Anne Shirley has left Redmond College and Green Gables behind to begin a new chapter of her life in the “dreaming town” of Summerside. She’s soon facing an unexpected challenge, however, in the form of the Pringles–also known as the royal family of Summerside. They quickly let Anne know that she’s not the person they had wanted as principal of Summerside High School.
But as she settles into her cozy tower room at Windy Poplars, Anne finds she also has great allies in two elderly widows, Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty, and their irrepressible housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. Slowly, she begins to unravel Summerside’s strangest secrets–revealing everything in letters to Gilbert, who’s away at medical school. And in the end, Anne’s able to win the support of even the prickly Pringles, in what is only the first of many delicious triumphs.
It’s month four of the Green Gables Readalong, and oh how Anne has grown! She’s a newly engaged woman now, heading away from the comforts of Avonlea to take on the Principalship of Summerside High School. There’s a lot more romance in this book, as the story switches from a straight narrative to a combination of narrative and epistolary chapters. I liked the change as I think it is the first time we have Anne’s true feelings on the events happening around her. I have also found the source of my love of ellipses, as Anne is unnaturally fond of them in this book. I know it’s indicative of her stream-of-conciousness and her chattering ways, but even *I* found it a bit much.
Much as Avonlea had the Pyes, Summerside has the Pringles, and Anne must navigate some very frosty waters before she is able to settle in and truly enjoy herself. I liked that she continued to try every usual trick to bring them around, and that eventually she had to inadvertently use blackmail. I could almost hear Mrs. Lynde and Marilla nodding in satisfaction over that one. I do think that the book speaks a lot to life in small towns, and how long-standing families have expectations that things will be done a certain way. Growing up in a small town, and now living in an even smaller one, I can read my neighbours in this book, with their proud ancestry and their skeletons in the closets! Family pride is paramount; I have a dear friend who casually referred to someone as a “newbie”, because they had only been in town forty years, while her family has plots in the local cemetary that date back to the 1830’s!
This is also a much more romantic book. Gilbert isn’t in this book physically, but his relationship with Anne grows by leaps and bounds, and you begin to see the more mature Anne coming to the forefront. There is still the whimsical Anne of the past, dreaming of sleeping in a wild cherry tree, surrounded by white, but she is also an Anne who is excited about her future.
“Gilbert darling, don’t let’s ever be afraid of things. It’s such dreadful slavery. Let’s be daring and adventurous and expectant. Let’s dance to meet life and all it can bring to us, even if it brings scads of trouble and typhoid and twins!”
In fact, Anne becomes more of a catalyst for change than an object of change herself in this book. Her influence on Lewis Allen (after the tragic death of the Little Fellow – why does that always take me by surprise??), on Katherine Brooke and even on little Elizabeth allows these and many others to change their circumstances for the better. I liked that Anne’s influence was mere nudges – a new dress and hairstyle, some much-needed advice, staying with a recalcitrant mother, putting a lamp in the window, etc. Indeed, our Anne seems be channelling her inner Rachel Lynde in several instances:
“You can’t have many exclamation points left,’ thought Anne, ‘but no doubt the supply of italics is inexhaustible.”
I loved the slightly more snarky Anne, and that she did demonstrate an end to her seemingly endless supply of goodwill and kindness to others. Cousin Ernestine, Hazel Marr and Mrs. Gibson are enough to drive the reader to drink, let alone Anne, so it’s good to see her standing up for herself. I found the episode with the twins the least satisfying of the vignettes in the book, as I’m a firm believer in Anne Shirley being fully competent to handle even the worst sets of twins! The spooky Havesham-channelling Miss Valentine also benefits from Anne’s regular visits, although I suspect that this was the book that turned spare rooms from something exciting to something altogether more sinister for me. as well as for Anne.
There isn’t a tonne that actually moves the story along in this book, so it is very much a filler book. However, it does give us more of Anne’s perspective on things, and is a good bridge book for Anne’s House of Dreams. While the book was written much later than the others, it fits in well with the series.
What did you think about Anne of Windy Poplars? Have you been keeping up with the readalong? Leave your thoughts below!