Anne's House of Dreams
October 17, 2019 10:48 PM - by L. M. Montgomery - Subscribe

Anne’s adventures slip from Bildungsroman to Penny Dreadful in this installment of her story, which cover the first two years of Anne and Gilbert’s married life in the small town of Four Winds Harbor. Tragic Heroine! Mistaken Identity! Amnesia! Lost Loves! Second Sight! TW: infant death

Vocabulary notes:

Relict: widow

the Schoolmasrter’s Bride is named Persis Leigh I had never heard of that first name before but it’s a real name.

Creepy as used here is found as early as the 1850’s

Captain Jim has an iceboat, here’s what they look like.

‘Bushing’ is described in this excellent resource, A Dictionary of Prince Edward Island

‘The race that knows Joseph’, Miss Cornelia’s phrase for ‘kindred spirits’, is a reference to a specific passage in the Bible. You may be familiar with the story of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his brothers and then rose to prominence in Egypt. Exodus 1:8 says ‘Now there arose a new king over Egypt, who did not know Joseph.’ (Segueing into slavery for the Israelites, Moses, etc.)

***

Mrs. Lynne gives Anne two homemade quilts on her marriage; here is some information about what they may have been like.

Anne’s first pregnancy ends in tragedy with the death of her baby Joyce. This book was published in 1917; in 1914 Lucy Maud Montgomery lost her own son Hugh in childbirth. Did the pain of that experience contribute to the extreme circumspection with which the book treats any reference to pregnancy and delivery? It certainly must have colored her description of Anne’s grief, and her recovery from this tragedy. Anne doesn’t take much comfort from those around her saying it’s God’s will.

Religion takes a much larger part space in this volume, from Miss Cornelia’s dislike of Methodists to the odd anecdote about the PresbyTArian revival, to Anne and Captain Jim’s discussion about evil and the afterlife.

Meanwhile, the men of the area come in for a constant stream of abuse, both deserved and not. It’s hard not to speculate that some of this reflects LMM’s reportedly unhappy relationship with her husband.

Super unethical brain surgery? ‘Dick Moore’ seems to be happy and more or less productive; not one person discussing the trepanning that restores his faculties considers the considerable risk to his health that it entails, and Miss Cornelia is the only character honest enough to wish he’d fall down the well.

NB I’m doing these in order of publication because that’s the only correct way to read a book series.

Audio note: I tried 3 different narrators from the library and didn’t like any of them much.
posted by bq (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I admit I teared up over Joy’s death and Anne’s grief. I think before I had kids I would have thought it maudlin and sentimental.
posted by bq at 11:06 PM on October 17, 2019


Did the pain of that experience contribute to the extreme circumspection with which the book treats any reference to pregnancy and delivery? It certainly must have colored her description of Anne’s grief, and her recovery from this tragedy.

L.M. Montgomery's diary entries over the loss of Hugh John contain quite a bit of material that is extremely similar to what Anne says about her grief over her baby. Montgomery often used her own journals as a professional sourcebook when writing her novels and short stories, which is one of the pleasures of reading them. If you know her fiction well, you will often come across journal entries you recognize as the source for this or that passage in her fiction.

Meanwhile, the men of the area come in for a constant stream of abuse, both deserved and not. It’s hard not to speculate that some of this reflects LMM’s reportedly unhappy relationship with her husband.

When this novel was written, Montgomery's relationship with her husband wasn't unhappy. Maud and Ewan were married in 1911, and until Ewan's first breakdown in 1919, she was contented in her marriage. There was no real passion involved on either side, but people who knew them say they clearly really cared about each other and got along well -- save for the occasional short dramatic spat which both of them seemed to enjoy. In her diaries Maud almost always speaks affectionately of her husband and would write that she missed him when he was away. She did bitterly regret marrying him once she learned of the mental instability he kept from her, but that would not have impacted this novel as it happened later in her life.

The bitterness towards men might have been a vent for the general frustration Montgomery felt from living in a misognist world as well as towards the particular men who let her down: the father who basically left her to be raised by her grandparents; her insensitive grandfather; the uncle who wanted her and her grandmother out of the house he inherited upon her grandfather's death; the suitors who had annoyed or hurt her; and yes, the frustration she felt with her husband because he left the childrearing and household management entirely up to her, never read a single thing she wrote, and was such a stick-in-the-mud he wouldn't go to the pictures with her -- as well as the more ordinary frustrations of married life. In a way she was doing what Miss Cornelia does: venting her spite with a particular man on all. I would have been pissed off too if the man I wanted to marry wouldn't get a fucking haircut and shave.:D
posted by orange swan at 11:02 AM on October 18, 2019 [3 favorites]


This was one of my favorites of the bunch. Anne was such a happy bride and then brutal reality kicked in. I enjoyed the contrast between her and poor Leslie, and you really feel for that lady (too bad she's not around after this book).

Miss Cornelia and ... I forget his name (Marshall?), the walking hairball. Yeah, that's legit to be annoyed at. It was so funny that now he finally got a shave and a haircut and NOW she'll marry him.

"Super unethical brain surgery? ‘Dick Moore’ seems to be happy and more or less productive; not one person discussing the trepanning that restores his faculties considers the considerable risk to his health that it entails, and Miss Cornelia is the only character honest enough to wish he’d fall down the well."

Hear, hear to Miss Cornelia. I'm an asshole because I felt the same. "But life is so precious and special!" Yeah, let's restore an abusive asshole to his full faculties again, sounds great!

I really felt for Leslie. Her entire life was horrifying (no wonder she couldn't take Anne at first), and then when Gilbert had that miracle cure idea it's just...EVEN WORSE. I don't know squat about trepanning other than I AM NOT GOING TO GOOGLE FOR THIS NOPE NOPE NOPE, but it always seemed like a ridiculous miracle with that entire plot. Not only that the guy could be restored, but he's a lookalike cousin?! Way to write a soap opera, LMM. And yet I'm so happy for Leslie that she's free to marry Owen. Go figure.
posted by jenfullmoon at 1:37 PM on October 18, 2019


i read this one and the one about her college years earlier this year and really enjoyed them and the nostalgia but quickly forgot everything again and cannot contribute to a discussion. but i do remember as a kid thinking about her intrigue over and friendship with leslie like, oh yeah, obviously, anne likes girls and this is just her newest crush and that's what i'm supposed to be getting out of this. and this read i pulled out lines like "When [anne and leslie's] work was done and Gilbert was out of the way, they gave themselves over to shameless orgies of love-making and ecstasies of adoration" to giggle over.

but i loooved and still love anne and gilbert's domestic life and still dearly want to move newlywed to a small historied town and make kinship friends with old neighbors and be proud of my life-saving doctor husband
posted by gaybobbie at 6:11 PM on October 18, 2019 [1 favorite]


Ah, I wasn't sure whether we were reading the books in the order they were written or in chronological order according to when in Anne's timeline they were set, thus I'm still working my way through a re-read of Windy Poplars. Does this mean we'll be reading Rainbow Valley next and skipping over Anne of Ingleside until later?

Did the pain of that experience contribute to the extreme circumspection with which the book treats any reference to pregnancy and delivery?

If you mean the fact that it's treated as a subject that's a little taboo, that's a feature of books from this time period. Both pregnancy and delivery were considered practically unmentionable in polite company, even when it became rather obvious to all. It's a holdover from the Victorian period (pdf) that lingered awhile into the 20th century. References to pregnancy in most 19th century/Edwardian novels are usually couched in euphemism. This was even true for women who, like Anne, got pregnant within the confines of marriage.
posted by katyggls at 11:24 PM on October 18, 2019


Of all the domiciles described in all the Anne books, the House of Dreams is the one I most want to live in. Talk about ocean views! Just let me stroll down to the beach and gather up a few sticks of driftwood for my fireplace! Also I'd love to be somewhere with a dark enough night sky that I could see the shadow of Venus, even if just once in my life.
posted by Daily Alice at 6:06 AM on October 19, 2019 [2 favorites]


It irks me to no end that Anne named her first-born James Matthew. I just feel Matthew deserves to be the first name and the older I get the more strongly I feel about it. Captain Jim does not even begin to compare to Matthew. Matthew would have taken Anne's ambitions as a writer seriously instead of insisting women couldn't write.
posted by Constance Mirabella at 8:58 PM on October 19, 2019 [6 favorites]


I too thought it was odd that she would name her son after someone she had known for so short a time, much less give the name precedence over Matthew's.

And the nickname "Jem" irritated me no end. Likewise "Jims" from Rilla of Ingleside. Ugh. Have these people never heard of Jamie or Jimmy as nicknames for James?
posted by orange swan at 6:32 PM on October 20, 2019 [1 favorite]


Good point on the name.
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:38 AM on October 21, 2019


I’ve made a post on the club page to discuss reading order. In general my preference is to read in publication order, but since it’s been 30 years since I’ve read these books and I missed some the first time around, I’m open to discussion.
posted by bq at 1:06 PM on October 21, 2019


This book always makes me think of the chilling phrase "the holy passion of motherhood" so I just looked it up for the context, and she used almost the same description in "Further Chronicles of Avonlea"!

House of Dreams:
Anne, her pale face blanched with its baptism of pain, her eyes aglow with the holy passion of motherhood, did not need to be told to think of her baby.

Further Chronicles:
We thought we had loved each other before; now, as I looked into my wife's pale face, blanched with its baptism of pain, and met the uplifted gaze of her blue eyes, aglow with the holy passion of motherhood, I knew we had only imagined what love might be.

PS the story it's from, "The Dream-Child", is creeeeepy
posted by exceptinsects at 3:28 PM on October 22, 2019


Could someone please explain what was up with Miss Cornelia's prejudice against Methodists? I have been baffled by this my entire life. Especially since everyone else in the book seem to have been fine with them.
posted by toastyk at 3:51 PM on October 22, 2019


I think it’s a class thing. It’s not unique to this book - a similar sentiment is expressed in the old movie ‘Life With Father’. Wikipedia says ‘ Early Methodists were drawn from all levels of society, including the aristocracy,[nb 3] but the Methodist preachers took the message to labourers and criminals who tended to be left outside organised religion at that time. In Britain, the Methodist Church had a major effect in the early decades of the developing working class (1760–1820).’
posted by bq at 10:19 AM on October 23, 2019


bq, thanks, that would make sense. For some reason I thought there was a more elegant, refined logic, but I should have known better.
posted by toastyk at 12:10 PM on October 23, 2019


Methodists became a separate church -- not just an Anglican study group, which they started as -- when John Wesley became convinced the Anglican Church would never send adequate ministers to the American and Canadian colonies and starting ordaining his own. The Anglicans refused because the "rough country" of the New World was no place for an educated man like a preacher! (This was vastly exacerbated by the American Revolution, when a lot of the ministers who WERE in the New World fled back to England.) The Methodists from their beginnings were a down-and-dirty frontier church. In England they were in the factories; in the US and Canada they were on the frontier, riding circuit, going places no other ministers would go, sometimes being the only preacher settlers would see for a year at a time, performing entire batches of marriages and baptisms and funerals every time they appeared. As a church they were less-educated than the Presbyterians (who are a very book-learning-y church in general) because they were so much more present among lower classes and marginalized people, and while their pastors were similarly-educated to Presbyterian pastors*, they were also dudes who didn't mind riding a horse through the mountains in the winter or fighting poisonous snakes singlehanded while traversing a swamp to get to their next charge; they were rather rough-and-ready types of men. (*Presbyterian ministers, even today, have the strictest educational requirements of all the mainline Protestants, but it's not that much more than Methodists.)

LMM's stuffiest Presbyterians often save their worst disdain for Free Methodists, who were both hardcore abolitionists AND who forbade pew taxes, where a church maintained itself and its minister by having each family who attended "rent" a pew (that's why in Anne of Green Gables, she had to be directed to the Cuthbert pew), and the rabble would sit in the balcony, if they even fit. Free Methodists let ANYONE who walked in off the street, black or white, rich or poor, sit ANYWHERE they wanted in the church, the rabble rubbing shoulders with the rich and powerful! Shocking! ... at least to the sensibilities of LMM's stuffiest Presbyterians. She often signals virtuous characters by having them be cool with the Free Methodists (even though they themselves are Presbyterians). Valancy Stirling, in My Blue Castle, distinguishes herself from her hypocritical Presbyterian family by attended the backwoods Free Methodist Church when breaking away from them -- and even getting married by the Free Methodist minister.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:05 PM on October 23, 2019 [6 favorites]


(There's a robust tradition of New World Methodist ministers coming out on top in fistfights, is what I'm saying.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 7:10 PM on October 23, 2019 [2 favorites]


I just read this yesterday: Aunt Philippa and the Men - one of those early L.M. Montgomery short stories where you see her figuring out where to put things. In this one "Aunt Philippa" is a Miss Cornelia figure who rails against the men and Methodists, and eventually helps her niece get married (reminiscent of Rilla's wedding scene) by a Methodist minister. It's not an amazing story, but has a lot of familiar themes - impulsive anger and stubbornness wrecking a romantic relationship, supportive single aunts, etc.
posted by toastyk at 3:24 PM on November 13, 2019


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