Sunday, December 14, 2008

Anne of the Island, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

The third in the Anne of Green Gables series, in which Anne Shirley finds herself weighing up romantic, idealised love against real love, as embodied in the person of Gilbert Blythe. On the way Anne takes up with some pals and rents a nice little cottage while she studies.

For some reason, as I read this novel Schopenhauer’s dictum that we often don’t know what our true ‘wills’ are constantly came to mind. What this philosophy means is that we don’t know what we are in life, what our true life force is, even though we think we do.

Hence Anne thinks that the attentions of Roy Gardner are in perfect harmony with her flighty ideas of romance. Gilbert Blythe, on the other hand, can only offer a mundane, prosaic offer of marriage. She rejects Gilbert, but her heart soon becomes confused over what she wants.

If you’ve ever watched the silly TV show, Sex and The City, you will see Carrie Bradshaw, played by Sarah Jessica Parker, go through the same emotional turmoil. When Carrie is proposed to, accepts, and then tries on a wedding dress, she has a panic attack, asphyxiates and breaks out in a violent rash. Her body actually rejects the dress. In another scene she vomits when proposed to, due to the fact that she is unsure of her feelings. Or when the man she thought she was well and truly over, Mr Big, breezily announces he’s having a bit of routine heart surgery, Carrie bursts into tears. She's deeply worried about him, still in love with him. Head says one thing, heart does another.

Sorry for that digression. (Actually, here’s another. A quote used to end chapter 40 from the bible is the same used by Mariah Carey on her Emancipation of Mimi album on the song Fly Like A Bird. ‘Weeping may endure for a night but joy cometh in the morning.’)

I really loved this novel, almost as much as the first. The reason for its success I think is the universal themes it addresses, within a context of Christian forbearance. Indeed, these novels are quite philosophical. I can imagine the Dalai Lama getting a kick out of them.

Anne is always trying to balances life’s dreams against life’s realities. Being a grown up means frequently doing things we don’t like. Alas, all seems to come right for those who wait and endure longest. Delayed gratification pays off in the end.

My favourite quote comes at the end. Surely Dr Freud would be fascinated by the following from Gilbert Blythe when professing his long held love to Anne Shirley:

‘I’ve loved you ever since that day you broke your slate over my head in school.’

The mind reels...

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