I cannot believe we are already at the end of #AnneReadAlong2017! What a fantastic experience this has been. Thank you to my amazing co-host Jackie! I could not have done this without you and your enthusiasm for Anne. Thank you to those who have participated with us for any part of the read along! And thanks to all of you that have read and commented along the way.
Jackie and I plan on writing wrap-up posts and putting together an awesome Anne giveaway to end the read along. Look for those in January!!
Today I am here to review the final novel in the Anne of Green Gables series: Rilla of Ingleside. Someone told me that their favorite novels in the series were the odd numbered books + Rilla of Ingleside. I felt that way about the novels as well! Rilla is definitely one of my favorites! Rilla is a different novel than the rest of the series. But it captured my heart from the first page just like my favorites did before it.
Set during WWI, Rilla of Ingleside has a darker, more complex tone than the idyllic novels earlier in the series. But what impresses me the most is the dynamic way Montgomery shows her strength as a writer in both types of novels. She is just as impressive in this novel as in the original Anne of Green Gables.
**Note: I have a lot of spoilers in this review. I think that to give a strong review of this novel, I need to share some plot spoilers. Please do not read any further if you have not read the book yet! It’s absolutely worth experiencing for yourself!
- I have not read much from the WWI time period but I was fascinated and emotionally struck by this time period. Definitely not a time period I can read a bunch of right at the same time, but one I want to read more of.
- This novel was so emotionally gripping. I laughed. I cried. Wow, it was intense.
- I’ve said it before and I’m saying it again–I want to visit PEI so so so bad! It is definitely top of my travel bucket list right now!
Rilla of Ingleside by L. M. Montgomery tells the coming of age story of Rilla Blythe, the youngest of Anne and Gilbert’s children, as she endures WWI with her family and friends. Goodreads summarizes, “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.”
I was pleasantly surprised to love Rilla nearly as much as I love her mother in the earlier books. I loved Rilla’s personal journey in this novel. What makes Rilla so likable is her willingness to change and mature. She begins the novel as a rather silly almost 16 year old. She is more concerned about dances, fashion, and beaus than just about anything else. But she becomes a strong, selfless, hardworking woman over the course of the novel. She decides to raise little Jims (which I just love especially her insistence on doing everything the book says and the way she begins to love him like a mother). She is a support and strength for her parents, especially for Anne during several especially dark days at Ingleside. And she even falls in love (and Montgomery gives us some pretty romantic moments!). I would be proud to call Rilla my friend and would love my daughters to grow up to be more like her.
Walter, oh Walter! I am completely smitten by you! Walter is my favorite character in this novel. He reminds me so much of Anne with his love of good poetry and nature and his vivid imagination. I love his sweet relationship with Rilla and the way they build each other up and strengthen each other through their fears. His journey to war is complex and profound. I love the way Walter conquers his fears. The way he overcomes his intense fears and become a war hero is amazing. I love that he is immortalized through his poem, despite not being able to write any more. But I wanted to see the text of his poem! Somehow, I knew he would not come back. But that didn’t stop me from hoping throughout the novel that somehow he would be okay. I cried and cried when they got the news.
Most of my favorites quotes in the novel are from or about Walter. I aspire to see the world and interact with it more like he does.
“It’s 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 life Rilla-my-Rilla–that is my duty.”
“Rilla, the piper will pipe me ‘West’ tomorrow. I feel sure of this. And Rilla, I’m not afraid. When you hear the news, remember that. I’ve won my own freedom here– the freedom from all fear. I shall never be afraid of anything again–not of death–nor of life, if, after all, I am to go on living. . . . But whether it’s life or death, I’m not afraid, Rilla my Rilla, and I am not sorry that I came. I’m satisfied.”
Rilla of Ingleside, pages 118 & 191
Montgomery is again at her best in her characterization in this novel. The characters are so vivid and true to life. I felt like they could be my next door neighbor, my childhood friend, my acquaintance from church, or my family. Even more impressive, Montgomery creates a cast of characters who we can both love and hate. Some of the girls Rilla interacts with are just nasty! While others become more endearing like Mary Vance and her one legged war hero. I absolutely love Susan in this novel. She is hilarious! I loved her intense patriotism and biting witticisms (also her reaction to her first proposal!). My heart broke for Anne over and over as her sons all went to war and she got varying accounts of their experiences at the front. And I have never loved a dog as I loved Dog Monday and his faithful vigil waiting for Jem to come back. Overall, I fell in love with Anne and her family all over again.
The emotions of this book were intense and varying. I was so impressed by the depth of emotion in this novel. It is hopeful, gripping, haunting, suspenseful, beautiful and satisfying. I laughed. I cried. I hoped. And I sighed. I think what made me love this book so much was the intensity of the emotions. I felt like I knew the Ingleside family, and I was on the edge of my seat waiting for news at the front just like they were. At one point, I knew that someone would have to die or be injured. It was too long and too destructive of a war for them all to come home safely. Yes, someone had to die and several were hurt. But the way Montgomery describes the loss and hope of war is truly profound. It is completely satisfying despite also being deeply moving.
The WWI setting was fascinating, especially the piper analogy. I found the allusions to the piper and the inability to resist his song profound and fascinating. Walter’s changed attitude from resisting the war to enlisting and eventually giving his life for his family and country is a beautiful and tragic tribute to the piper’s power. I think a more in depth discussion of the role of the piper in this story and in WWI generally would make a fascinating conference paper. I was surprised how little I knew about WWI before reading this book. At times, I was shocked by the news from the front (especially conditions in the trenches!). I think this war gets overshadowed by WWII in history and literature. I appreciated learning more. Although, I couldn’t read too many novels about WWI (or any war) in a row.
A fascinating quote by Reverend Meredith about the war:
“Without shedding of blood there is no anything. . . . Everything, it seems to me, has to be purchased by self-sacrifice. . . . I don’t think the war has been sent as a punishment for sin. I think it is the price humanity must pay for some blessing–some advance great enough to be worth the price–which we may not live to see but which our children’s children will inherit.”
Rilla of Ingleside, page 50
I cannot say enough about this book. I was hooked from the first page through until the last. An absolute must read for Anne and Montgomery fans. And a novel that can stand on it’s own as well as be read in sequence with the rest of the series (or just with Rainbow Valley). After reading the full series this year, I have come to know Anne and her family like they were my own family. I have laughed, cried, smiled, played, fought, and prayed along with them. What a fantastic series that is definitely top of my favorites this year!
Which is your favorite Anne book?
What WWI novels do you recommend?
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