Tuesday, December 1, 2009
Review: Rilla of Ingleside
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery
Reasons for reading: it's the last book in the Anne series and I never got to it; I'm celebrating Maud's November 30, 1874 birthday for November's Celebrate the Author challenge
Synopsis: "Anne's children were almost grown up, except for pretty, high-spirited Rilla. No one could resist her bright hazel eyes and dazzling smile. Rilla, almost fifteen, can't think any further ahead than going to her very first dance at the Four Winds lighthouse and getting her first kiss from handsome Kenneth Ford. But undreamed-of challenges await the irrepressible Rilla when the world of Ingleside becomes endangered by a far-off war. Her brothers go off to fight, and Rilla brings home an orphaned newborn in a soup tureen. She is swept into a drama that tests her courage and leaves her changed forever."
First line: "It was a warm, golden-cloudy, lovable afternoon."
My thoughts: I always had a soft spot for Rilla, the "roly-poly baby" of the Blythe family. But I'd put off reading this one, largely because of its realism. It's basically the only book of the Anne series that really mentions much about the outside world and in this case, it's the terrible world of the Great War. While it reads like historical fiction now, the book was written in 1920, just 2 years after the war ended. This added an extra layer of interest for me, in addition to reading about my beloved Blythes. Montgomery obviously drew on her own experiences during the time - the horror, as well as the details of the war, really ring true. (Sadly, in the biography at the end it says that she was so depressed by World War II that she basically stopped writing, even letters, and died in 1942.)
While Anne is relegated to being "Mrs. Blythe," Rilla takes on a lot of her old spirit - romantic and feisty, although with a great deal more beauty than her mother had as a child. Along with the pain of the family's boys going to war, one by one, there are the usual scrapes, agonizing embarrassments, and hopes and dreams found in all of the series. I particularly enjoyed the chapter where Rilla eats a slice of humble pie (something her mother was very familiar with) and goes to ask a former chum for help with a money-raising concert only to find she's wearing two completely different shoes and stockings. And there's a lovely, heartbreaking but heartening story about Jem Blythe's faithful dog running throughout the book, as he waits for his master to return.
With the war theme, this was a good book to read around Remembrance Day. And it turns out I've missed the second to last book in the series, Rainbow Valley. Quite a few of the characters were new to me. So, I'll have to go back and read that one. Honestly, it's shameful for me call myself an Anne fan and not realize I'd missed a book! :-)