CM . . . . Volume XVII Number 20. . . .January 28th, 2010.
Rilla of Ingleside.
Toronto, ON: Viking Canada, 2010.
390 pp., hardcover, $26.00.
Grades 7 and up / Ages 12 and up.
Review by Aileen Wortley .
**** / 4
October passed out and the dreary days of November and December dragged by. The world shook with the thunder of contending armies. Antwerp fell-Turkey declared war-gallant little Serbia gathered herself together and struck a deadly blow at her oppressor; and in quiet hill-girdled Glen St. Mary thousands of miles away, hearts beat with hope and fear over the varying dispatches from day to day.
"A few months ago," said Miss Oliver, "we thought and talked in terms of Glen St. Mary. Now, we think and talk in terms of military tactics and diplomatic intrigue"
There was just one great event everyday - the coming of the mail. Even Susan admitted, that from the time the mail-courier's buggy rumbled over the little bridge between the station and the village, until the papers were brought home and read she could not work properly.
"I must take up my knitting then and knit hard till the papers come, Mrs. Dr. dear. Knitting is something you can do even when your heart is going like a trip-hammer and the pit of your stomach feels all gone and your thoughts are catawampus. Then when I see the headlines, be they good or be they bad. I calm down and am able to go about my business again."
The stage is rural Prince Edward Island during World War I. Through the eyes of Rilla, youngest daughter of Anne Shirley, the reader watches and waits as her brothers and childhood companions fight on the battlefields of Europe. The women at home each find a way to "keep the faith," stoically supporting the war effort.
Rilla, aged 14, rises to the challenge. She adopts a homeless baby, creates a local branch of the Junior Red Cross and wrestles bravely with anxiety and grief in response to combat news. She quickly matures into a capable, resourceful young woman. The progression and impact of the war are seen through her diaries, letters from the boys at the Front, and discussion between family and neighbors. Notably, the voice of the lovable but peppery housekeeper, Susan, provides constant commentary on world events.
First published in 1921, Rilla of Ingleside gave a rare, contemporary perspective on the effect of war on the Canadian home front. Montgomery depicted both the nobility and heroism war can evoke, as well as darker aspects, including prejudice towards pacifists and war-resisters. Details of international hostilities, increasing involvement of world forces and life in the trenches, originally recorded in Montgomery's own wartime journals, are accurate and direct. Despite the bleakness of the subject matter, Montgomery uses her rare observation of humanity to provide us with many episodes of humor, pathos and courage.
This attractive re-issue, edited so ably by Benjamin Lefebvre and Andrea McKenzie, restores and corrects the full text of the original Canadian version that was abridged in 1976 removing over 4500 words. Lefebvre and McKenzie have added fresh and intriguing perceptions through the inclusion of scholarly articles on biographical and historical contexts, the origins of the First World War with maps, a detailed glossary and contemporary Canadian women's war poems.
Lucy Maude Montgomery, a beloved and well known prolific author, spent her life in PEI and Ontario and is most famous for Anne of Green Gables, published in 1908. Editor, Benjamin Lefebvre is Director of the L. M. Montgomery Research Group and has published widely on Montgomery's life and writings. Andrea McKenzie, co-editor, is director of writing at N.Y.U. with a special interest in personal narratives of the First World War, including Montgomery's journals and fiction.
This classic title has stood the test of time and is as fresh today as it was when Montgomery wrote it as the finale to the "Anne" series. The story has many layers of interest but is primarily a unique portrayal of wartime Canada. This edition, complete with new insights from its editors, is an essential purchase for all libraries, a wonderful read for adults and youth aged 12 and up and a great resource for students of World War I
Aileen Wortley is a retired librarian who lives in Toronto, ON.
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