#AnneReadAlong2017 : Anne of Windy Poplars

August 17, 2017
Anne of Windy Poplars Book Cover Anne of Windy Poplars
Anne of Green Gables, #4
L. M. Montgomery
Historical Fiction
Turtleback Books
December 1st, 1983
Paperback
288
Library
1936

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 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 triumphs. 

(via Goodreads)

 

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, Anne and Gilbert have recently become engaged. However, Gilbert is at medical school for these three years, so Anne goes off to teach. What results is a series of letters from Anne to Gilbert describing her time living in Summerside.

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. It is implied that these omitted pages are actually the lovey-dovey sections of Anne’s letters to Gilbert, but never stated. This also frustrates me, since Anne is suddenly quite besotted with Gilbert where at the end of book 3 she had only just realized she loved him. It seemed… out of character. It was yet another way this new format distracted me.

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.


Are you participating in #AnneReadAlong2017? If so, post the link to your review below and we’ll add you to the list! You can also join us on Twitter with the hashtag #AnneReadAlong2017 and by commenting and discussing on all the Anne series reviews. Finally, we would love you to join our Top 5 list postings as well! We look forward to interacting with you!


Other Anne of Windy Poplars Reviews

Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf

Sarah @ Sarah Emsley

Melanie @ Grab the Lapels

Naomi @ Consumed by Ink


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?

38 Comments

  • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer August 17, 2017 at 4:46 pm

    It bugs me when the format of a book disrupts the story causing a straightforward story to be a better fit! Also it sounds like she was a little too true to how letters really were written back then, lol! Gossip was a mega part of letter writing as they were also conversations they were having across long distances. (or short distances eve lol)

    I’m glad though that the character remained true!! That is hard to do when a format is jerking around the narrative so kudos to the author! And I find it surprising how often I find I’m not upset about having read a 2 star book. You’d think I’d be bummed having wasted my time but I’m not its all good to me.

    Do you read a lot of books set in letter form? Because that would be a super fun list (hint, hint) <3

    I've read one other that I can remember off the top of my head… The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and the format worked for the most part but there was that line that the author crossed in NOT keeping to the format… so it seems a regular problem… great review Jackie! I enjoyed it. <3

    • Jackie B August 18, 2017 at 9:53 am

      I have a draft of a post about epistolary novels coming up; you have only reinforced how important is I finish that. Because, as you might have guessed, I adore them! I read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society and it is definitely one of my favorites. Other favorites are Sleeping Giants (Review to be posted early next week!) and The Illuminae Files (Reviews for all these will be linked in the Sleeping Giants post! 😉 Feel free to hunt them down now though).

      I am certainly glad I read this book. It just shows how inconsistent my rating are. I just don’t think I’ll re-read this book, but it was valuable to me!

      I really appreciate you pointing out that this is reflective of how letters were written back then. Honestly, that had never occurred to me! That makes me a bit more forgiving. I sometimes forget the historical context; particularly since the first few Anne books were so timeless. I guess this one just didn’t hold up as well over time?

      • Dani @ Perspective of a Writer August 18, 2017 at 12:07 pm

        Yeah we don’t write letters like that anymore and haven’t for a while so I can see how w that’s true! It’s similar to Kim… back when it was written Brits knew India almost as well as their own country so he used tons and tons of references people who had been there would know. When we read it (especially without annotations preferable at the bottom) we are drowning in places we don’t know and can’t relate to. It’s why people who read Kim expecting The Jungle Book give it 3 star when the story is arguably WAY better.

        You know though I realized when I wrote my last discussion post that I’m inconsistent with ratings… some of it is determined by what I read around the book, if I was in a depressive mood or more upbeat. So I wouldn’t worry about it! ♥️

        • Jackie B August 21, 2017 at 9:06 am

          Well, that’s a GREAT pro-tip: Get an annotated copy of Kim if I am to read it. I really do love Kipling’s works– I should read more of them. Particularly since they are all public domain! It’s amazing how changes in common knowledge, culture, and society can completely change how a book is received over time. That’s really how we determine a Classic, right? If they can withstand the test of time…

          Thanks, Dani! It helps to hear that. Mood readers unite! 😀

  • KrystiYAandWine August 18, 2017 at 7:14 pm

    Anne sounds like such a fantastic character. I do have a hard time with books where the secondary characters feel really flat though. For me that makes the books so much less immersive, so that’s a tough one, and I can certainly see why it warranted a two star rating. I also love the use of letters in stories, but you’re so right. That is all about the execution. It has to be done so well, or it just falls entirely flat. Excellent review! 🙂

    • Jackie B August 23, 2017 at 8:58 am

      Anne is SUCH a fantastic character. She has so much depth and life– she’s highly imaginative, kind, and forgiving, yet she still has tons of flaws. My favorite part of Anne’s character is her inability to see her own shortcomings. That makes her incredibly relatable to me.

      Dani @ Perspective of a Writer pointed out that what I see as an execution flaw might just be a historical concern– that what I enjoy in letters now doesn’t really fit letters from the early 1900s. *shrugs* Something worth considering…

      • KrystiYAandWine August 24, 2017 at 1:48 pm

        You’re making me really want to read these books, which is a serious problem right now. LOL. I love MG/YA books that have such wonderful protagonists, particularly wonderful female protagonists. I need to get to these one day even if I can’t right now.

        That’s a really interesting point. I can see that with Frankenstein as well. The journal entries of that book were a little droll in comparison to the ones in Dracula, but could be more accurate to the time period as well. It would be interesting to have a historian’s perspective on that.

        • Jackie B August 26, 2017 at 10:14 am

          I know you’ll get to Anne and her adventures someday. It’ll be hard not to! How deep is your TBR? 😉

          I will embarrasingly admit I haven’t read either Dracula or Frankenstein yet. I do have a copy of Frankenstein somewhere around my house (hiding in one of the many stacks somewhere…), so I know I’ll get to them eventually. I don’t know why I haven’t yet. O_o Anyway– I’m sure someone has discussed the historical perspective of these books at some time. Perhaps I’ll dig into it an find out for sure.

          • KrystiYAandWine August 27, 2017 at 6:11 pm

            Someday! I’m at least 15-20 deep per month through December. LOL.

            No need to be embarrassed. I never have time to read classics anymore, so I’m going to fall woefully behind I’m afraid. Just like how I haven’t gotten to Anne yet! 🙂 Let me know if you find anything on that. I’d love to know more! 🙂

            • Jackie B August 29, 2017 at 10:13 am

              Wait– 10-15 books to read per month through December?! Are you scheduled that far out with your posts? Do you ever SLEEP?

              • KrystiYAandWine August 29, 2017 at 10:56 am

                Hahaha. That’s what I have scheduled. I end up reading 15-25 per month. I listen to a lot of audio books and use text to speech for eARCs for when I run and when I commute, so that get me through a lot of books. 🙂

              • Jackie B August 29, 2017 at 11:48 am

                That’s brilliant! I love audiobooks– but I’ve never used text to speech. What app/tool/device do you use for that?

              • KrystiYAandWine August 29, 2017 at 6:36 pm

                It’s actually just an iPhone setting you can turn on or off. It reads in Siri’s voice, so it definitely takes getting used to and isn’t for everyone. I’ve done it so much now though that I don’t even notice.

              • Jackie B August 29, 2017 at 8:21 pm

                OHMAN. I have to check that out. My Siri voice is definitely the male Australian voice… I think I could handle that… 😉

              • KrystiYAandWine August 30, 2017 at 7:38 pm

                Well, mine is the male British voice, but it only reads in classic Siri.

              • Jackie B August 31, 2017 at 10:52 am

                Drat. Classic Siri is a bit annoying. Well, I’ll try it anyway. 😀

              • KrystiYAandWine August 31, 2017 at 8:55 pm

                You’ll have to let me know what you think. It’s super weird. Not gonna lie. LOL.

  • Grab the Lapels August 22, 2017 at 8:03 am

    I shared my link in Jane’s page. One way to approach book four is to think of it like a collection instead of a novel. LMM wrote many short stories, and this book, as you mention, came so much later. I think she skipped the time it would take Gilbert to go to medical school, and then fans demanded to know what Anne was doing all that time. Like I also told have, you’ll love book five! Cohesive, sad, happy, great new characters.

    • Jackie B August 25, 2017 at 8:59 am

      I like considering this as a collection for short stories– I had no idea that LMM wrote short stories. I really need to learn more about her! Shame on me. 😉

      It does make me happy on one level that LMM catered to her fans. Going back and giving Anne a life while Gilbert is in medical school is pretty important. And also feminist! Anne was an independent woman during a time few were. I love that.

      Bring on book 5! Anne’s House of Dreams. The title puts me off, but I trust you. 😉

      • Grab the Lapels August 25, 2017 at 3:19 pm

        Thank you! She’s a dreamer, so the “dream” make sense. It has some dark scenes, too.

  • Laila@BigReadingLife August 22, 2017 at 2:11 pm

    It’s funny, some of the things that annoyed you worked for me! (I just finished it last night. Haven’t yet written my review.) I was actually glad when the chapters switched from epistolary to a more straightforward narrative. I wasn’t in love with the epistolary format. I also was SO GRATEFUL not to have to read any lovey-dovey stuff between Anne and Gilbert! Ha ha!

    I’m glad you enjoyed the widows and Rebecca. They were wonderful characters. I really enjoyed this book far more than I thought I would. Low expectations seems to work for me this time. I thought there were so many characters in the town who were completely AWFUL people, but once Anne worked her magic on them, I was okay.

    Interesting that this wasn’t included in your collection! I’m reading them as separately published volumes, clearly marked with the number order. Is yours a one giant volume book? (Sorry if you mentioned this in an earlier post.)

    • Jackie B August 25, 2017 at 9:16 am

      I’m glad that this book worked better for you, Laila! Do you tend to shy away from epistolary formats in general, or do you mean you weren’t in love with LMM’s particular epistolary format in this novel? I probably would agree with you about the switch to the more straightforward narrative if I didn’t love epistolary novels so much. O_o

      Hahaha– I appreciate that you wanted to get away from Anne and Gilbert’s lovey-dovey stuff. Brace yourself for Anne’s House of Dreams! I’ve been warned there’s quite a bit of that…

      Right?! There were SO MANY awful people! I am just shocked. I fully expected LMM to write, “And then Anne discovered a wicked witch had placed a spell of grumpiness over all the Pringles and all their descendants. After spending tea with the witch, Anne softened her heart and the town was lovely again.” I just wanted an excuse for them or something.

      This is a single volume eBook, yes. It’s also missing Anne of Ingleside. My guess is that the publisher doesn’t consider the 1930’s Anne books to be part of the “complete collection”– I’m doing some research to figure out why. But, I definitely want to own the physical copies in the future. I will certainly re-read 1 and 3, at least! Hopefully 5 will also capture my heart.

      • Laila@BigReadingLife August 26, 2017 at 9:54 am

        I don’t think I’ve read enough epistolary novels to really have much of an opinion, Jackie! 🙂 It’s not something I’m opposed to on principle. Thanks for the warning on Book 5!

  • Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf August 23, 2017 at 3:21 pm

    Epistolary novels, when done well, are my favorite! I was disappointed with this one too. Excited for House of Dreams, though! I hear great things!

    • Jackie B August 25, 2017 at 10:53 am

      I have heard great things, too! It’s a shame Anne of Windy Poplars was so disjointed. But it does make me want to name my house. Something lovely and romantic like all of Anne’s living arrangements.

      Any epistolary suggestions? I’m always looking to find more!

      • Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf August 29, 2017 at 5:44 pm

        Guernsey, of course 🙂 Have you read The Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis? That is a fabulous epistolary novel. Also Flowers for Algernon is a compelling one. It’s been years since I read it but it’s fascinating.

        • Jackie B August 29, 2017 at 10:32 pm

          Ohmygosh– I definitely have read The Screwtape Letters. Honestly, I struggled a bit– but I think it had more to do with the other books I was reading at the same time. I appreciated it, but not as much as I thought I should have… if that makes sense.

          I didn’t realize that Flowers for Algernon was an epistolary novel. That will certainly push it higher up my list. Thanks for pointing that out!

          • Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf August 31, 2017 at 5:24 pm

            I think you have to be the right mood for Screwtape. We’ve listened to some of it on an audiobook and it’s rather compelling to hear it. Flowers for Algernon is heartbreaking and fascinating. I should reread that one.

            • Jackie B September 1, 2017 at 2:12 pm

              I bet the audiobook would be wonderful. Do you remember who narrated it? It seems like there are a few versions of The Screwtape Letters. It might be worth checking out as long as I Have the right narrator! I don’t want a bad narrator ruining the experience.

              • Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf September 2, 2017 at 6:11 pm

                I know we got it off of Audible. Not sure who reads it. And yes, the reader can make or break the experience!

  • Krysta August 26, 2017 at 9:34 pm

    This is probably my least favorite in the series. It’s just so disappointing to have Anne and Gilbert finally get together. And then you get THIS. Where Anne is just writing letters to Gilbert! I think I also appreciated it less when I was younger. Anne is starting a career and maybe I just didn’t relate to that as a ten-year-old.

    • Jackie B August 27, 2017 at 10:59 pm

      I doubt 10-year-old Jackie would have appreciated it either! Even as an adult I wanted more of Anne and Gilbert. I can’t wait to dig into Anne’s House of Dreams and see what happens!

      • Krysta August 28, 2017 at 10:28 am

        You can never go wrong with more Gilbert!

  • Naomi August 29, 2017 at 1:22 pm

    The first time I ever read the series (around 12 or 13), this was my least favourite book. I was so anxious to get back to Anne and Gilbert. But the second and third times I read it, I found more to love and now I like it quite a lot. Rebecca Dew is such a great character, and if you look at it as a novel of linked short stories, there are some really great ones.
    Thanks for linking to my review!
    Enjoy Anne’s House of Dreams!

    • Jackie B August 29, 2017 at 10:43 pm

      Rebecca Dew is a wonderful character, indeed! It’s lovely to hear that the style grew on you over time. I wonder how much of my disappointment stems from the hype I gave myself? As someone who adores epistolary novels, and recently found the amazing Anne Shirley for the first time, I was expecting too much. I’ll definitely keep that in mind for future re-reads. Because, obviously I’ll have to some day!

      Thanks for stopping by, Naomi!

  • Amanda @Cover2CoverMom September 2, 2017 at 6:23 pm

    Completely agree here Jackie!

    “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?””

    This was even harder to distinguish while listening to the audiobook. I never knew if I was reading a letter or a 3rd person narration…

    “Anne is suddenly quite besotted with Gilbert where at the end of book 3 she had only just realized she loved him.”

    Yes! How did we go from discovering her feelings to “my dearest”?!

    Overall, this book just felt like too much fluff and not enough meat in the plotline for me…

    • Jackie B September 3, 2017 at 4:57 pm

      Ooooh, you listened to the audiobook! Hm, it’s a shame that you couldn’t tell if you were listening to the reading of a letter or 3rd person narration. But that might be more of how the book is laid out, rather than the fault of the narrator. I honestly wasn’t certain myself sometimes… Was the narrator a quality one?

      While the stories were entertaining, you’re right– far too much fluff and not enough pushing Anne’s life forward. Just little moments in life. Which, I think, would be fine for a standalone book. Or even a book early in the series. But so far in, it’s a tough change of tone.

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