Publication Date: First published in 1921
Publisher: McClelland & Steward
Age Group: YA/Adult
Source: My Bookshelf
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.The final instalment (excluding The Blythes Are Quoted/The Road to Yesterday) of the Anne of Green Gables story. It is the tale of Rilla Blythe, youngest and most care free of Anne and Gilbert's children. Young Rilla is almost fifteen and is keenly anticipating a thrilling and exciting few years before she turns nineteen - unfortunately for Rilla, her whole world is turned upside down by the English declaring war on Germany, a war we will recognise as World War One.
What I Liked: So nearly fifteen that she claims it, Rilla at the beginning of the novel throws us back to the youthful Anne Shirley of Anne of Avonlea. Not nearly as ambitious as her mother, Rilla has the same dreamy appeal of our old beloved favourite. Possessing much of her Mother's sweetness, outright spunk, and imagination, Rilla is the girl in each of us.
Her character growth shows the necessity of an almost instantaneous maturity caused by the sacrifices and uncertainties of the Great War.
Her growing affection for Jims, the war baby she adopts, and her determination to be a heroine regardless of what happens prove her to be a strong protagonist. The appeal of Rilla is feeling yourself grow alongside her. There is an added sweetness in the sweet mystery of her romance with Kenneth Ford that makes her character, and her story, glow.
One of the things I appreciate about Montgomery is her willingness to make sacrifices - her characters understand the pains and suffering of war. She doesn't talk about the atrocities of war and keep her characters in a protective bubble, they must suffer with the rest of the world.
There is a lovely subplot of Dog Monday's wait for the return of his Master, James Matthew 'Jem' Blythe. It's another extraordinary example of the way Montgomery can touch our hearts.
What I didn't Like: It's always hard to resign yourself to the death of a beloved character and I always felt as though the death in Rilla of Ingleside was more spectacular than realistic. The character has always been a favourite though, so maybe I'm being unfair, but their death was always going to be more dramatic than most others drawn into the Great War. (I think I avoided spoilers quite nicely.)
Rilla of Ingleside is not only a sweet conclusion to a childhood class, but it the only Canadian novel from a women's perspective during the First World War written at the time. Montgomery has the enviable skill of not just creating characters but creating friends and memories we can cherish for a lifetime.
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