Sunday, February 3, 2013

Revisiting Anne, Part 4: Anne of Windy Poplars

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From what I remember of my high school reading of the Anne series, book four, Anne of Windy Poplars, is the most unique in style. At this point in Anne’s life, she has finished college and is working as the principal of Summerside High School, living in a quaint, cozy house with a couple of quirky old widows. She’s finally engaged to Gilbert who is a medical student in Kingsport. Anne of Windy Poplars starts as a series of letters from Anne to Gilbert during their three-year courtship apart. The voice switches back and forth between Anne’s letters and the third-person narrative we’re used to in the Anne books.

If you’ve seen the Anne of Avonlea movie, a good deal of the plot is taken from this book. Anne, as principal, finds herself up against the influential Pringle family that seems to own the way of the town. For the first time in Anne’s life, she’s up against folks that definitely could not be considered “kindred spirits.” They give no reason for disliking Anne; they just don’t like her. And she doesn’t understand that. So Anne is having her first brush with an attitude that resides outside of her optimistic fantasy-world. (Granted, it seems to happen a little late in life for her. In reality, that’s called adolescence!) It’s just the next step in Anne’s journey as she becomes a part of the world around her. Her world has been expanding throughout these four books, but this one has little connection to her comforts of home. (Never fear…Anne, of course, eventually wins them over as usual.)

This book, to me, feels a lot like Anne of Avonlea. You have your usual cast of quirky characters, while Anne faces challenges and naturally solves their problems; and the plot feels very episodic as she’s sharing snippets of life with Gilbert through her letters. I enjoyed this one more than Anne of Avonlea, but it’s almost to the point where Anne just seems too perfect for words. Aside from the episode with the Pringles (which is resolved in the first half of the book anyway), everyone worships Anne. Everyone loves her and she solves everyone’s problems. She almost doesn’t seem very realistic anymore; she’s described more akin to a saint than a human being! I find that frustrating after I spoke so highly of her character development in Anne of the Island. (Though I do still like the Katherine Brooke story.)

A little investigation tells me that this book was, in fact, written much later than the rest of the Anne stories, which perhaps explains the feeling that it’s simply filling in some of the gaps of time between the big events in Anne’s life with small, inconsequential anecdotes. (Book six, Anne of Ingleside, was actually the last one published, 31 years after Anne of Green Gables. I’ll have to keep that in mind and see if that’s obvious.) Ultimately, though, I guess these little episodes aren’t completely inconsequential because it’s the experiences that define the person. I just hope in the proceeding books, she’s painted as a bit more realistic person.

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