Next up on my series of reviews of books I am rereading is Anne of Windy Poplars, right smack in the middle of the series. It's a weird one to start review the series with, but I've read them all so many times that I know how they fit together.
I've said before that Emily is my favourite Montgomery heroine, and that holds. But that doesn't mean I don't have a huge soft spot for Anne and her life. She is much more domestic in orientation, at least in every book after this one, and that has its appeal. Ordinary life is painted in such vivid and interesting colours that it leaps off the page, putting the lie to the idea that such things are beneath our proper notice.
In this one, Anne is engaged, but her fiance has years to put in on his medical degree before they can be married. So, in her mid-twenties (right? I was trying to do the math, and it's got to be around then), Anne accepts a three-year job as principal and teacher at a high school in Sunnyside. Moving there, she boards at Windy Poplars, living with the two "aunts" and their housekeeper, Rebecca Dew, a tomato-coloured entity in her own right.
When she first arrives, the town is up in arms, because she got the job for which a favoured relative of the local "royal family" had applied. She has to struggle through a first semester while under siege. But does she win them over? Is this Anne Shirley we're talking about?
Anne of Windy Poplars is really a set of connected short stories, linked together by time and place. We watch as Anne befriends her small next-door neighbour, suffering under the none-too-gentle eye of her grandmother and grandmother's servant. We see Anne intervene in several local love stories, with good and bad and sometimes ridiculous results.
She helps her students, tries to befriend a prickly fellow teacher, and generally, becomes beloved by everyone. Which is much less saccharine as it sounds, as Montgomery always has a deft touch and knows just when to stop. People feel real, in all their absurdities, small cruelties and kindnesses.
I have always enjoyed this particular volume quite a lot. It's Anne's last hurrah by herself, before she becomes a wife and mother, and it's interesting watching her negotiate a position of relative power in a way that is all her own.
But I keep coming back to what Montgomery does best. She imbues everyday occurrences with such vivacity that they come to life before our eyes. I can't think of another author who does what she does so well. That these are women's stories that still feel real, decades and decades on, is a real accomplishment.