Today, a day off work, I finished reading RILLA OF INGLESIDE, the 8th and nearly final book of the ANNE OF GREEN GABLES series. The books were immensely successful and popular nearly right away, so it’s understandable that Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote so many sequels. There are more books set in the shared universe of Anne Shirley, but with RILLA, her youngest daughter is grown, and it seems a good place for Anne’s story to end.
The last two books, RAINBOW VALLEY and RILLA, are both centred more on Anne and Gilbert’s children than Anne herself. She disappears almost completely in the last, playing only the grieving mother with three children fighting in WWI overseas. Her youngest child, Rilla (short for Marilla, named for the woman who brings up Anne after she comes to Green Gables), takes over the narrative. She is just different enough from her mother. Rilla has no ambition to go to college, to teach, even to read or write. She watches her oldest brother, Jem, follow Gilbert into medicine, Walter follows Anne into poetry, and the twins, Nan and Di, continue in school and go on to teach. Rilla is lost at the beginning of the book, though she doesn’t know it. She’s happy enough just to be 15.
The war changes that, as it changed everything else in Canada. WWI is particularly important to our country. Many people believe it’s the moment Canada came of age, identifying itself apart from the British Commonwealth. In RILLA, one gets the homefront story, so commonly overlooked. War is not only the soldiers, but the people waiting for them at home.
I took my time reading this book, a little longer than the others. But as the Blythes entered 1918, I raced forward. I knew the end would come in November, and I was eager to see it over with. Still, I feel a dread in my world today. There’s no comfort in the future; I don’t know when our war will end.