And so we come to the end of the Green Gables Readalong as hosted by Reeder Reads: Rilla of Ingleside.
I know for sure that I had only read this book once before and I have a vivid memory of waking up on a weekend morning and finishing it in bed before I went upstairs for breakfast. I remember being glad that I did because I was sobbing in my bed and I never did like crying in front of other people.
If you want to catch up on this monthly re-read of LM Montgomery’s famous series you can start here.
In this final Anne book we follow Rilla as she struggles to throw off the mantle of petted, spoiled baby of the family and show them all that she is a young woman. In the beginning, Rilla is the kind of girl intent on fun – she longs to be ‘out’ and go to parties like her older sisters, to have beaux and nice dresses. She has no ambition whatsoever and looks at the years between 15 and 19 as the years that should be the nicest in a girl’s life.
On the night of the Four Winds dance, the night she spends a glorious hour on the beach alone with Kenneth Ford and has on delightful little silver slippers, the news of the beginning of the war comes down and the world that Rilla knows ceases to exist. Shortly thereafter Rilla’s oldest brother Jem and the neighbour Jerry Meredith enlist. Over the next four years, during the time that was supposed to be the sweetest of her life, Rilla must do her part for the war effort and learn to live with the uncertainty that war brings. Eventually Kenneth enlists as do Shirley and Carl Meredith and Rilla’s favourite brother, Walter.
Oh Walter! Poetic, lovely, sensitive, grey-eyed Walter. The one of the siblings most like his mother. I cried my eyes out this time around, knowing what was coming. I think being an adult now, his sacrifice, the way he writes to Rilla almost knowing what’s to come, the words he leaves her with to make sure that the world he fought for is a better place, they mean so much more to me.
I loved that this book was much more about one character, a return to the format of Anne of Green Gables, Anne of the Island and Anne’s House of Dreams. We still know a great deal of what is happening in the community, but it’s told through the lens of Rilla as she’s learning who she is.
I’ve read a few books recently about this time and I’ve been frustrated by them. Their lack of something. This book has what I’ve been missing. Maybe it’s because Montgomery lived through the war and was so passionate about it leaving the world a better place. You can almost hear her frustration at it happening in the first place. For the first time, the wider world intrudes on PEI.
There’s a lot to love about this book: Rilla bringing up a war-baby that she finds near starving to death; Dog Monday waiting at the train station for years until his master’s return; the neat solution to the war-baby’s future in the trust left to him by a perfect stranger; Susan Baker. I’ve always been a fan of Susan Baker’s – I know she’s not everyone’s cup of tea – and in this book she proves her mettle over and over again, packing up cakes and cookies to send to the boys, learning all about the politics and battles so that she knows exactly what’s happening in the war, bravely sending off her little brown boy Shirley to fight, and even swearing! Oh I love when Susan swears!
I think I could have done with another book, find out how Rilla fares. But I also know that I could never bear reading a book where Anne possibly dies. Or even Gilbert. Or Susan come to that. It’s mentioned briefly in the beginning of this book that Marilla has died and I’ve always been glad that I didn’t have to experience that like when Matthew died.
Now I’m done with the series and I feel like a better person for the visit. It’s been a good reminder of simpler times, that hard work will always be its own reward and that trying to be good is always half the battle.
Thank you again Lindsey for hosting this readalong. I’ve enjoyed it immensely.