Although my work on the last volume of The L.M. Montgomery Reader is done, I still on occasion come across reviews of Montgomery’s books that I might have wanted to include in the volume. Just today I found the following review of Anne of Avonlea in the 16 October 1909 issue of The Congregationalist and Christian World, a Boston church magazine.
Would it be possible to follow a successful story for girls, extending over the period of school life, with a love novel of the heroine’s after experience? Miss Montgomery evidently does not think so, for she has declined the task in her Anne of Avonlea (Page, $1.50), which carries on the life of her delightful “Anne of Green Gables” only to the first glimmering dawn of her recognition of the day of quiet love. The new book cannot bring us the happy surprise of its predecessor, nor does it move in so well-marked a sphere of experience. From the dramatic unities it slips easily, however, into the pleasant task of chronicling the progress of a happy girl’s life. Anne is well worth knowing as schoolmarm of seventeen and village improver.
The touch is neither so unconscious nor so sure as in the charming earlier story, but the book is well worth reading by all Anne’s lovers, if it were only for her delightful bits of moral philosophy—her’s [sic] and the mischievous twin’s. It is the latter who says, after an escapade of compelling his prim and proper sister to walk the pigpen fence, “I feel sorry now myself, but the trouble is, I never feel sorry for doing things till after I’ve did them.” But it is Anne who counters on the man who believes in “telling the truth to everybody,” by saying: “But you don’t tell the whole truth, you only tell the disagreeable part of the truth. Now you’ve told me a dozen times that my hair was red, but you’ve never once told me that I had a nice nose.” The story is rich in such material of wise and humorous casuistry. It belongs both on the shelf for girls’ reading and among the books with which sagacious grown-ups refresh their souls.
What do you think of this assessment of Montgomery’s second book as good but not so good as Anne of Green Gables, as evidence of Montgomery finding it impossible to write the love story of the heroine of a story for girls? (This reviewer didn’t know that Anne of the Island would follow six years later.) Would this second novel have been more successful had the plot been anchored around resolving the love story of Anne and Gilbert?