I was introduced to the Anne series by 'Anne of the Island' recently, and I find it quite an unforgettable experience. The Anne series are one of those rare books that can make you stay up all night in order to finish the book, but leave a nostalgic tang once the story is over.
L.M. Montgomery's vivid descriptions of the nature surrounding the quaint, rural Island transports us into that very world, whilst reminiscing childhood days in a wonderfully sentimental way. We laugh, feel, see, hear, cry and share dreams with Anne. We grew up with her and her friends -- Diana, Gilbert, Marilla, Mrs Rachel Lynde, Matthew... it's as if we have merged with Anne throughout her years and are conscious of everything she feels.
The Anne series are very bittersweet; the ending of 'Anne of Green Gables' being something sorrowful and triumphant at the same time. Matthew had passed by at last, leaving sweet memories behind. But the loss is made up with the gain of a new friend, Gilbert Blythe. "You’ve thwarted destiny long enough," he says. Here the stage is set. Anne and Gilbert's fate is sealed, foreshadowing that in the later future they are meant for each other.
'Anne of Avonlea' follows in the same vein, where Anne ends the story with Gilbert, once again. In the dusky failing light, Anne catches a glimpse into her 'veiled' heart when she gazes into Gilbert's eyes. The 'veiled heart' symbolizes something that has hidden her true innermost feelings, and it closes down upon her again, there hanging dusty for years until she finds it again in 'Anne of the Island'. Foreshadowing is heavy in this book, with subtle hints by Diana and Marilla scattered all over the chapters.
She also has to deal with changes in life, and it is hard for her to accept it. Being the hopeless romantic she is, she desperately hopes for a constant in her small but precious world, a ‘bubble in time’ where nothing fades away. She wants to stay as kids with Diana, she wants Gilbert to remain friends and nothing more, and she wants to stay in Avonlea for the rest of her life. But she finds herself slowly drifting away from that 'world', and she sighs regretfully at the end as she looks out at the eternal beauty of Avonlea.
Not only that, Anne has finally reached the 'bend in her road', as she described romantically in the closure of the first book, and is boldly walking on to find out what is on the other end. She finds four years at Redmond College at the turn of the bend, and four years of companionship with Gilbert, who is also going with her. By entering college, she is continuing the dream that was shrouded after the death of Matthew, picking off where she left off in 'Anne of Green Gables'. This ending merges into an interlude appropriate for the next book of the series: 'Anne of the Island'.
'Anne of the Island' starts off with a light tone, but no doubt Anne Shirley will have to confront with more conflicts and changes in life than ever. She is rapidly leaving girlhood and must now come to acknowledge that romantic love will soon play an important part in the sweetest, most delicate chapter in a woman's life.
Here the 'veiled heart' comes back to haunt Anne, when she is faced with a proposal by Gilbert. She turns down the proposal, deluded into believing that she has no intimate feelings for her boy-comrade of old. She is also further confused by her imagination of what love it supposed to be like, and what love really is. That very theme is portrayed in her affections for Roy Gardner as opposed to those for Gilbert Blythe. Quoting a line in ‘Anne of Avonlea’:
“Perhaps, after all, romance did not come into one’s life with a pomp and a blare, like a gay knight riding down; perhaps it crept to one’s side like an old friend through quiet ways; perhaps it revealed itself in seeming prose, until some sudden shaft of illumination flung athwart its pages betrayed the rhythm and the music; perhaps… perhaps… love unfolded naturally out of a beautiful friendship, as a golden-hearted rose slipping from its green sheath.”
The book closes with a sentimental scene in Hester Gray's garden, where Anne is wistful that she has finally entered into a new chapter in life, leaving girlish desires and dreams for ever. She will now step into wifehood, and at that moment Anne reaches another bend in the road. But this time she knows what will be in the corner.
With the closure of 'Anne of the Island', the supposed trilogy is fully over. Although later books will paint pleasant pictures of Anne and her family, the first three books will always remain the closest to the readers’ heart. Anne started off in Avonlea with hopeful, fresh dreams in 'Anne of Green Gables', and left Avonlea in ‘Anne of the Island’ with dreams fulfilled and rose-tinted memories in the garret of her heart.