It’s been five years since Anne Shirley came to the town of Avonlea, and while she feels (a little) more grown up, she’s still the same skinny, redheaded orphan Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert took in. After putting her dream of attending Redmond College on hold so she can help Marilla with the farm, Anne doubts she has many adventures ahead of her. But even in plain old Avonlea her life is anything but ordinary. Anne takes over the local school and is determined to be a beloved teacher, but that’s hard when she has students like the forever bad-tempered Anthony Pye—who is just as determined to be a problem. Anne’s former enemy, Gilbert Blythe, starts to give her an awful lot of attention, while her best friend, Diana, seems to be growing up a little more quickly than she is. Anne decides to recruit Gilbert and Diana, as well as her old school friends, to start the Avonlea Village Improvement Society, which—in true Anne fashion—sometimes ends up doing more harm than good. Throw in rambunctious orphan twins Davy and Dora, a foul-mouthed parrot, and a case of mistaken identity involving a cow, and Anne definitely gets more excitement than she thought she would staying in Avonlea.
Anne of Avonlea is probably one of my least favorite Anne books, if only because I don’t find it entirely necessary and there’s not much of a plot. As with Anne of Windy Poplars (another least favorite Anne book), Anne of Avonlea doesn’t really do all that much to advance the characters in anything but age. It introduces some new characters—Dora and Davy and possibly some others that show up later—and gives Anne a reason for going to Redmond, but other than that, it’s easy enough to just find out the important bits and skip the book completely.
The book is basically about Anne’s adventures as a schoolteacher and her desires to “improve” everyone in Avonlea. It reminds me a little bit of Emma by Jane Austen, actually, but with less matchmaking and more general meddling and improvement. There’s some important stuff in regards to Marilla taking Davy and Dora under her wing, and Diana’s engagement to Fred Wright, but other than that, nothing really important happens beyond seeing a glimpse of Gilbert’s feelings for Anne. It’s a charming book, but not nearly as charming as Anne of Green Gables.
I do consider Anne of Avonlea one of the weakest books in the series, and I’m eager now to reread Anne of Windy Poplars to see which book I think is better. The problem with Avonlea is that nothing much happens in terms of development and it has too many “slices-of-life” without the joy of watching Anne grow up and learn from her mistakes. Also, I found the comparison between Davy and Dora irritating because I’m not a fan of Davy and I don’t like how Montgomery describes Dora to basically force the reader into liking Davy more.
Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
“I am Mrs. Donnell…Mrs. H. B. Donnell,” announced this vision, “and I have come in to see you about something Clarice Almira told me when she came home to dinner today. It annoyed me excessively.”
“I’m sorry,” faltered Anne, vainly trying to recollect any incident of the morning connected with the Donnell children.
“Clarice Almira told me that you pronounced our name Donnell. Now, Miss Shirley, the correct pronunciation of our name is Donnell…accent on the last syllable. I hope you’ll remember this in future.”
“I’ll try to, gasped Anne, choking back a wild desire to laugh.