Rilla of Ingleside was published in 1921 and is the eighth book in the Anne Series which began with Anne of Green Gables in 1908.
Rilla is Anne’s youngest daughter and the story begins just prior or the start of WWI when Rilla is fifteen years of age.
The tone of this book is more sombre than previous books as the story follows the progress of the war. Rilla’s brothers and the young men of Prince Edward Island join the Canadian Expeditionary Force and head off to Europe to fight on the Western Front. There were some who did not return.
According to this website:
‘Rilla of Ingleside is one of the only contemporary fictional accounts of the experiences of women and young people at the Canadian home front during the First World War. It was begun within months of the war’s end in November 1918 and the death of Montgomery’s first cousin and closest friend, Frederica Campbell McFarlane, to whose memory the book is dedicated. It reflects the conviction felt by Montgomery and many of her contemporaries that a new, utopian world would emerge out of the ashes of war—a sentiment that Montgomery would revisit in her final book, The Blythes Are Quoted.’
As a fifteen year old at the beginning of the book Rilla is fun-loving, concerned with how she looks and what she wears and is impulsive and easily offended. As the war progresses, Rilla has to grow up and she takes on responsibilities that mature her in different ways. One of those responsibilities was a major one. In the course of collecting Red Cross supplies she calls in at a home only to find the young mother dead and her two week old baby boy crying. A squalid looking woman sat taking swigs from a bottle ignoring the child. The baby’s father had enlisted and sailed for England when war broke out and the baby would be sent to an orphan asylum as there were no family to look after him.
Rilla was silent, looking down at the crying baby. She had never encountered any of the tragedies of life before and this one smote her to the heart. The thought of the poor mother going down into the valley of the shadow alone, fretting about her baby, with no one near but this abominable old woman, hurt her terribly…
She made a sudden, desperate, impulsive resolution.
“I’ll take the baby home with me.”
And so Rilla, who hated babies, takes on the care of this ugly little squawking creature, much to the amazement of everyone she knew.
Rilla of Ingleside gives a wonderful insight into Canadian life during World War I. All through the book there are dispatches from the front, newspaper headlines and telegrams bringing news of comfort and loss, pain and hope to the families who remained on the homefront.
“Rilla, be awfully good to mother while I’m away. It must be a horrible thing to be a mother in this war – the mothers and sisters and wives and sweethearts have the hardest times.”
It is a moving account of what women in particular face during war. Their mental and emotional battles were no less serious than those on the frontlines and their efforts to play their part held no glory but were just as vital.
The moon sank lower into a black cloud in the west, the Glen went out in an eclipse of sudden shadow – and thousands of miles away the Canadian boys in khaki – the living and the dead – were in possession of Vimy Ridge.
Vimy Ridge is a name written in crimson and gold on the Canadian annals of the Great War. “the British couldn’t take it and the French couldn’t take it,” said a German prisoner to his captors, “but you Canadians are such fools that you didn’t know when a place can’t be taken!”
So the “fools” took it – and paid the price.
This is a great story for anyone about 12 years old and up.
Australian and New Zealand readers will appreciate the mention of the ANZAC’s role in the war with the Canadians showing great respect for the ANZAC spirit during Gallipoli and the war effort in general.
‘In March of the year of grace 1918 there was one week into which must have crowded more of searing human agony than any seven days had ever held before in the history of the world. And in that week there was one day when all humanity seemed nailed to the cross; on that day the whole planet must have been agroan with universal convulsion; everywhere the hearts of men were failing them for fear.’
After the author’s death, publishers abridged Rilla of Ingleside, omitting over four thousand words! My edition above states that it ‘contains the complete text of the original hard-cover edition. NOT ONE WORD HAS BEEN OMITTED.’
So much for that…some details here. I haven’t been able to find the edition mentioned here, though. It’s still a great read but I’m annoyed that my copy makes it sound like the unedited text.
I came across this blog that compares the two versions.