I really, really, really wanted to love this book. Reading all of the Anne of Green Gables books in a row is something I’ve really enjoyed. However, I was warned early on that the even number books are the more challenging ones to read. But Anne of the Windy Poplars? It’s not even a *part* of my Anne of Green Gables complete collection! Okay, okay. I can forgive that. After all, it was published in 1936, 17 years after the series “concluded”. It’s also (supposedly) a collection of letters from Anne Shirley to Gilbert Blythe. I love epistolary novels! And yet… and yet… this book almost fell completely flat for me.
Anne of the Windy Poplars covers the three years Anne Shirley is teaching as the principal of Summerside High School. She’s living away from Green Gables and, like with her time at Redmond, about to discover friends and adventures away from the familiarity of the Island. As you might recall from the previous book,
First of all, let’s chat about the epistolary element. I love books which are collections of letters. Often times, I adore these books far more than I should. However, Montgomery’s execution for this style is all off. I don’t think I’d mind the change in writing style from the previous novels if it was consistent. We have chapters where Anne is obviously writing to Gilbert and others where it seems like our omniscient third-person narrator has jumped in again. These breaks are unclear and disrupted my reading enjoyment. I found myself stopping and asking, “Wait, did this change? Why did this change?”
It was really rather dreadful to be so different from other people… and yet rather wonderful, too, as if you were being strayed from another star.
I also struggled with the occasional section where Montgomery indicates pages are omitted. This implies we are reading a collection of letters after the fact. Fine. Since the narration didn’t always feel like we were consistently reading letters, I would have hoped the third-person narrative interruption in reading came from whoever is reading these letters. Alas, it was not to be. Instead, there were these strange breaks for seemingly no reason.
I really enjoyed our new cast of characters. Particularly, I enjoyed the women of Windy Poplars. I loved how the widows kept secrets from each other yet banded together to keep Rebecca Dew happy. These three women all had their quirks and unique personalities which made me fall in love with them quickly. I could certainly have done with more about Windy Poplars, for sure. And Elizabeth is certainly a noteworthy and lovely character. Yes, she does more-or-less become a representation of young Anne, and yes, her story is one we’ve heard before in other books– but that doesn’t make her wide-eyed wonder and active imagination any less magical. Elizabeth and Rebecca Dew kept my attention throughout these pages.
But I believe I rather like superstitious people. They lend color to life. Wouldn’t it be a rather drab world if everybody was wise and sensible… and good? What would we find to talk about?
I was frustrated with the incompetence and rambling nature of all the secondary characters. I felt like everyone in Summerside who did not live in or around Windy Poplars was an excessive, gossipy chatterbox! I honestly skimmed far more of this book than I have skimmed any book in years. From Aunt Mouser’s ramblings about all the terrible things to happen at weddings to Miss Valentine giving Anne a graveyard tour to Minerva Tomgallon describing how everyone came to unfortunate circumstances in her cursed mansion– I just didn’t care. So many secondary characters rambled on and on about things which never really mattered or came to anything. It is frustrating.
I still adore Montgomery’s prose. Lighthearted, clever, and beautiful– there are lines everywhere throughout I read and completely fall in love with. I feel like I could read the worst content ever by Montgomery and still completely fall in love with the way she writes. Take this for example:
The narrow, steep stair was repellent. It didn’t want you. Nobody would go up who didn’t have to.
Beautiful and brilliant. Who thinks of stairwells like this? L.M. Montgomery, that’s who.
The most redeeming factor in Anne of Window Poplars is how lovely Anne Shirley still is. Because don’t get me wrong, while this might be a 2-star review, I would read this book again just for Anne herself. What I love about Anne’s character in this novel is how she is challenged to meeting so many things head on. Anne Shirley might be scared, frustrated, or despondent, but she never gives up. Yes, many of these situations just magically seem to work themselves out. But that’s okay! That’s part of the magic of these books. The message here is around pushing oneself beyond your boundaries and comfort zones. There are some amazing and wonderful lessons in these pages.
But she was feeling positively aghast. She had never meant for things to go as far as this. She was finding out it is much easier to start things than to finish them.
In the end, I think this is a worthy addition to the Anne of Green Gables series. It is certainly not my favorite book, but it does add some depth to Anne’s character and delivers some strong messages about what it means to push yourself and to be a good neighbor. Recommended to any fans of Anne of Green Gables who have not quite gotten to this book.
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Other Anne of Windy Poplars Reviews
What do you think?
- Have you read Anne of Windy Poplars? Do you agree or disagree with my reflections?
- When has the execution of a novel last distracted you?
- Have you ever continued a series knowing, or hoping, it would improve over time?