Once in a blue moon I receive a note from a reader asking me to review something for this column, or hoping to share a book they have loved. One such note came from Rosamund Hyde of Tamworth. She sent a lovely little write-up about Rilla of Ingleside by LM Montgomery, a book she describes as “a hidden treasure within a well-known body of work.” She gave me permission to share her review here.
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
Most people have heard of the book Anne of Green Gables, and many may have read the early sequels – Anne of Avonlea and Anne of the Island. Less well known are the stories about Anne’s own children, and in particular, Rilla of Ingleside about her youngest child Rilla, named after Anne’s guardian Marilla Cuthbert. Rilla was born with the century and the book follows her through late adolescence on Prince Edward Island, with World War I always in the background and often driving the story.
Rilla of Ingleside is unusual because it is the only Canadian novel written from a woman's perspective about the First World War by a contemporary (1). It describes the experiences of Rilla and other female characters coping with many dimensions of the Canadian wartime experience: departure of men for the front; efforts to put together finances and supplies for the war; bad news and no news; disagreements on the home front, especially with pacifists; loss and grief; armistice; straggling return of damaged soldiers; gradual adjustment to the new normal. Each of Rilla’s brothers in turn faces the decision whether to go to enlist; the reports of what Canadians faced overseas make for grim reading. At the same time this book is about a girl growing up from 15 to 19, having as much fun as possible under the circumstances and certainly lots of self-discovery. Writing “Rilla” in 1921, the author L.M. Montgomery looks back just 4 years to the Wartime Elections Act which gave the vote to women 21 and over who were wives, widows, mothers, and sisters of soldiers serving overseas. As well as the social and political ambience, the progress of technology a century ago is seen through the characters’ lives: unreliable telephone service, first automobiles and airplanes, transition toward modern medical care.
The story is told through a combination of narrative chapters and journal entries, often referencing actual news events and describing the response of adults and young people in Rilla’s home. This book is an absorbing read for girls 14 and up, and may be of interest to boys in the same age group who want to understand why so many Canadian youth went to fight in the First World War, and what they left behind.
- Rubio, Jen (2015). Introduction to Rilla of Ingleside, annotated edition. Oakville, ON: Rock's Mills Press. pp. vii–x. ISBN 9780988129382. Accessed in Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rilla_of_Ingleside, 11 November 2018
Thanks so much to Rosamund for reaching out with this review! I always appreciate feedback and would love to hear (and possibly share) what other readers are reading and enjoying. You can get in touch by emailing ccoles[at]lennox-addington.on.ca or adding me on goodreads.com/ccoles.
Rilla of Ingleside is available to reserve in a variety of formats from www.CountyLibrary.ca. Click here to place a hold.
Article originally published in the November 22nd edition of The Napanee Beaver.