drunker he was the better he prayed."
"The Methodist minister is very fine looking," said Anne, for the benefit of the office door.
"Yes, he's quite ornamental," agreed Miss Cornelia. "Oh, and very ladylike. And he thinks that every girl who looks at him falls in love with him--as if a Methodist minister, wandering about like any Jew, was such a prize! If you and the young doctor take my advice, you won't have much to do with the Methodists. My motto is--if you are a Presbyterian, be a Presbyterian."
"Don't you think that Methodists go to heaven as well as Presbyterians?" asked Anne smilelessly.
"That isn't for us to decide. It's in higher hands than ours," said Miss Cornelia solemnly. "But I ain't going to associate with them on earth whatever I may have to do in heaven.
"Thank goodness we can choose our friends. We have to take our relatives as they are, and be thankful if there are no penitentiary birds among them."
"Do you know, Cornelia," said Captain Jim gravely, "I've often thought that if I wasn't a Presbyterian I'd be a Methodist."
"Oh, well," conceded Miss Cornelia, "if you weren't a Presbyterian it wouldn't matter much what you were. Speaking of heresy, reminds me, doctor--I've brought back that book you lent me--that Natural Law in the Spiritual World--I didn't read more'n a third of it. I can read sense, and I can read nonsense, but that book is neither the one nor the other."
"It is considered rather heretical in some quarters," admitted Gilbert, "but I told you that before you took it, Miss Cornelia."
"Oh, I wouldn't have minded its being heretical. I can stand wickedness, but I can't stand foolishness," said Miss Cornelia calmly, and with the air of having said the last thing there was to say about Natural Law.
 Fun with Susan:
Is it not funny nobody ever asked me to marry him, Mrs. Doctor, dear? I am no beauty, but I am as good-looking as most of the married women you see. But I never had a beau. What do you suppose is the reason?"
"It may be predestination," suggested Anne, with unearthly solemnity.
Susan nodded.
"That is what I have often thought, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and a great comfort it is. I do not mind nobody wanting me if the Almighty decreed it so for His own wise purposes. But sometimes doubt creeps in, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and I wonder if maybe the Old Scratch has not more to do with it than anyone else. I cannot feel resigned then. But maybe," added Susan, brightening up, "I will have a chance to get married yet. I often and often think of the old verse my aunt used to repeat:
There never was a goose so gray but sometime soon or late Some honest gander came her way and took her for his mate!
A woman cannot ever be sure of not being married till she is buried, Mrs. Doctor, dear, and meanwhile I will make a batch of cherry pies. I notice the doctor favors 'em, and I do like cooking for a man who appreciates his victuals."
 "And did you notice his ears and his teeth, Mrs. Doctor, dear?" queried Susan later on. "He has got the nicest-shaped ears I ever saw on a man's head. I am choice about ears. When I was young I was scared that I might have to marry a man with ears like flaps. But I need not have worried, for never a chance did I have with any kind of ears."

© 2013 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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I am interested in reviewing books and audio books. This blog focuses on books written for middle grade on up (essentially 10 to a 110). I review middle grade fiction and young adult fiction (aka tween and teen).

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