There is no frigate like a book
To take us lands away,
Nor any coursers like a page
Of prancing poetry.
~ Emily Dickinson

Literature is my Utopia. Here I am not disenfranchised. No barrier of the senses shuts me out from the sweet, gracious discourses of my book friends. They talk to me without embarrassment or awkwardness. ~ Helen Keller

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Review: Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside
Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've always remembered Rilla as my least favorite of the "Anne books". Probably because I've learned to love Anne (and even more Emily Byrd Starr) for her literary ambition and talent. The youngest daughter of the determined-student and published author is vain, and unrepentantly unintellectual. She is boy-crazy and frivolous, but somehow reading the novel in my younger years I missed the wonderful transition that makes this a true bildungsroman. Montgomery wrote that it was the only novel she wrote with a purpose, and in some respects it rivals "Anne of Green Gables". As Margaret Atwood has pointed out, Anne Shirley becomes a better cook, learns to talk less, and relinquishes her hatred of Gilbert Blythe, yet overall is the same girl from beginning to end in the narrative. Rilla Blythe, on the other hand, slowly (as in real life) emerges as an unselfish and brave woman through her experiences of the Great War. My one complaint about her story-line is that the Rilla at the end of the novel deserves a more fully developed romantic interest than Ken Ford, whose emotional (and in the final chapter, geographic) distance are never satisfactorily explained.

Quite rightly this novel has received more critical attention in recent years, as it gives a close (although utterly biased) view of female Canadian experiences during The Great War. I've recently been reading about the experiences of Conscientious Objectors in Canada, so it was interesting to experience with the Blythe family the distrust and disdain for pacifists that must have characterized the attitudes even of educated and liberal-minded Canadians (including Montgomery herself).

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