Usually the first book of a trilogy is best, but in the case of Geoffrey Strong, Mrs. Tree and Mrs. Tree’s Will, I think the second one wins. Geoffrey Strong was awfully nice, but it was sort of narrow in focus. With Geoffrey and young Vesta out of the way, Laura E. Richards spreads out a bit. Mrs. Tree, sprightly and domineering aunt to Phoebe and Vesta Blyth, is the focal point, but the town of Elmerton — the once and future Quahaug — revolves around her, so you get to see a lot of it. There’s romance here, but it’s in the background. There’s a plot, sort of, but it’s not particularly important. Mrs. Tree is a bunch of bits strung together, and all the bits are really, really good.
I liked Mrs. Tree’s Will less. I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that Mrs. Tree dies, and, having lost the focal point of the previous book, Richards never really finds a new one. There’s a lot of reminiscing about Mrs. Tree, but that doesn’t help — it just made me miss her more. To be fair, I guess that adds some realism. Reading Mrs. Tree’s Will is a little bit like mourning for someone, so I won’t say it’s not good, but for the same reasons it’s not a particularly pleasant experience.
One thing I did like about Mrs. Tree’s Will was the way it expanded on the character of Homer Hollopeter, who was a figure of fun in Mrs. Tree, but gets to be a credible person in Mrs. Tree’s Will without losing any of his idiosyncrasies. On the other hand, there’s his brother Pindar, who would fit right in with the other inhabitants of Quahaug if Richards has written him with a lighter hand. The same can be said for the romances of Mrs. Tree’s Will, in one of which Pindar plays a part.
So, Geoffrey Strong was a lovely, self-contained thing. Mrs. Tree is entirely delightful. Mrs. Tree’s Will feels a little like Laura E. Richards felt obligated to write a third book about these characters, but didn’t really feel like it. I’m not sorry I read it…but I also kind of am.