Sonderbooks Book Reviews by Sondra Eklund

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I don't review books I don't like!

*****= An all-time favorite
****  = Outstanding
***    = Above average
**      = Enjoyable
*        = Good, with reservations


****Rilla of Ingleside

by L. M. Montgomery

Reviewed November 24, 2003.
Bantam Books, Toronto, 1985.  Originally published in 1921. 277 pages.
A Sonderbooks’ Stand-out of 2003:  #4, Young Adult and Children's Classics

Here is the eighth book in the Anne of Green Gables series.  It’s not the best, but it’s still L. M. Montgomery and so still, of course, wonderful.

This book focuses on Rilla, Anne’s youngest daughter, who turns fifteen on the eve of World War I.  Mostly, it’s a novel of World War I, and is fascinating for how different that world was from the world we live in today, even when we’re at war.

The beginning of the book is my least favorite part.  The author speaks rather condescendingly of fifteen-year-old Rilla.  At the beginning, we don’t really see things from Rilla’s perspective, but from the perspective of an older and wiser person looking down somewhat fondly but superiorly on a teenager going to her first dance.

This perspective changes as Rilla grows and becomes more mature as she lives through the war.  She adopts a baby whose mother dies and whose father is off fighting.  All three of her brothers go and not all of them return.  As the book goes on, the author gets more successfully and completely into Rilla’s point of view, and it’s full of the short vignettes of which L. M. Montgomery is a master.

There is a thin romance for Rilla woven through the book, but most of the time the object of her affections is off fighting.  Most of the action comes from the war and the reactions on the home front.  From reading L. M. Montgomery’s published journals, I know that she used her own journals almost verbatim to come up with Rilla’s responses, so it’s a very authentic view of how the world looked to Canadians back home during the war.

If you’ve seen the new DVD called Anne of Green Gables: The Continuing Story and then read this book, you’ll know why I was disgusted with the DVD.  The movie puts Anne and Gilbert in the thick of World War I, and makes them practically pacifists.  L. M. Montgomery puts one pacifist in this book and uses him as a buffoon.  When boys break his windows, the characters don’t think they should approve, but they are secretly glad.  Essentially, that character is hated for his lack of patriotic spirit.  Everything on the DVD was invented by the filmmakers, not L. M. Montgomery, and it even presented attitudes toward war completely different from hers.

The sad thing about this book is that the characters and the author clearly believed that they were fighting to make sure that such wars would never happen again—the war to end all wars.  I find it especially sad that L. M. Montgomery died in 1942—so she lived to see World War II start, but didn’t live to see it end.

Of course, Canadians were part of World War I as soon as England was involved.  It’s interesting to watch the characters rushing to join the army at the beginning, and the women bravely seeing them off.  The patriotic characters are disgusted with Woodrow Wilson and his “letter-writing.”  They take you through all the ups and downs of the conflict.  That war wasn’t fought on television, but they lived by the phone and the newspapers.  It was a very different world, yet some things are all too much the same.

It was interesting to read this book for what I think is the third time.  Now, after the fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq, it doesn’t seem as far removed from me as it did the other times I’ve read it.  I’ve also now been to Verdun, which made me better understand some of the horrors and geography of that war.

This is an entertaining and fascinating book.  L. M. Montgomery hasn’t lost her touch for creating interesting and quirky characters, as well as characters we deeply care for.  The story of Dog Monday waiting for Jem to return will bring tears to your eyes.  Fans of Anne and L. M. Montgomery will be delighted that there’s something more to read, and we find out how all the young folk we cared about from Rainbow Valley turn out, despite their coming of age in the shadow of war time.

Reviews of other L. M. Montgomery books:
The Blue Castle
Kilmeny of the Orchard
The Story Girl
The Golden Road
Magic for Marigold
Chronicles of Avonlea
Further Chronicles of Avonlea
The Alpine Path
The Watchman and Other Poems

The Emily Series:
Emily of New Moon
Emily Climbs
Emily's Quest

The Anne Series:
Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island
Anne of Windy Poplars
Anne's House of Dreams
Anne of Ingleside
Rainbow Valley
Rilla of Ingleside
The Road to Yesterday

Before Green Gables, by Budge Wilson
Marilla of Green Gables, by Sarah McCoy
The Annotated Anne of Green Gables
The Landscapes of Anne of Green Gables, by Catherine Reid
House of Dreams, by Liz Rosenberg

List in Publication Order

Copyright © 2005 Sondra Eklund.  All rights reserved.

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