It’s so hard to think that #AnneReadAlong2017 is finally coming to an end! While I might be almost a month behind wrapping up this read along (oops! But, you know…. life), I am still sad to see it go. Sometimes, I wonder if I took my time finishing Rilla of Ingleside only so it wouldn’t end? Jane @ Greenish Bookshelf and I have loved hosting! So much so that we are having a giveaway to wrap everything up! There is still one more day before it wraps up. Enter now!
The final book in the Anne of Green Gables series focuses on the lives of the Blythe children, most specifically Rilla Blythe, as the world is grappling with World War I. Poor Rilla Blythe is desperately in love with the boy next door and excited for her coming out which is occurring soon. But all her plans crash down around her as the Great War takes over as the focus of the entire world. Our tale bookends the war and we get to see a glimpse of how rural Maritime Canada’s homeland societies handled the onslaught of news from across the globe. I loved reading a World War 1 focused novel which focuses on what daily life was like for women.
“Well, that is all the notes and there is not much else in the paper of any importance. I never take much interest in foreign parts. Who’s this Archduke man who has been murdered?
“What does it matter to us?” asked Miss Cornelia, unaware of the hideous answer to her question, which destiny was even then preparing. “Someone is always murdering or being murdered in those Balkan States. It’s their normal condition and I don’t really think that our papers ought to publish such shocking things.”
I want to start with the animals. Montgomery has always had a wonderful way of writing animals as characters. I love how much personality she gives them all. Dog Monday’s exploits are some of the most heart-wrenching moments in the whole novel. His dedication, compassion, and the emotional connection he carries with the Blythe boys are devastating. Hyde is also a remarkable character– but based on how Hyde is depicted and how Bruce Meredith handles his kitten, plus what has happened with cats in earlier books… well, I sort of thing Montgomery doesn’t like cats. Regardless, if you are even remotely interested in the bonds animals form with their people, read Rilla of Ingleside.
Montgomery’s cast of characters is at their finest in Rilla of Ingleside. I appreciate that we are only introduced to a few meaningful new characters. Even they are not in the spotlight often, and all serve a specific purpose. While we have far too many characters to really spend quality time with them all, it was nice to explore our existing cast more deeply.
“When I wake up in the night and cannot go to sleep again,” remarked Susan, who was knitting and reading at the same time, “I pass the moment by torturing the Kaiser to death. Last night I fried him in boiling oil and a great comfort it was to me, remembering those Belgain babies.”
“We are told to love our enemies, Susan,” said the doctor solemnly.
“Yes, our enemies, but not King George’s enemies, doctor dear,” retorted Susan crushingly.
I adore the development Rilla experiences throughout this book. She is, honestly, a whiny self-centered 15-year-old child when the book begins. Focused only on how she looks, boys, and how others are perceiving her, and uninterested in her own education, Rilla will be the only Blythe child not to attend college. But as the events of the war unfold, Rilla takes on more and more responsibility. She grows by leaps and bounds, overcoming every challenge thrown at her (though not all of them with dignity), and despite the perceived notions the Glen inhabitants project on her.
I also find myself smitten with the relationships we witness blossoming between Rilla and Walter. This is unique for many reasons. This relationship allows Montgomery to provide a softer side to the horrors of war. Instead of wanting to rush off to the glories of battle, Walter fears to instigate death. The two of them confide in each other and grow in their shared secrets.
It is not death I fear – I told you that long ago. One can pay too high a price for mere life, little sister. There’s so much hideousness in this war – I’ve got to go and help wipe it out of the world. I’m going to fight for the beauty of my life, Rilla-my-Rilla – that is my duty. There may be a higher duty, perhaps – but that is mine.
And, well, Susan Baker “is a brick, and that you may tie to.”
The exploration of life on the homefront breathes new life into this series. While Montgomery is writing in the same style, with snippets and character sketches, the feel of the book is entirely different. I have never read fiction which explores what happened on the homefronts during the Great War. I cannot imagine how challenging it must have been to expect this war to end any day and have it drag on for years. The Canadian homefront called for bravery, patience, and self-sacrifice. The women constantly stitched sheets, “war socks”, and other items to send off to the Front. Being together as a family was key to your emotional survival. They needed to keep the faith for those with less. Plus, being published in 1921, the historical details are fresh, accurate and accessible. This is still a children’s story after all.
I’ve seen enough of wat to realize that we’ve got to make a world where wars can’t happen.
But Montgomery doesn’t hold back ALL the horrors of war (well, from a graphical depiction perspective, she does, and I am thankful for that). When the men come home, they are all changed in a notable way. The horrors of war have left their mark, physically and/or emotionally. This is something we should not be glossing over, and I am glad Montgomery addresses it, however indirectly.
What really makes Rilla of Ingleside special is the way Montgomery helps the reader connect to such a wide range of emotions. One of the great emotional lessons it taught me is that the soul can bear a lot more suffering than any of us usually think it can. This is hopeful; it helps me realize that we can live through horrible things and still find happiness again. We won’t be the same, our happiness might be burdened, but it will return. This book is sometimes so filled with emotion it is painful, and it often made my heart flutter hopelessly.
Nobody whom this war has touched will ever be happy again in quite the same way. But it will be a better happiness, I think, little sister — a happiness we’ve earned.
If you are thinking to yourself, “Wow. This book sounds fantastic! It’s a shame I’d have to read seven other books to get to this point…” Fret not! I feel like Rilla of Ingleside can certainly be read as a standalone novel. While you might not be as emotionally connected to the characters as someone who has read all the previous novels, I think you will still gain quite a bit from it and have your heartstrings appropriately tugged. What are you waiting for?
Are you participating in #AnneReadAlong2017? If so, post the link to your review below and I’ll add you to the list*! You can also join us on Twitter with the hashtag #AnneReadAlong2017. And don’t forget to enter the End of Anne giveaway before it closes!
*For those of you who have been participating thus far, I’ve already captured the links from your timely reviews. 😉 Thank you for being awesome!
Other Rilla of Ingleside Reviews
What do you think?
- Have you read Rilla of Ingleside? What do you think?
- What book in the Anne of Green Gables series is your favorite?
- What are your thoughts on the end of #AnneReadAlong2017?
- What other books focusing on World War I would you recommend I read next? Or books featuring uncanny bonds between pets and their people?