Anne Shirley has left Redmond College and Green Gables behind to begin a new chapter of her life in the “dreaming town” of Summerside. She’s soon facing an unexpected challenge, however, in the form of the Pringles–also known as the royal family of Summerside.
They quickly let Anne know that she’s not the person they had wanted as principal of Summerside High School. But as she settles into her cozy tower room at Windy Poplars, Anne finds she also has great allies in two elderly widows, Aunt Kate and Aunt Chatty, and their irrepressible housekeeper, Rebecca Dew. Slowly, she begins to unravel Summerside’s strangest secrets–revealing everything in letters to Gilbert, who’s away at medical school.
After having accepted Gilbert’s marriage proposal, Anne has to wait three years for him to finish medical school before they can start their life together. In the meantime, Anne accepts the position of principal of Summerside High School at Windy Poplars where she soon finds herself ostracised by the extended Pringle family who resent her presence. Anne discovers she beat one of the Pringles to the principal position and they are less than pleased. For once, Anne’s optimism seems to be failing her and she is dangerously close to quitting her job in the face of such hostility. However, Anne soon discovers some vital information about a Pringle ancestor so the matriarch of the clan orders everyone to be nice to Anne lest she ruin their reputation. A confused Anne has no intention of spreading gossip but she is grateful for the ceasefire and the Pringles soon warm to her.
Most of the story is told through the medium of Anne’s letters to Gilbert and her adventures in Windy Poplars are nothing more than a series of vignettes as she meets diverse characters and gets involved in their lives. Before long, everyone is falling under Anne’s spell and she encourages them to follow their dreams. This is the one book in the series I never enjoy reading over, mainly because I feel like we are just treading water until Anne and Gilbert are reunited. Although it is the fourth book in the series, it was actually written in 1936 and was written after most of the other books which is why it has always seemed like a “filler” book to me.
Besides the widowed landladies and Rebecca Dew, the main characters are Katherine Brooke who seems rather unfriendly until Anne gets under her skin and a bond is quickly established. We are also introduced to Little Elizabeth, a young girl living with her aloof grandmother, who yearns for love and Anne is only too happy to oblige. Like most of the young children in Montgomery’s books, Little Elizabeth speaks more like a young adult than a child and I found her chapters overly sentimental.
The rest of the characters flit in and out of Anne’s life over the three years she is in Windy Poplars and we don’t get much focus on her time as school principal either. Anne also seems to have abandoned her plans to pursue a career as a writer as she never once mentions it again even though she writes very long letters to Gilbert. The main purpose of this book seems to have been to satisfy the appetite for Anne books more than anything else.