Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery (1921)

My Edition:rilla
Title: Rilla of Ingleside
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Publisher: Bantam Books
Year: 1987, text of the original 1921 edition
Pages: 277
For a plot summary.

 

“Before this war is over, every man and woman and child in Canada will feel it—you, Mary, will feel it—feel it to your heart’s core. You will weep tears of blood over it. The Piper has come—and he will pipe until every corner of the world has heard his awful and irresistible music. It will be years before the dance of death is over—years, Mary. And in those years millions of hearts will break.” Walter Blythe[i]

My Thoughts:

It has been a long time since I have had such confusing reactions toward a book.

Rilla of Ingleside is the last book in the Anne of Green Gables series by L.M. Montgomery. It is the intensely personal and intimate account of a Canadian village caught up in the anxiety and hardships brought on by WWI.

I was captivated by 15 year-old Rilla and her young “chums” as they changed and grew through the struggles and sacrifices the war brought to their daily lives. I was impressed at the way they stepped up to adult responsibilities at home and on the battlefield. I especially liked how her family and the town at large waited expectantly each day for the newspaper, their fear and elation at battles lost and won as they poured over the daily paper and discussed their fate and that of Europe.

Rilla did her part as organizer of the Junior Red Cross Society and as surrogate mother to Jims, the war-baby whose father was at the front. This was an interesting fact for me, as I was surprised at the casualness of the handover of an infant to a non-related 15 year old girl. Did this really happen? Need some research here!

A knowledge of the preceding books in the series is not necessary to richly experience Rilla of Ingleside. This is a stand-alone book full of well-drawn main characters, who portray an honorable citizenry doing ‘what it takes” to keep up their spirits, their Canadian ethics and the “home fires burning” against the terror and evil prevailing over Europe.

When the word had come that Jem must go she had her cry out among the pines in Rainbow Valley and then she had gone to her mother. “Mother, I want to do something. I’m only a girl—I can’t do anything to win the war—but I must do something to help at home.”

“Don’t you think you could organize a Junior Red Cross among the young girls,” said Mrs. Blythe?

“Well”—Rilla took the plunge—“I’ll try, mother—if you’ll tell me how to begin. I have been thinking it all over and I have decided that I must be as brave and heroic and unselfish as I can possible be.”[ii]

What so distressed me about the book, was the death of Anne Shirley. Not her actual death, of course, but the slow fade-out of the once vibrant, dramatic, sensitive and smart Anne who, to use an appropriate description, was basically MIA. In fact, I resented Susan with her emotional outbursts, her sensibility and the way she mobilized the family’s patriotism. Because that should have been Anne.

To be fair, Anne really faded out in books six and seven as her children grew and took over the main story lines. But it seems to me Montgomery could have tried harder in the last book to give Anne a better send off. Just because Anne became a wife and mother is no reason to restrict her to a life of retiring domesticity as the noble mother who suffers in silence as she sends her boys off to war. In modern parlance, she got hardly any air time in this book and it is shattering. This is Anne Shirley we are talking about. SHE would not have faded into the old tropes of sacrificial wifedom and motherhood!

Maybe Montgomery felt this series was only for young adults and as such thought they would not be interested in characters over the age of 20. But I will always regret my last experiences with Anne of Green Gables were actually with her ghost.

I was just taking relief from the intolerable realities in a dream, Gilbert—a dream that all our children were home again—and all small again—playing in Rainbow Valley. It is always so silent now—but I was imagining I heard clear voices and gay, childish sounds coming up as I used to. I could hear Jem’s whistle and Walter’s yodel, and the twins’ laughter, and for just a few blessed minutes I forgot about the guns on the western front, and had a little false, sweet happiness.[iii]

I read somewhere that this was the first book to give a Canadian perspective of everyday life during the war. In that respect, it is a valuable resource and for that reason I do not regret the time I spent in reading this book. I do not resent Montgomery, either for not giving me the book I wanted. That is not a good way to review a book. She had her reasons for treating Anne, er, Mrs. Blythe the way she did I am sure and I like Montgomery enough to keep on reading through her vast array of work.

Rilla, the Piper will pipe me ‘west’ tomorrow….And Rilla, I’m not afraid. When you hear the news, remember that. I’ve won my own freedom here—freedom from all fear….I am not afraid, Rilla-my-Rilla, and I am not sorry that I came. I’m satisfied. I’ll never write the poems I once dreamed of writing—but I’ve helped to make Canada safe for the poets of the future—for the workers of the future—ay, and the dreamers, too—It isn’t only the fate of the little sea-born island I love that is in the balance—nor of Canada nor of England. It’s the fate of mankind. That is what we are fighting for. And we shall win….For it isn’t only the living who are fighting—the dead are fighting too. Such an army cannot be defeated.[iv]

____________________

[i] 33.
[ii] 53.
[iii] 171.
[iv] 192.

 

 

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18 thoughts on “Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery (1921)

  1. Also English is not my first language. I’m an Indian and my mother tongue is Gujarati. So as a child I hadn’t read any of these classics. But none the less I think that these books are very much for adults to bring back the child and vigour within.

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    1. You are in a good club 🙂 *I* didn’t read any of the Anne or Emily books or much of so-called children’s literature until just about 5 years ago. I am finding out there are many like us for all kinds of reasons. When I read The Secret Garden, The Wind in the Willows the Anne and Emily books I wondered if I would have gotten as much out of them as an adolescent as I did/do as an adult? Because they have a lot to teach us at any age.

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      1. Absolutely true. This reminds me of how I bumped into The Secret Garden. I was just surfing books in my mobile phone. I also wondered how the description convinced me to read it. I wasn’t having a great time at that point of time. I can’t say it was a ‘dark’ period of my life. But kind of grey. And finding my own secret garden then was indeed Magic! The rest is history! 😂😅

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  2. What an optimistic outlook by Deborah. I read the conversation between you Laurie and Deborah and found it fascination. I also noted down all the books Deborah mentioned. I am a fan of Anne too. Thought left reading the series from the sixth book (Anne of Ingleside). I tried to read it twice. But somehow couldn’t get interested.

    Though there are similarities that are clearly evident in all LMM books, i somehow feel that LMM of Anne series is different than LMM of Emily series. May be just like that i’ll think that LMM who wrote about Anne is different than the one who is writing about her children.

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    1. Deborah is a really good thinker and writer. You should check out her blog.

      One reason I think for a difference in the “different” LMMs might be because she wrote so much over such a long period of time. I am sure she was different in that she grew as a person. That would be my guess. As much as like the Anne books, Emily is my favorite 🙂

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      1. I agree with you. That might be the reason because when I was searching things about LMM, I remember reading somewhere (mostly wikipedia) that before Anne series, she used to write for Sunday school newspaper or something like that. But child characters in them were too well behaved and that she was fed up with them. So while living with (may be her old and stern grandmom or some other relative), just to unwind her mind, she started writing Anne (whose idea she had penned down and kept aside. So yes, she grew too, along with her stories.

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  3. Came across this to-day (smile) looking for Walter’s quote about war. A lovely blog-space you have here.

    Just a few comments. The casual adopting of the war baby seems to be in line with how orphaned children are treated throughout the entire series. Anne’s own adoption by the Cuthberts is a very haphazard thing which basically amounts to, “Hey, could you stop by that there orphanage in Hopetown and pick out a “likely” child. Davy and Dora’s adoption is really just the handing over of the children from one distant relative to another. And then there’s Mary Vance, who nobody even really noticed was missing until someone asked. It’s certainly not the careful vetting we’re accustomed to these days.

    As for Anne fading out, that was a bit disconcerting but also, understandable. I too was surprised when, in “Anne’s House of Dreams,” Anne says, “I’d like to add some beauty to life,” said Anne dreamily. “I don’t exactly want to make people KNOW more… though I know that IS the noblest ambition… but I’d love to make them have a pleasanter time because of me… to have some little joy or happy thought that would never have existed if I hadn’t been born.”

    It did seem a departure from the Anne we knew – but I love the life she makes with Gilbert in Glenn St. Mary. Her influence on her children is unmistakable, as is the influence of Marilla and even Matthew as the years go by. And if nothing else, she continues her writing to cement her place in the world as a woman in her own right.

    I accept Anne as a wife and mother because that’s exactly what happened in my own life. I haven’t exactly achieved everything people once thought I would, but my life certainly hasn’t been dull. I’m proud of my life and what little legacy I leave behind, especially in my daughter. I think Anne would say the same : )

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    1. What a beautiful comment, Deborah. I really appreciate the time you took to write this.

      Your comparisons with the other adoptees throughout the Anne series certainly rings true. And you’re right, I guess I am used to DCFS having a big say in where children should go!

      However, I am still unsatisfied with Anne trickling out of the series. I still maintain, especially in this book, Susan took her thunder. Susan herself was an interesting character, but I feel so much of what she did was Anne’s. Which was still domestic, (and the seat of power 🙂 ), nevertheless, Anne’s. And I, too, thought her relationship with Gilbert was wonderful, especially the way it started out as kids…you knew they were going to be important to each other!

      After I read The Blue Castle last month, I became very interested in Montgomery herself and am going to spend May as ‘Montgomery Month.’ Your comment makes me think you have some experience here either having read a lot of Montgomery’s work or about her. If you have any suggestions for further reading, either critiques of her body of work or on her, please let me know. I will be gathering a reading list through April!

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      1. My life is so busy, I don’t get to read a lot of new books. Thanks to Project Gutenberg I can fall back on my old favorites. A decade or so back, I had a second shift job where the late hours weren’t busy at all. Up until that point I had only ever read “Anne of Green Gables” but at Gutenberg I got to read the entire series and also “The Chronicles of Avonlea” of which there are two volumes. I also got to read all of “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm” the entire series of “Little Women” all the way through “Jo’s Boys” and “An Old Fashioned Girl.” (I really have a soft spot for Alcott and that job was really boring, but I got to finish every series I’d never finished as a girl). Thanks to Gutenberg I can read them fairly often. It just so happened that this past week, I checked out of life for a bit and stole some moments when I should have been doing other things to skim over Ingleside, Rainbow Valley and Rilla. I don’t know anything about LM Montgomery other than what I’ve read online (Wikipedia, etc.)- I haven’t even read any of her other stories outside of Anne’s stories – but I have read everything in the Anne series dozens of times over, so it makes me a bit of an oddity in my own world, where no one I know has even read them but my own daughter of course 🙂

        If I could recommend two books to anyone, the first would be “In This House of Brede” by Rumer Godden. I love her stories, particularly her ones for children, but I have practically memorized “Brede.” Back when I kept a blog, I did a short post on it here.http://deblite.blogspot.com/2008/06/debs-bookshelf-in-this-house-of-brede.html

        The second book I love is “The Old Wives Tale” by Arnold Bennett. The first time I read that book and got to the end, I think I was nearly entirely silent for two days. If there’s any book that will make you wake up and do SOMETHING, ANYTHING with your life, that book is it.

        Those are my favorites, but I feel I have to get a word in for my people, so if you really want a good read, Chinua Achebe’s, “Things Fall Apart” is a real eye opener. And anything by Maya Angelou is always worth reading thrice and again.

        The only interesting fact I know about any authors is that Rose Wilder Lane and Helen Dore Boylston were good friends. Of course I’ve read Laura Ingalls Wilder, but I’m determined that this is the year I’m going to finally dig up Rose’s books. Boylston wrote “The Sue Barton Series” and I loved those as a kid as well. It’s a really good look at nursing when nurses actually trained and lived at the hospitals where they worked.

        Last but not least is a series I read back in the day, “The Keeping Days,” series. It actually continues into a short series about the modern day members of the same family which I’ve never read.

        Sorry this is so very long but you seem like a kindred spirit where books are concerned : )

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        1. You are a total book nerd, rejoice, rejoice! I didn’t read Anne of Green Gables until about three years ago and then I read the whole series with other children’s classics interspersed. I managed to make it out of childhood without reading a lot of classics, so I am catching up as an adult. I blame A Journal of the Plague Year, which I found when I was 12. Everything else kind of paled in comparison. And then I read On the Beach and that clinched the not reading ‘children’s books’ thing!

          It doesn’t sound like you read the Emily series by LM Montgomery. Emily Byrd Starr is the heroine of that series. She is a writer and a fascinating character. I like that series better than Anne 🙂

          College made me stop reading fiction and novels and I feel like there is a huge gap in my book knowledge. Reading book reviews by other bloggers with so much more experience than I has been so illuminating and also fun. I took a lot at your blog and you write so well. I know by your last post you have a lot going on in your life, but I hope you can get back to it.

          I still have my old copy of Things Fall Apart from college. And Maya Angelou has just about the best voice ever on the page and in the air waves. Audre Lorde’s essays had a big effect on me when I was younger, but it’s been a long time since I’ve read her.

          I am planning on reading a lot of Louisa May Alcott this year as part of the Classic Clubs Women’s Literature Event. When I mentioned to someone I had never read Little Women (I know, it’s absurd!) and was interested in LMA, she pointed me to Susan Bailey and her blog Louisa May Alcott is my Passion http://louisamayalcottismypassion.com/, which you might find interesting if you want to talk all things LMA as well as her time period. Along with Little Women, I plan on reading Joe’s Boys and Little Men as well as other of her works this year.

          There is so much going on in the blogosphere around reading and books, I think you have a lot to contribute.

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          1. Wow. I’m just glad you didn’t start out with who is this long-winded lady and why is she taking up my comments section.

            I’m a little late to the Women’s Literature Event party, but I think my quest to read more of Rose Wilder Lane’s work fits right in line with that so I may gate-crash. I can’t even click on the link for the LMA is my passion blog without getting a sinking feeling that that pile of laundry in the corner is not even going to get folded today : )

            Book nerds unite!

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  4. I actually had the film adaptation rights for Rilla (and previous Ingleside books) at one time and was set to produce it for the Disney Channel, but then they decide to go all contemporary with their programming.

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    1. Hi Mitch. I think this would do very well now. First, even though it is last in the series, it bears so little connection to the whole, you wouldn’t have had to read it to enjoy this book (or the film). Second, there are a lot of historical dramas around now and this has the distinction of being about WWI, which I found fascinating, that isn’t often as done as WWII. And hey, young adult cast 🙂

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