Rilla of Ingleside by L M Montgomery
|Rilla of Ingleside by L M Montgomery|
|Reviewer: Ruth Ng|
|Summary: Both tear-jerking and humorous, this is a war-time story that paints a moving picture of the lives of Canadian women during World War One.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 352||Date: June 2014|
Rilla of Ingleside is an interesting novel for many reasons. Being the only fictional book written by a Canadian woman just after the war, about the war, it is an incredibly important work. It tells of what happened to the women who stayed at home, the limited aspects of war work that they were able to do, the endless fear and dread they felt for their loved ones far away, and all of the emotional highs and lows they experienced during such a heightened time. The novel begins as Europe is on the brink of war, and Rilla is only 15 years old and, still, a rather silly young girl. I have to say, I never much cared for Rilla. In Rainbow Valley' the book that precedes this one, she's just a spoilt baby and at the start of this story it seems that nothing much has changed. However, just as the world goes through a dramatic change during this period of time, Rilla herself grows from a child to a woman.
Although this is the final novel in the Anne series, there is little about Anne herself, only snippets here and there, so if you're a fan of Anne then don't get your hopes up too much. I remember the first time I read Rilla I was frustrated by the desperate lack of Anne and Gilbert, but if you allow the other characters to engage you it's a wonderful read. Rilla can be annoying at times, but as she grows in determination and sense she becomes a much more likeable character.
Dealing, as it does, with life on the home front during a terrible war it is sometimes quite dark and bleak. Montgomery started writing it at the end of the war, and when her best friend and cousin, Frede to whom the book is dedicated, died. There is a seriousness within the writing, so that although she still has humorous stories sprinkled throughout that make you smile you can still sense the horrors of war, the helplessness that women must have felt, and the terrible grief of losing beloved sons, fathers and brothers. I don't want to tell you too much of what happens, because I think it would spoil the story for you. There's a lot there however - debates about pacifists, the adoption of an orphaned baby, Red Cross activities, and a loyal little dog who waits and waits for his master to come home. There's one scene in this book that has never failed to make me cry, every single time I have read it.
Woven throughout is, of course, the inevitable love story and it is because of this, I'm afraid, that I have taken away half a star from what is otherwise a wonderful book. I just don't like the love story. More importantly, I don't believe the love story. Anne, wonderful, tempestuous, imaginative Anne is loved by Gilbert because she is wildfire and passion and full of faults. Rilla is loved, however, because she is beautiful. I think that arouses the feminist in me, and leaves me cross with Montgomery, because Rilla has a lot more going for her than just her beauty but it is apparently because of her beauty and desirability that she is loved.
Still, this is a wonderful book, with a beautiful cover for its reissue as a Virago Modern Classic. Far more than 'just a children's story', it's a wonderful historical document. Montgomery lived through the war, and wrote directly from her own experiences. Using letters and diary entries she varied the way she told the story, and she created a haunting, moving story that stays with you long after you close the book.
I'd definitely recommend another of Montgomery's novels, and one of my favourite books ever, Jane of Lantern Hill
You can read more book reviews or buy Rilla of Ingleside by L M Montgomery at Amazon.co.uk
You can read more book reviews or buy Rilla of Ingleside by L M Montgomery at Amazon.com.
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