Anne of Windy Poplars
This volume started off slow for me. It is full of long letters Anne writes to her now-beau Gilbert during their years of separation. He's in medical school and she's the principal and teacher at a school in another town. I love epistolary novels, but since we never read any of Gilbert's letters, the reading got a little long. And then my schedule opened up and I was able to read the rest of the novel almost in its entirety. It picked up after that.
I've given some thought to adding letters to the text of my novel. Rereading Anne of Windy Poplars gave me some things to consider as I move forward with the second draft of my book.
It's still not my favorite volume, but it is a cozy part of Anne's life. From a storytelling perspective, it covers the period when Anne and Gilbert are not physically together.
Anne's House of Dreams
For those who read the Anne series as girls, it goes without saying that Gilbert inspired our own searches for our match. He was kind and noble and crazy about Anne. As a reader, it was wonderful to get to this part of the story, but as a woman of 40 whose life hasn't gone quite the way she planned, it reinforced that I hadn't found my Gilbert after all. I cried my way through the beginning of the story, and then the ache eased as I fell in love with this volume all over again. In Anne's House of Dreams, she encounters an amazing cast of new characters. And their stories captivate.
Anne encounters her first real tragedy since her childhood as an orphan in the days before she arrives at Green Gables. We witness how this perennially optimistic character weathers her own grief and it's encouraging. Anne becomes a mother. It was lovely to see myself in the adult Anne as I had identified with the child Anne.
Another character who writes appears on the scene in this book. It was interesting to read those passages from my current vantage point and compare notes. It was also interesting to see the ways that L.M. Montgomery continued to weave characters from previous books into the current story. It was subtle, never forced, and always exciting to “learn what they were up to now.”
It was this volume that solidified my decision that Prince Edward Island (PEI), the setting of all six books, would be the next trip I save for. I'm always happiest when I can see the next trip on the horizon. PEI here I come!
Anne of Ingleside
Anne is the mother of six living children and they now inhabit the “big house” they've named Ingleside. We get to know Anne's children throughout this book. Anne takes a backseat in this novel, so we can become acquainted with Jem, Walter, Nan, Di, Shirley, and Rilla. The stories of Anne's children and their own imaginative lives were sweet, but they always seemed to go on just a little too long. I'd begin missing Anne and want the chapter or vignette to hurry up and end. It finally would, Anne would walk into the room, work her motherly magic over the child or household, and I would be happy again.
A minor character reflected to herself, "...she hoped she would look like Mrs. Blythe some day...with that ripened look...the look of a woman who has lived fully and graciously." I wholeheartedly agree. I want to age this way too.
Anne always seemed to have the right words to say when her children needed them most. "Darling, you're terribly mistaken about it all. God doesn't make bargains. He gives...gives without asking anything from us in return except love. When you as Father or me for something you want, we don't make bargains with you...and God is ever and ever so much kinder than we are. And He knows so much better than we do what is good to give."
Anne thought about how soon her children would be grown. "They were still hers...wholly hers, to mother and love and protect. They still came to her with every love and grief of their little hearts. For a few years longer they would be hers...and then? Anne shivered. Motherhood was very sweet...but very terrible." This mother can relate.
This volume showed an Anne we hadn't seen before—a tired mama who sometimes felt taken for granted. I could relate to this Anne as I had her earlier, younger versions, and admired L.M. Montgomery all the more for giving our beloved heroine this true-to-life dimension. I am certain none of this occurred to me in earlier readings, which is the reward for rereading a cherished childhood book as an adult.
"Well, that was life. Gladness and pain...hope and fear...and change. Always change! You could not help it. You had to let the old go and take the new to your heart...learn to love it and then let it go in turn. Spring, lovely as it was, must yield to summer and summer lose itself in autumn."
I'm excited to cross this item off my list. It feels good to have gone through the entire series in quick succession. There are two more Anne books that I am ashamed to admit I never read as a girl. I don't know how this happened, but it feels like a great 40th birthday gift to myself. Rainbow Valley is waiting for me in audiobook on the reserve shelf at the library. My commutes to work and home are going to be lovely! And then there's Rilla of Ingleside that will follow.
I found this great article commemorating the Anne series' 100th birthday seven years ago. I read it and agreed with the writer throughout the article. She articulates far better than me Anne's contribution to children's literature.