At sixteen, Anne is grown up…almost. Her gray eyes shine like evening stars, but her red hair is still as peppery as her temper. In the years since she arrived at Green Gables as a freckle-faced orphan, she has earned the love of the people of Avonlea and a reputation for getting into scrapes. But when Anne begins her job as the new schoolteacher, the real test of her character begins.
Along with teaching the three Rs, she is learning how complicated life can be when she meddles in someone else’s romance, finds two new orphans at Green Gables, and wonders about the strange behaviour of the very handsome Gilbert Blythe. As Anne enters womanhood, her adventures touch the heart and the funny bone.
Anne of Avonlea was first published in 1909 and it continues the story of Anne Shirley over the two year period she’s employed as the schoolteacher at the Avonlea school.
Now sixteen, Anne is till mourning the death of Matthew while facing the reality Green Gables may have to be sold, however Diana Barry’s father saves the day by renting parcels of land which gives Marilla enough income to keep the farmhouse. Although disappointed she won’t be going to Redmond College, Anne is determined to look after Marilla and she concentrates on her new role as a schoolteacher. Anne’s pupils are a diverse bunch but she is ecstatic with the arrival of Paul Irving, a Canadian-American boy, who has an imagination to rival Anne’s and they two are instant kindred spirits.
While not teaching, Anne and her friends set up the the Avonlea Village Improvement Society which gets them into all sorts of scrapes and brings Anne into contact with many of Avonlea’s most colourful characters. Anne’s circle of friends widens significantly as she gets to know her gruff new neighbour, Mr. Harrison and his foul-mouthed parrot. However, the peace at Green Gables is rocked by the arrival of Davy and Dora Keith, six-year-old twins distantly related to Marilla, who have just lost their mother. Marilla agrees to care for the twins temporarily while their uncle is indisposed, however it soon becomes obvious they will be a permanent fixture.
While Dora is a sweet-natured little girl who fades somewhat into the background, Davy is a far more naughty child who gets into a lot of trouble. Both Anne and Marilla love Davy the most because of his rebellious nature but Davy is obnoxious rather than loveable and he also has a cruel streak. It is really difficult reading how dismissive everyone is about poor Dora because she seems so bland in comparison to Davy. Anne, more than anyone, knows what is liked to be ignored and this is one aspect of her character that really disappointed me.
Throughout the book, Anne’s relationship with her friends is slowly changing as they all begin to grow up but Anne is still genuinely shocked when her best friend, Diana Barry, becomes engaged and she begins to realise her friends are moving on without her. When Mrs. Rachel Lynde is widowed, Marilla offers her a place at Green Gables so Anne will be free to attend college as originally planned. Suddenly, Anne has a whole different future ahead of her and she is more than willing to embrace it, however the same cannot be said about her relationship with Gilbert Blythe. Gilbert is in love with Anne and the whole of Avonlea is aware of it but she remains oblivious even though Gilbert seems to have somehow acquired a starring role in Anne’s house of dreams. Nevertheless, Anne and Gilbert are soon making plans to attend Redmond College together.
While I appreciate being a teacher requires seriousness, I think the book gets rather bogged down by Anne’s interaction with her pupils and their school work, so it is a relief when the fun and meddlesome Anne reappears.