Anne’s own true love, Gilbert Blythe, is finally a doctor, and in the sunshine of the old orchard, among their dearest friends, they are about to speak their vows. Soon the happy couple will be bound for a new life together and their own dream house, on the misty purple shores of Four Winds Harbor. A new life means fresh problems to solve, fresh surprises. Anne and Gilbert will make new friends and meet their neighbors: Captain Jim, the lighthouse attendant, with his sad stories of the sea; Miss Cornelia Bryant, the lady who speaks from the heart — and speaks her mind; and the tragically beautiful Leslie Moore, into whose dark life Anne shines a brilliant light.
Anne’s House of Dreams makes up in some ways for the forgettable, unnecessary Anne of Windy Poplars that came before (and yet after) it, but still struggles with what I’m going to term “Montgomery sound-byte-ism,” which is the tendency of Montgomery to have chapters completely dedicated to one character’s quirky stories. Now, if you like those quirky stories, then you’ll have no problems with this. I, however, tend to think that they get very tedious, very quickly. I ended up skimming most of the parts where Miss Cornelia kept going on and on about one thing or another. If that is someone’s favorite aspect of Montgomery’s stories, then I apologize—but it’s not mine.
Montgomery really went all out in terms of description for House of Dreams, something I don’t remember her doing in the previous books (but I could merely be forgetting). I do know that description in the earlier books mostly came through Anne’s eyes and mouth as she told us what she saw or described how she saw it. However, in House of Dreams, while we may be “seeing” through Anne’s eyes in terms of her being the main character, Montgomery is the one describing things like the sea and the house, and quite beautifully at times.
House of Dreams is also the first Anne book to have a major tragedy. InGreen Gables and Avonlea, there is a death, but Joy’s death in House of Dreams is even more heart wrenching. That, coupled with the overall tragedy and gloom of Leslie’s backstory, makes House of Dreams one of the “darkest” Anne novels so far, if not the darkest. And to be honest, I like that adult-Anne’s world in House of Dreams is not as full of rainbows and sunshine as child-Anne’s world was in Green Gables. Plus, some of the theological questions that arise in this book are spot-on and are maybe even better explained through the use of a story that just stating it flat out (especially when trying to explain such things to children).
Anne’s House of Dreams, while not holding a candle to the first three books, is an improvement over the regrettable Windy Poplars, and its inclusion of more mature story elements makes it more nuanced than even the books that came before it. It’s too bad “Montgomery sound-byte-ism” made the whole thing a little tedious.
Recommended Age Range: 10+ (and lower!)
Genre: Historical Fiction, Children’s
“Let’s introduce ourselves,” she said, with the smile that had never yet failed to win confidence and friendliness. “I am Mrs. Blythe—and I live in that little white house up the harbor shore.”
“Yes, I know,” said the girl. “I am Leslie Moore—Mrs. Dick Moore,” she added stiffly.
Anne was silent for a moment from sheer amazement. It had not occurred to her that this girl was married—there seemed nothing of the wife about her. And that she should be the neighbor whom Anne had pictured as a commonplace Four Winds housewife! Anne could not quickly adjust her mental focus to this astonishing change.