Anne of Avonlea

Anne of Avonlea (Photo: Sterling Publishing)After I reread Rilla of Ingleside for a Canadian history paper I wrote last month, I dug out my old Anne of Green Gables box set to get reacquainted with one of my oldest literary friends.

I’m not alone in my Anne love. Apparently, the Duchess of Cambridge is also a big fan (I’m a fan of Kate too, and this made me like her even more). The Anne books, along with Gone With the Wind, are among my very favourites – particularly the first four (Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island and Anne of Windy Poplars). My mom read at least two of them out loud to me when I was a little kid, and in 1995 when I was 10 years old and my family went on an east coast road trip to New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, I made my dad and brother spend a couple hours at Cavendish Figurines, where I got to dress up like Anne (I must have read about this place in some kind of guidebook, because I don’t think we had the internet at our house until at least 1999).

In 1995, this happened.

In 1995, this happened.

Because I recently re-watched the Kevin Sullivan Anne of Green Gables miniseries (which yes, I still have on VHS), I thought I’d skip book one and instead tuck into Anne of Avonlea.

Reading the Anne books as an adult is a much different experience than reading them as a kid, and each time I go back through them, I find something new that resonates with me. Anne of Avonlea picks up when Anne is 17 and largely chronicles her adventures teaching in the Avonlea one-room schoolhouse. Kind of apt for an education student-to-be, hey? Yes, she’s a fictional character and this book was written more than a century ago, but Anne experiences some of the same fears and emotions that I know I will in my own classroom, and in its own way, that’s very comforting.

Actually, comforting is a very good way to describe the whole experience of re-reading any of the Anne books. My friend Dipika in the UK, who I still do some freelance writing work with from time to time, mentioned to me on Facebook not too long ago that she found her recent re-read of Anne of Green Gables to be quite a comfort. I think she’s absolutely right. To me, Anne’s a bit like a bowl of soup on a cold day or a phone call from a long-lost friend. And when you add in a dash of Gilbert Blythe (who, in spite of being a completely fictional character, may have been the first boy I ever really fell in love with), how can you go wrong? I love this book every time I read it.

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