Sunday, February 26, 2012

Book Review: Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

The last Anne book! And luckily, it was a great one. Also, if you're a Downton Abbey fan, this would be a great book to pick up.

Anne's youngest daughter, Rilla (named for Anne's adoptive mother, Marilla), starts out her teen years a little flighty, worried about boys and dresses, and just when she gets to go to her first grown-up party and has a serious romantic conversation with Ken Ford (the son of Anne's best friend from Anne's House of Dreams), disaster. War breaks out.

Rilla's oldest brother Jem signs up, other boys from the village also head overseas. Rilla, Anne, and Susan hold down the home fort and keep very abreast of the news, as best one can without even a radio. Eventually Walter also joins up, as does Ken, and after a few years Shirley does too, so all of Rilla's brothers and her sweetheart are off fighting. Her sisters Nan and Di try their hand at nursing. Rilla feels too young to be useful but with Anne's encouragement, she starts a junior Red Cross chapter. She also ends up fostering a baby whose mother dies and father is off fighting too. After a while she starts to worry Ken won't return to her, that he will have forgotten her. She's also of course very worried about her brothers and other town boys, and with good reason as of course no one gets through war unscathed. Sadly, that's also true of the Blythes.

This book was published in 1920. It was written immediately after the war which was fascinating. The author had no idea there would be a WWII. This book isn't written in retrospect, but contemporaneously. Susan's blow-by-blows of the progress of the war helped quite a bit to orient me, who doesn't know much about the war. In fact, I'd bet you could really track the progress of the war with her comments on newspaper articles. It's interesting that they don't have radio in the town, although they have a telephone (or a 'phone as it's charmingly written) so sometimes the doctor in the next town calls with important war news before the newspaper comes out. It's maddening that they don't have more access to news and their daily worry and forced patience was anxious for me to read about. It also made me feel quite lazy, seeing how much work the home folks were doing to keep up with things. I was startled when I realized that when England declared war, the Blythes automatically assumed they were going to war as well. But then I figured out -Canada was still a part of England at the time! Wow! It was neat reading it after Doctor Zhivago which takes place in the same time - and to have Susan's occasional opinions about the tsar and the subsequent rulers.

Luckily for me the war gave the novel a very clear through-narrative so it wasn't one of the Anne books that's basically a short story collection, as I don't like those as much. Rilla was an engaging character, and even though we don't end the series with Anne (at least, as a major character), we do end with Rilla at about the same age as Anne began the series, 25 years earlier. Rilla is definitely her own girl, without Anne's academic aspirations but with a little of her romantic imagination. She is determined, hard-working, and thoughtful. She doesn't tend to get in scrapes quite like Anne, as she is more sensible, but her aspirations are lower. The war actually helps there, as with the Junior Reds and her "war baby," she finds she's good at organizing, working, and even raising a baby (even though she doesn't like babies!) Rilla really matures and becomes quite an impressive young woman by the end. Rilla of Ingleside was a wonderful end to the Anne of Green Gables series and I am sad they are over, but glad I finally read them all.

This review is a part of Kid Konnection, hosted by Booking Mama, a collection of children's book-related posts over the weekend.

I borrowed this book from a friend.

1 comment:

Julie P. said...

Congrats on finishing (and reviewing) the entire series!