Lindsey at Reeder Reads is hosting a Green Gables Readalong, in which we are reading one Anne book a month between January and August. This month we are talking about Anne of Windy Poplars. You can read my thoughts on the first three books here and here and here.
The first time I read this book, in my pre-teens, I was so impatient for Anne and Gilbert’s ‘House of Dreams’ that I don’t think I got as much out of this book as I should have. Anne of Windy Poplars is full of unique characters and stories that are wonderful to read and experience all on their own.
Anne is spending the next 3 years of her life in Summerside, PEI as the High School Principal, while Gilbert is at Redmond studying to become a doctor. The book is mostly made up of letters from Anne to Gilbert about the people and the goings on in Summerside. And, Anne writes the best letters…
Last night I had such a lovely walk with myself. I really had to go somewhere for it was just a trifle dismal at Windy Poplars. Aunt Chatty was crying in the sitting-room because her feelings had been hurt and Aunt Kate was crying in her bedroom because it was the anniversary of Captain Amasa’s death and Rebecca Dew was crying in the kitchen for no reason that I could discover. I’ve never seen Rebecca Dew cry before. But when I tried tactfully to find out what was wrong she pettishly wanted to know if a body couldn’t enjoy a cry when she felt like it. So I folded my tent and stole away, leaving her to her enjoyment.
Anne is staying at Windy Poplars with Aunt Chatty, Aunt Kate, their housekeeper, Rebecca Dew, and their cat Dusty Miller. The quote above gives you a taste of life at Windy Poplars. Rebecca Dew, especially, is a colourful character who adds her 2 cents worth whenever she can.
Rebecca Dew: I am not a B.A., and I do not deny your right to use words I cannot always understand. Neither do I deny that you can wind people around your little finger. Look how you managed the Pringles. But I do say I pity you if you take that iceberg and nutmeg grater combined home with you for Christmas. (referring to Katherine Brooke)
… may I express a fervent wish that your married life will be one of continued and uninterrupted Bliss? (Only do not expect too much of a man.)
When Anne first arrives, the Pringles do not approve of her, and try to make her life miserable. But, they underestimate our Anne, and soon she has them just as wrapped around her little finger as everyone else. In fact, she is in high demand as a dinner guest and a confidante, which works in our favour – we get to hear the gossip as she relays it to Gilbert in her letters.
Little Elizabeth next door longs for her father, prickly Katherine Brooke is finally pried out of her protective shell after a visit to Green Gables, Anne manages to save a family dinner from one of Cyrus Taylor’s famous sulks, poor Pauline finally gets a day off from her demanding mother, Aunt Mouser is always sticking her nose in where it doesn’t belong, sweet little Teddy Armstrong shares the apple turnover that his father made him, Cousin Ernestine’s one consolation for dying young is “you’ll be spared an awful lot of trouble“, there is double trouble when Anne offers to babysit Gerald and Geraldine for the day, Anne learns about the ‘Old Curse’ of the Tomgallon family, and she helps to save several young romances (romance seems to be her specialty).
Some of my favourite quotes from the book:
The Woman had told her that Tomorrow never comes, but Elizabeth knows better. It will come sometime. Some beautiful morning she will just wake up and find it is Tomorrow. Not Today but Tomorrow. And then things will happen…wonderful things.
But there is always a November space after the leaves have fallen when she felt it was almost indecent to intrude on the woods…for their glory terrestrial had departed and their glory celestial of spirit and purity and whiteness had not yet come upon them.
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!
Wouldn’t it be a rather drab world if everybody was wise and sensible . . . and good? What would we find to talk about?
Anne went to sleep for keeps thinking how lovely it was to wake up in the night and hear the first snowstorm of winter around your tower and then snuggle down in your blankets and drift into dreamland again.
… she always remembered her as a woman who had attained to the ultimate secret of life. You were never poor as long as you had something to love.
Because Anne of Windy Poplars is made up mostly of letters, it reminded me of the letters I used to write back and forth to my friend as we read the Anne books, when I was younger. So, I dug them out. (Of course, I only have the ones she wrote me.)
Look at the lovely box of stationery Diana sent me. Isn’t it fascinating to look at the blank pages and wonder what will be written on them?
In this letter (from about 1986 – I can’t find the first page of it), my friend is telling me to read the next 10 chapters of Anne of Windy Poplars, and by then, it will be time for her to come to my house. “I liked the part in the third year when Anne was babysitting the twins. That was funny.” At the bottom is her Christmas wish list.
This is the top of the same letter (I cut the middle of it out for a reason). “You know how many people I started reading Anne? A lot! I think ten. Everybody up here knows about her now. But I’m sure they don’t love her the way you and I do.”
This one’s from 1986, right after my friend moved to Toronto for a year. (Yes, she’s calling me Cordelia.) “I’m going to read Anne of Green Gables again because it makes me think of you.”
“It was a good movie but of course it doesn’t compare to Anne of Green Gables. Before I forget, read seven chapters into Anne of Ingleside. Oh! I’m glad and happy at the same time. I’m glad because I’m here into a brand new Anne book but I’m sad because the books won’t be as good the second time. But of course still wonderful.” Well, now we know that they are just as good the second time!
In this letter, my friend is telling me how far she’s read in Anne’s House of Dreams, and she’s preparing me for how sad it is at the end. “I’m telling you, I cried the most in the last two chapters so be prepared. It’s the way Lucy Maud described it that makes it so ‘cryful’.”
The quote from Captain Jim at the end of Anne’s House of Dreams. Coming up next! (Note the sign off at the end – “Yours til the ocean wears rubber pants to keep its bottom dry”. Letters were the best. No one would ever end their e-mails that way.)
Why do some of these books have the title Anne of Windy Willows?