Friday, October 24, 2008
Rilla of Ingleside
Montgomery, L.M. 1921. Rilla of Ingleside.
I will try to dry my eyes long enough to type out a review that couldn't hope to do this book justice. Rilla of Ingleside is the final book in the series of Anne books. The novel is set during World War I. For those that think Anne's life was so rosy and so perfect...just consider that her children came of age just in time for the declaration of war. The novel opens in July of 1914. Within the first few chapters, Anne has seen her firstborn son, Jem, off to war. Before the novel closes, she'll send off two more of her sons: Walter and Shirley.
Rilla of Ingleside isn't Anne's story--though we do get glimpse of the fiftyish year old mother and wife--it is Rilla's through and through. Her youngest child is just a few weeks (or is it a few months?) shy of her fifteenth birthday. Her teen years will be impacted greatly by the war. She'll have to say goodbye to her three brothers, two of her childhood chums (Jerry and Carl) and her almost-sweetheart Kenneth Ford. (Kenneth Ford is the son of Leslie Moore and Owen Ford whose story we were swept away with in Anne's House of Dreams.)
What does Rilla do with her time? She doesn't go away to school (high school and college) like her sisters Nan and Di. No, she'll start a Junior Red Cross society for the younger crowd in the village. But perhaps what changes her as a person (as a soul) is when she adopts a war baby. She quite inadvertently discovers a tragic baby--just a month or so old--whose father is a soldier overseas and whose mother has just died. Too compassionate to send to an orphanage, she takes him home--and does so in style. This baby is carried home in a soup tureen. For four long years, Rilla plays the role of mother. And it does change her...and for the better.
Life on the home front worrying about loved ones far far away is hard. Waiting to hear if they're dead or alive or if they're coming home...is difficult, is life changing. War brings hardship and worry and sorrow and grief and new perspectives on life as well.
The heart and soul of this book--the sentimental details that will pull at your heartstrings is Dog Monday. Jem's dog that stays at the train station all the years while his master is away. The dog that can't be tempted or swayed to leave the spot where he lost saw his Jem. The dog's loyalty...to both Jem....and to Walter...is not easily forgotten.
Rilla of Ingleside is a fitting end to a wonderful series. Like Anne of Green Gables, it has its bittersweet moments. It's about life--the good, the bad, the ugly, the joyous, the heartbreaking. I think it's only right that both books can bring both tears and smiles.
© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews