From the back of the book:
Anne Shirley has left Redmond College behind to begin a new job and a new chapter of her life away from Green Gables. Now she faces a new challenge: the Pringles. They’re known as the royal family of Summerside – and they quickly let Anne know she is not the person they had wanted as principal of Summerside High School. But as she settles into the cozy tower room at Windy Poplars, Anne finds that she has great allies in the widows Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty – and in their irrepressible housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. As Anne learns Summerside’s strangest secrets, winning the support of the prickly Pringles becomes only the first of her delicious triumphs.
Anne of Windy Poplars is the fourth book in reading order of L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables series, which I am reading for Lindsay’s Green Gables Readalong. I’ve been a little bit wary about revisiting this book. It’s always been my least favourite of the Anne series… and after reading this, I’ve become more aware of exactly why I’m not partial to this book at all. During this reading, I also revisited parts of Mary Henley Rubio’s Lucy Maud Montgomery: The Gift of Wings (phenomenal book, by the way – I highly recommend that you read it if you’re ever looking for insight into Montgomery’s life and works) to see what background I could get into Anne of Windy Poplars.
I’ve always felt this book wasn’t true to the spirit of the rest of the series – it doesn’t FEEL like an Anne book, and I find there’s a lack of spirit with this book that could have made it true to the series. Rubio’s book talks a lot about when and how Montgomery wrote her books – this was the second last one in the series written (written in 1939 – 18 years after the previously written book in the series, and Montgomery apparently wrote it because at that point in time she needed the money that she would be getting from royalties for the book. It wasn’t necessarily propelled by love of the characters, and I think that really shows through. Anne of Windy Poplars really reads like Montgomery is tired of the story and the characters. This was also the book that Montgomery took the least amount of time writing (only 7 months), and if there had been just a little bit more time spent on it, I have no doubt that characterizations could have been more consistent, and more subtlety could have been added to certain themes and ideas that Montgomery spoke about in this book.
Overall, the narration style as a whole doesn’t do well with me. I think this is actually the book that set off my initial dislike for epistolary novels. The voice that comes through in Anne’s letters doesn’t SOUND like the Anne we heard in the first 3 books. She sounds so distinctly different, but not necessarily like she’s an older version of herself. More like she’s a completely separate character. Where is the imagination that we have come to love? Where is the devotion to bosom friends? Where is that SPARK that makes her come off of the pages and practically a real-life character? I don’t like being inside of Anne’s head in this way.
There isn’t much character development either – whether in Anne or in any secondary characters (aside from the wonderful Katherine Brooks, which I will get to later). There’s no character depth. It comes across that each character is flat and one-dimensional. It’s like each character only cares about one thing in their life – and in the case of Anne, it almost sounds like the only thing she cares about is Gilbert. The rest is just stuff that will pass her time until she can marry him, but doesn’t serve much actual purpose or importance in her life. Boring!
Then there is the fact that everyone loves and adores Anne (with the exception of the Pringles at the beginning of the book, and one other couple that appears for only a scant couple of pages). In fact, we are told by numerous characters on numerous occasions how utterly amazing and wonderful Anne is, and how there is no one else who could ever compare to her complete awesomeness. I don’t want to be told this! First of all, if you’ve gotten to this book, you probably already know this. Second of all, if it needs to be communicated, why can’t the reader be SHOWN that she’s awesome and amazing, instead of constantly being hit over the head with a 2×4?
The bright spot in this whole book is, of course, Katherine Brooks. It’s no wonder that, when Sullivan Entertainment combined books 2, 3 and 4 into one movie, that she was still one of the prominent parts of the story. She completely transforms from this woman who hates the world and everyone in it, to someone who completely embraces all of life and living. All of the character depth in this novel seems to have gone directly into this one character, and it is almost worth reading this whole book just to get those small glimpses that appear of Katherine Brooks. I wish she had a role in the later books.
The Bottom Line
So glad I’m done reading Anne of Windy Poplars. Now it’s just going to be other Anne books that I enjoy more! (IMO, if you’re reading your way through this series, you won’t miss anything by skipping this book.)