Rilla of Ingleside

I’d read L M Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside before. A long time ago. It was the one I remembered well but couldn’t get hold of as I bought all the Green Gables books in English, thirty years ago, so I’m particularly pleased it’s one of the ones re-issued by Virago. It’s also the first book to bring the reality – for normal people – of WWI to my attention.

L M Montgomery, Rilla of Ingleside

I mean, if L M Montgomery couldn’t even fictionally keep Anne Shirley’s family safe from the war, then no one was safe. Which, obviously, was the truth. Before Rilla I had callously imagined that people back then were used to it and that it was a long time ago. And anyway, Anne lived in Canada, hundreds and hundreds of miles from the trenches.

Rilla of Ingleside is a sweet book, for all that it features the war so much that there is barely room for any romantic nostalgia for life on Prince Edward Island. Anne and Gilbert are growing old, and back then 50 was probably a lot older than it is now. So we concentrate on 15-year-old Rilla as war breaks out, and her brothers and friends go off to fight, one after the other, or at least to do their bit for the war closer to home.

The years between 15 and 19 were meant to be the best of her life. Instead they changed her completely; making her someone who could quite capably knit socks for the soldiers by the end of those four years. And a few other things, too.

Like what you can use a soup tureen for, and that it is possible to love an ugly baby that isn’t even yours.

There were just two things that made me cry, though. It was the neighbours’ little boy, Bruce, picking flowers for Anne (stupid Witch, crying again, now), and Jem’s dog, waiting all those years for his master to come back on the train. (Get me a hanky!)

You presumably know all this already, but when you love Anne and all those she loves, you do tend to go on about it a little.


4 responses to “Rilla of Ingleside

  1. I re-read all the Anne books a few years ago, and this was my favourite after the original. I think that’s because it concentrated on one character, Rilla, whereas the other titles got more diffuse as the series went on And Anne’s family grew. I found the piety quite hard to deal with too. However, Rilla can certainly rival her mother as an engaging protagonist and the 1WW setting is powerful. Nothing makes me cry as much as Matthew in Green Gables though. Can I share your hankies?

  2. I agree, Anabel. It’s more like Anne than the others. What puzzles me though, is the fact that she seems not to go to school, and I’d have thought the Blythes would insist on that. Even for a girl.
    Sorry, hankies are all wet.

  3. I loved all the Anne books, but this was one of my favourites. I often think of poor Rilla in her duration-long hat. And Susan stubbornly sticking to “God’s time”. And yes, hankies required every time.

  4. When I was about ten, I bought the most awful green velvet hat…

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