Rilla of Ingleside by Lucy Maud Montgomery is the last of the Anne of Green Gablesbooks and tells the story of Anne’s youngest daughter. From the very first pages the tone of this novel is different from the others, making reference to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand. World War I is on the horizon and any question that Rilla’s life will be affected is quickly set to rest as war is announced and her eldest brother enlists.
Some of the events of this novel are foreshadowed in Rainbow Valley and Rilla is now a young lady who has romantic aspirations with no desire of being a mother. Her distaste for small children amused me so much that at first I thought I would love this book as much as any of the Anne books. Love it in spite of its Victorian tone and predictability. After all, one hardly reads seven Anne books and doesn’t know that the prose will be old-fashioned and flowery.
Unfortunately, the novel is also guilty of romanticizing war as the women who stay behind, keeping the home fires burning and keeping an ever stiff upper lip in the face of fear and loss. I do not suggest that Montgomery is irresponsible or disingenuous for writing a novel that glorifies war, and it is a testament to her confidence that she would take on such a serious subject in her typically light novels. It is not inappropriate to the times.
But we’ve come a long way and there are things that are said and done that made me sad as I read the novel. I didn’t feel inspired to heightened patriotism or even take pride in my gender for being strong in the face of such profound sacrifice. In fact, at one point I became angry and even horrified. At first I thought this novel would be as much loved by me as the second or third novel of the series. About halfway through, I thought maybe I would like it as much as the one I liked least. But by book’s end, I was just too sad that we ever celebrated the so-called glories of war. It’s nearly as vulgar as war itself has ever been.