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.
First published in 1917, Anne’s House of Dreams follows the story of Anne and Gilbert’s early marriage and their time spent in the little house near the village of Glen St. Mary where Gilbert is establishing himself as a doctor. Anne has significantly grown up since she first appeared in Anne of Green Gables and her childishly romantic ideals of the perfect house have changed dramatically and she soon falls in love with the house by the sea. However, Anne’s romantic nature hasn’t completely disappeared as she is soon enchanted when she hears the stories about the previous brides who have lived in her house.
Anne meets some new characters, including the wonderful Captain Jim, who shares his stories of the sea, and Miss Cornelia Bryant, who blames the woes of the world on the inadequacy of men. However, the most enigmatic of Anne’s new acquaintances is the beautiful Leslie Moore who has lived a life of tragedy and is trapped in a loveless marriage. For once, Anne’s charms seem inadequate as Leslie rebuffs her attempts at friendship but Anne yearns to provide her with some sort of solace. Leslie is a complex character who longs for Anne’s companionship but she also resents all the happiness in Anne’s life knowing she can never experience it.
However, Anne’s idyllic life is soon shattered when she almost dies giving birth to her first child, a daughter who only lives for a few hours. The tragedy brings Leslie and Anne together in a way that wouldn’t have been possible before and the two women soon develop a close relationship. Leslie’s story takes a dramatic twist when a young writer, Owen Ford, the grandson of the people who used to live in Anne’s house, comes to recuperate by the sea. Lodging with Leslie, Owen soon confesses to Anne he has fallen hopelessly in love with Leslie and Anne is heartsick for her friend knowing the feelings are reciprocated. Leslie’s situation is one the young Anne would have considered romantically tragic but the mature Anne is torn for the pain her friend is experiencing.
As Owen returns to the city, Leslie grieves for what might have been before resuming her life of servitude but Gilbert offers a further twist when he tells her about a possible cure for her husband. Twelve years ago, Leslie’s husband, Dick, went away to sea where he suffered a head injury which left him with brain damage, however Dick was an unpleasant man before his accident and a cure may lead to Leslie having to endure his abuse once more. Although Anne is deeply upset with Gilbert for even suggesting the surgery, Gilbert’s conscience as a physician demands he tell Leslie the truth and she agrees to travel to the city so Dick can undergo the procedure.
An anxious Anne then receives a letter which turns everything on its head as she learns the procedure was a success and it turns out Leslie was actually caring for Dick’s lookalike cousin George all these years. As George regains his memory, he reveals Dick is dead and that he was on his way to tell Leslie when he was attacked and robbed. George and Dick were so alike, they were often mistaken as twins and that’s why no one noticed the difference when Dick was brought home. I have to admit this part of the story had me rolling my eyes even when I read it as a teenager because It takes a lot to swallow this part of the story.
As delightful as the new characters are I’m still miffed that Gilbert was shortchanged in this book, we’ve had to wait a long time for Anne and Gilbert to finally be married but they barely interact in this story and he is relegated to the background as Anne pursues her friendship with Leslie. The moments we do get are very sweet but the loss of their baby isn’t handled at all well as the focus is all on Anne and no-one seems concerned with how Gilbert feels. I know it is a product of its time but it’s still a shame we couldn’t see Anne and Gilbert grieving together.