Sunday 6 November 2016

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery (An Anne of Green Gables novel; first published 1921; this Aladdin edition 2015)

35 chapters; 440 pages

Subjects: World War One, Canada, family, women in war, young adult (Year 7-10)

Image result for Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. (Lucy Maud) Montgomery (An Anne of Green Gables, novel; first published 1921; this Aladdin edition 2015)

(The cover of this new edition refers to different elements of the story, like Dog Monday, knitting socks, wedding cakes, the green hat, trains and letters.)

This is the 8th of 9 books (chronologically) in the Anne of Green Gables series, although the 6th to be written. I’d only read the first book in the series before, so I was confused initially as to who were all these people – but I kept reading and hoped it would come clear (it mostly did).

The book focuses on Marilla (“Rilla”) Blythe, Anne and Gilbert’s youngest daughter and the baby of the family. She is desperate to be seen as old enough to go to parties (and not treated as a child), but the years of light-hearted fun she dreams of vanish as World War One gets underway. We see Rilla grow in maturity as she takes on the organisation of the Junior Red Cross and responsibility for a war baby (carried home in a soup tureen), watches her brothers and many other friends go off to war and supports her mother in her grief.

It’s made very clear the pressure that boys were under to enlist – from themselves, their friends and society in general. The agony that every family went through with the news of battles fought, won or lost, is portrayed with complete authenticity, mixed with some humour to make it bearable.  “To me,” Rilla writes in her diary, “the strangest of all the strange things since 1914 is how we have all learned to accept things we never thought we could – to go on with life as a matter of course.”

The Canadian experience of WW1 was in some ways so similar to the NZ experience, but in other ways quite different, so it’s always interesting to read stories told from their perspective – for example, the references to the Gallipoli campaign.

The LM Montgomery Online site says that this is “one of the only contemporary depictions in Canadian fiction of women on the home front during the First World War.” 

Rilla of Ingleside is dedicated to the memory of Frederica Campbell MacFarlane, Maud’s friend and cousin who died in the flu epidemic in 1919. 

About the author
Everything you want to know about Lucy Maud Montgomery, much loved Canadian author (1874-1942) is here.

Some things I didn’t know about her:
  • her mother died of TB when she was 21 months old
  • she grew up with her grandparents
  • she was one of the few women of her time to study at university
  • when her manuscript of Anne of Green Gables was rejected by several publishers, she put it away in a hat box before trying again in 1907 (when it was accepted, published in 1908 and became an immediate bestseller)
  • she was secretly engaged for five years before getting married in 1911
  • she had three sons, but one was still-born
  • she left Prince Edward Island after her marriage, but nearly all (19 out of 20) of her novels are set there. 

I love some of her very delicious and funny lines:
- “I am done with crying which is a waste of time and discourages everybody.” (Susan, the housekeeper)
- (When their own horses aren’t available, and Rilla has to ride a very old one that keeps stopping every few yards) “Rilla felt that this, coupled with the fact that the Germans were only fifty miles from Paris, was hardly to be endured.”
- (Rilla talking about Fred Arnold, who is a very nice young man and “would be quite handsome if it were not for his nose”): “When he talks of commonplace things it does not matter so much, but when he talks of poetry and ideals the contrast between his nose and his conversation is too much for me and I want to shriek with laughter.”

Other books you might like:
Uprooted: a Canadian war story by Lynne Reid Banks tells the story of evacuees in WW2.
Where poppies grow: a World War I companion by Linda Granfield is a non-fiction book about WW1 from the Canadian perspective.

Have you read it?
Have you read this book? Let me know what you think!

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