Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Anne of Windy Willows, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

This is the fourth in the Anne of Green Gables series, and chronicles three years in the life of an adult Anne Shirley. It was also published under the title of Anne of Windy Poplars in Canada and the US. The reason why it was published under the name Windy Poplars was because the publisher thought Windy Willows too reminiscent of Kenneth Grahame’s The Wind in the Willows.

As readers of Anne of Green Gables will know, there are eight books in the whole series. While this book was the fourth in the series, it was actually the seventh to be written. The following book in the series, Anne’s House of Dreams, was actually written in 1917! No doubt it would be interesting to read that novel with those dates in mind.

The novel is written about half in the form of letters from Miss Shirley, and the rest in the usual third person style. The letters are all written to her young beau, Gilbert Blythe. Interestingly, there is no point of view provided from Gilbert himself in this novel. He appears fleetingly in one scene, and that’s about it. The rest is all from Anne’s point of view. Make no mistake about it, this book is all about Anne: her feelings, her hopes, her ambitions and dreams.

You can’t really describe these books as ‘novels’ per se. They form almost a literary ‘stream of consciousness’. Let me take one leap perhaps too far, for the only analogy I can at present think of: They remind me of a kind of Remembrance of Things Past for young girls. Not so much in content. Proust looked distinctly back. But in the freewheeling style of these novels. They are all like a jigsaw of a larger book. Hence I’d say, from what I’ve read so far, that books one to four (and especially two, three and four), could be read as one entire work. This is like one long fictional biography, done in installments.

It took me a while to get into this novel, because it seems to come out of nowhere and introduce all these new characters. As alluded to above, the style is fragmentary. Also because it’s a mish-mash of letters and third person narrative, it threw me off a bit. (Apparently, a lot of the novel is Montgomery’s short stories from the period worked up into a novel.) But by half way through I started to get into it and enjoyed the rest of it right down to the finishing line.

Not as good as the previous novel, or of course the classic Green Gables, but a satisfying enough read.

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