Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rilla of Ingleside - L. M. Montgomery

Rilla of Ingleside
Title: Rilla of Ingleside
Author: L. M. Montgomery
Publication Date: 1921
Pages: 304
Genre: Classic / Historical / Fiction
How I Found It: Last one in the series!
Date Completed: 3/9/16

Summary: Anne's flock are nearly grown and each is entering the world on their own in their own way. For the boys, this means joining up to fight in the Great War. For baby Rilla, now nearly a woman in her own right, it means holding down the home fort and facing trials of her own as the last Blythe child left at home in such trying times.

What I Thought: I have talked a lot on the blog about the transition from the Victorian/Edwardian/Gilded Ages to WWI and beyond. Just as with actual history and the ensuing culture, perspectives, and philosophies, literature marked the shift dramatically. To have a series bridge that gap in both content and actual date of authorship and publication, even if only by its last installment, feels unique.

My comments about the shift in the series are well documented at this point. I've amassed quite a collection of posts, as one does with a series this long. I still wish Montgomery had kept her focus on Anne herself, rather than moving on to the Blythe children. This feels like the start of a companion series or a loosely related novel rather than the continuation of the same series. Yet, I wonder if Montgomery was feeling a shift in her own life as she aged - the moving attention from one generation to the next, particularly as the next heads off to determine the world's fate on the battlefield.

The most telling thing I can say about this book is it took me well over six months to finish it. At the start of the series, I devour Montgomery's work like a decadent treat. Here, at the end, I felt no pull to return to the story once I put it down. It sat, half finished, on the "currently reading" shelf of my desk for nearly all of autumn and winter before I finally determined to finish once and for all. 

I'm glad to have read the whole series. I know now, however, that once Anne begins her slow fade to the background of the story, it becomes less interesting for me. We leave the comfort and characters of Avonlea behind and Ingleside, though it holds its own charms, simply cannot replicate the exuberance and delight found in the earlier tomes. 

As a postscript: I'm currently reading How to Be a Heroine by Samantha Ellis, in which she spends a whole chapter discoursing on Anne Shirley and the series as a whole. Having just finished Rilla, I found her thoughts particularly interesting. She points out that as Anne fades to the background of the story, she also relinquishes many of the things that made us love her in the first place: her adventurous nature, her imagination, her writing. Instead, she settles into a typified role as a mother and model citizen. While there is nothing wrong with this transition in my eyes - it is one many wide-eyed girls make - I can also see the value in Ellis' horror at this. It would have been delightful to have the series continue on with Anne and see her find success in both her family life and, perhaps, a writing career or other personal ventures. Of course, this thought process also makes me wonder about Anne's own shifting dreams. From the very first chapter of the first book, her true dream is to be a part of a family. Her imagination and writing is, in some ways, her escape from a hard reality. So, does the desire to pursue and encourage those things dim as she finds contentment in her own marriage and family? I would love to hear thoughts on this from those of you who have read the series. Do you think Anne sells herself short? Would you have preferred a different path for her? What do you think of the shifting focus of the series? 

Rating: ★★★☆☆
Will I Re-Read: Yes

A Reduced Review: Rilla is a heroine in her own right, not dependent on her mother's Green Gables legacy; yet, this final shift in focus could be off-putting for devoted friends of the Anne-girl.

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