This month has been one of the most stressful I’ve ever experienced. Therefor I was thankful for the few minutes I had to open up this book. L.M. Montgomery has woven together another amazing story around our dear old Anne Shirley. I remember quite a bit from the last time I read it, back in high school, and it still remains one of my favourite books of the series. I did discover a few issues I was unaware of during my first reading, but I’ll get back to that later.
Anne of Windy Poplars follows Anne during her three years as a Principle for a high school in Summerside. Right from the beginning, the layout of the book has changed. We do not have titles for every chapters, intend we have three parts, one part for three years. Another change is that almost half of the book is written as letters Anne writes to Gilbert. Gilbert doesn’t even make an official appearance in the story, instead we read the passages Anne has written him about all of her experiences and characters she has met. I almost want to think L.M.M. was pushing herself and exploring different forms of her writing… but I could be wrong.
Right from the beginning Anne realizes she will have a fight on her hands teaching at the high school. Word had got out that there was a relative of the Pringles who was overlooked for the job Anne received. Therefore, all the Pringles sided against her, making her first year in Summerside horrible. The Pringle family basically runs the town, there are so many of them, and their influence can be felt in everything. Not only were the adults working against Anne, but their children she taught as well. Of course it was not a hatred, or a meanness, but the pleasant type to completely ignoring Anne and not inviting her to any social gatherings. At first Anne tries to grin and bear it, but through her letters to Gilbert, we see that the shunning was getting to her.
Thankfully it was a chance discovery of an old journal that leads Anne to victory over the old family. After that, everything changes. I mean EVERYTHING. And it happens so fast, it was as if everyone just shoved the past six months under the rug and pretended it didn’t happen. Yes, we get the feeling that they were good people, just all banning against Anne as the matriarch orders, but I had an issue with how fast things were changed and how fast Anne made friendships with the ones who gave her the most trouble. Maybe Anne is just better at forgiving others than I am.
Second year progresses with the resolution to the character arch of Katherine Brooks, a fellow teacher at Summerside High. Throughout the first year she was one of the most antagonistic persons. Standoffish, rude, and mean towards the kids, it wasn’t just Anne that she seemed to hold a grudge against, but everyone else as well. On a number of occasions people warned Anne to stay away from her. Katherine dressed poorly, did not go out to any social events and just seemed to live in a dark word of her own creation. But, despite the scowl, Anne continues to try to break the ice with her fellow teacher. It wasn’t until Christmas of second year that Anne manages to bring Katherine to Green Gables. There, the transformation happens and Anne is able to break through Katherine’s hard shell and become her friend.
It was one of the most memorable scenes from the book. I have always loved Katherine’s character, more so when we learn about her past and why she became the way she did. With Anne’s help she is able to finally put her past behind her and even quite teaching to go back to school, and later her dream to see the world. She stands out from many of the other side characters and plots that happen in the book as they all surround marriages and engagements (another major beef I had this time around). Katherine knew she didn’t want to get married, and even by the end of the book, she is fulfilling her own desires without a man by her side and it seems like she really learned to enjoy her life.
Since I brought it up, I’ll go on with my one negative thought on the book. There were so many side stories involved engagements and marriages. I mean, a lot! It was different with the last book as the marriages centred around the characters we knew since the beginning of the book, here they are mostly people from Summerside that Anne had befriended. Some of the stories were good, I still enjoy reading Aunt Mousey and her continues chatter about the different weddings she went to went and the problems they had. But I was beginning to get the underlying feel that no woman was happy unless she was engaged or married. I know that was the opinion of society at the time, but it was really starting to irk me as the novel went on. Even worse was the expectation that Anne would stop working when she married. Maybe I’m reading too much into this, but I just felt sad that those women, smart women couldn’t conceive of any other life but that of marriage and a husband. Perhaps these bits date the book, or on the other hand give is a clearer look into the mindset and society values of the times back then.
Let’s move on to one of my most favourite character of the book. Little Elizabeth. She was an absolute delight! Not only did she remind me of Anne as a young girl, with her wild imagination and yearning for love, but she had this magical charm around her. I loved her theory of ‘Tomorrow’, and how she would change her name depending on her mood. It’s pretty amazing how many nick names you can get out of Elizabeth. I was starting to get worried about the future of Elizabeth near the end of the book, with Anne wrapping up her last year, saying all her farewells, Elizabeth’s future was still as bleak as ever in the house with her grandmother. But thankfully there are enough happy endings to go around. I won’t disclose her ending here, it is too precious to ruin for anyone who have not read the book, but it made me cry.
Now that Anne has closed this chapter of her life, we are now to wait for the fifth book, where Gilbert and Anne finally get married and live in their House of Dreams. I’m looking forward to more of Anne’s adventures and more of Gilbert! I felt a little ripped off that we didn’t get any Anne and Gilbert action in this book, I hope they make it up in the next. It’s been a while and I don’t remember much from the fifth book as I did from this one.
Here’s to May and Anne’s House of Dreams.