Why Anne's House of Dreams is an Underrated Classic
Updated: Nov 5, 2020
The fifth book in the Anne of Green Gables series and the 4th one to be written, Anne’s House of Dream’s is one of my all-time favorite stories. Written in 1917, it is the shortest installment of the series. And yet, it in no way feels cut short or lacking in narrative and depth. I would argue that it is some of L.M. Montgomery’s best work.
In this article, I will discuss what makes the novel so wonderful and what I personally love about it. I hope by the end some of you who haven’t read it yet will have some newfound inspiration to do so. I promise you won’t be disappointed.
The first thing that will likely stand out to you in ‘House of Dreams is the masterfully crafted and lovable characters. Besides spirited, wistful Anne and practical, kindhearted Gilbert, we meet four new main characters in this story.
The first is Captain Jim. He is an old sea captain who runs the Four Winds lighthouse. His eyes are full of kindness and wisdom that only comes from age, and he is a storyteller unlike any other. Anne and Gilbert are immediately drawn to Captain Jim upon meeting him and spend many a cold and windy night circled around the fireplace listening to his stories. He has somewhat of a romantic, tragic backstory that sits below all of his jovial and somber sailor tales. As you read the book, you will slowly peel back the layers of his character and grow to love him more and more.
The next new character we meet is Miss Cornelia. She is a precocious, hardworking chatterbox who lives near Anne in the seaside village of Four Winds. She might seem like a prickly gossip at first, but you’ll come to realize that she is really an empathetic and reliable soul who will become a life-long friend of the Blythe’s.
The third and most memorable character in my opinion is Leslie Moore. Her character arch is a key driving force for the overall story and gives Anne a lot to tackle and learn. Her unfathomable backstory and unpleasant situation in life is fascinating from the very beginning. Montgomery wrote her character and story so well that you will be fully invested from the moment Anne first meets her on the island shore.
“You know if we've got anything about us that hurts we shrink from anyone's touch on or near it. It holds good with our souls as well as our bodies, I reckon. Leslie's soul must be near raw - it's no wonder she hides it away.”
The fourth and final central character we meet is Owen Ford. He is a writer staying in Four Winds in order to try and start his first great novel. His storyline will become crucially connected to that of Captain Jim and Leslie. I will not describe the details of his plotline with Leslie, because that story is so complex it would be best for you to experience it for yourself. With Captain Jim, on the other hand, Owen will collaborate on the Magnum Opus of the old sea captain’s life. As I said previously, Captain Jim is known for his riveting accounts of a life spent sailing the world. But Owen will bring his stories to life in a wonderfully written “Life Book”.
In several of the Anne books, the events take place sequentially in little vignettes that typically last about a chapter each. It is a fun and engaging format, but not the entire series is written this way. Anne’s House of Dreams is one where the plot flows more smoothly and slowly through the whole thing. It is a very character-driven story, and so much of the book is spent with Anne building friendships with her neighbors, reveling in tales of the past, and enjoying the beauty of her new life in the small coastal village.
I think what makes this book stand out so much is the heart-wrenching plot lines that Lucy Maud threads through the story. Anne is swept into a new world with people facing problems that she never has. Her empathy and earnest desire to help people will lead her into drama, joy, despair, and shock. But in the end, her kind heart and loyalty will triumph.
The book is a rollercoaster of emotions; you will laugh and likely cry. I won’t go into much more detail, because of course, it is always best to read it for yourself. But I will simply say the plot in this novel is worthy of film adaption, without a doubt. There have been so many movies and shows for the first and second Anne books, but I would be ecstatic if someone saw the genius in this story and decided to write it for the big screen.
Another thing I love about Anne’s House of Dreams is the wonderful setting, descriptions, and graceful prose. All three make for such an immersive reading experience. L.M. Montgomery’s depictions of nature and atmosphere and changing seasons fill me with pure joy.
The settings we find in Four Winds are beautiful to read about and imagine in my mind. There is the harbor, the lighthouse which sits peacefully on the red sandstone cliffs, the rocky shoreline where land and sea collide, the sand dunes, and of course the little white “house of dreams”. Many a cozy autumn night is spent around the hearth in Anne and Gilberts home with dear friends, and many a wintery evening spent listening to stories at Captain Jim’s lighthouse. Spring days are spent in Anne’s old, memory-filled garden, and summer outings always lead our characters down to the ever-changing sea.
“Silence and twilight fell over the garden. Far away the sea was lapping gently and monotonously on the bar. The wind of evening in the poplars sounded like some sad, weird old rune-some broken dream of old memories. A slender, shapely young aspen rose up before them against the fine maize and emerald and paling rose of the western sky, which brought out every leaf and twig in dark, tremulous, elfin loveliness.”
L. M. Montgomery’s writing style, I believe, can touch the heart of any reader whose path it crosses. Reading this lovely book will put you in such a wistful, pensive mood. You will start to drift away from realities into a world of musings and splendor. It is not just any work of literature that can plant in your heart a greater appreciation for simple things in life, like sunsets and gardens, telling stories with friends, staying warm in your home while the world outside is a blizzard, and becoming so close with someone that you form an unbreakable bond.
In conclusion, I would like to reiterate my view that Anne’s House of Dreams is a timeless classic that everyone should read at least once. The characters, story, tone, and prose are all so beautiful and memorable. I hope more people will come to love the book as much as I do.
“It's so beautiful that it hurts me,' said Anne softly. 'Perfect things like that always did hurt me — I remember I called it "the queer ache" when I was a child. What is the reason that pain like this seems inseparable from perfection? Is it the pain of finality — when we realise that there can be nothing beyond but retrogression?'
'Perhaps,' said Owen dreamily, 'it is the prisoned infinite in us calling out to its kindred infinite as expressed in that visible perfection.”
Find the novel here and get yourself a copy!