Saturday, August 29, 2015

War comes to Green least to it's people, if not directly to it's land...

Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery

Oooohhhh...I will so miss reading about Anne and Gilbert, and their children,  and all the other wonderfully imaginable characters in their lives! I am ever-so-grateful to Reeder Reads for initiating this read-along. I might have never actually stopped and read them except for this project! See my reviews of the previous books in the series here.
Susan states, "I never take much interest in foreign parts. Who is this Archduke man who has been murdered?"
  "What does it matter to us?" asked Miss Cornelia, unaware of the hideous answer to her question which destiny was even then preparing. "Somebody is always murdering or being murdered in those Balkan States. It's their normal condition and I don't really think that our papers ought to print such shocking things....Merciful goodness, Anne dearie, what is the matter with that cat? Is he having a fit?"--this, as Doc suddenly bounded to the rug at Miss Cornelia's feet, laid back his ears, swore at her, and then disappeared with one fierce leap through the window."
  "Oh, no. He's merely turning into Mr. Hyde--which means that we shall have rain or high wind before morning. Doc is as good as a barometer." (11)
So World War I is just around the corner...the first truly deadly war in the world's history as far as firearms, etc. And there is loss among the local folks over time. (Fortunately, I always have Kleenex--Puffs with lotion actually--by my chair when reading!) :)

One day this superb feline barometer substitute had his head stuck in a salmon can and rampaged through the kitchen breaking dishes, etc. I could relate to this so well. I never will forget over 15 years ago returning home from work to find my Smokie panting so hard I thought she'd die or pass out--she had gotten the handle of an empty plastic grocery bag round her neck and panicked, running and running to get away from it, when, of course, it was right there, still attached, rattling and scaring her even more so that she increased her was a vicious cycle with no respite until she allowed me to remove it, but I can only imagine she might have killed herself if I'd not arrived in time. Lesson learned, all plastic bags have been stowed away in a cabinet from then on. 

 [Rilla] had been much petted and was a wee bit spoiled, but still the general opinion was that Rilla Blythe was a very sweet girl, even if she were not so clever as Nan and Di. (12) 
As if they weren't enough people living at Ingleside, the Blythes even allow Rilla's teacher, Gertrude Oliver to live with them, bunking in Rilla's room. But Rilla-my-Rilla (as designated by Walter years before) "was fathoms deep in love" with Gertrude, who asked Rilla if she would go to college in the fall:
  "No--nor any other fall. I don't want to. I never cared for all those ologies and isms Nan and Di are so crazy about. There's five of us going to college already. Surely that's enough. There's bound to be one dunce in every family. I'm quite willing to be a dunce if I can be a pretty, popular, delightful one. I have no talent at all. And you can't imagine how comfortable it is. Nobody expects me to do anything....Father says I toil not neither do I spin. Therefore, I must be a lily of the field." 
..."I can't be sober and serious--everything looks so rosy and rainbowy to me. Next month I'll be fifteen and next year sixteen--and then seventeen. Could anything be more enchanting?" (16)
Ah, but life can change drastically...

When England declares war on Germany, Mary Vance states: 
  "What does it matter if there's going to be a war over there in Europe? I'm sure it doesn't concern us."
  Walter looked at her and had one of his odd visitations of prophecy. 
  "Before this war is over," he said--or something said through his lips--"every man and woman and child in Canada will feel it--you, Mary, will feel it--feel it to your heart's core. You will weep tears of blood over it. The Piper has come--and he will pipe until every corner of the world has heard his awful and irresistible music. It will be years before the dance of death is over--years, Mary. And in those years millions of hearts will break."..."this isn't a paltry struggle in a Balkan corner....It is a death grapple. Germany comes to conquer or to die. And do you know what will happen if she conquers? Canada will be a German colony." (34)

It was the depiction of Walter and Rilla's relationship that truly stood out for me in this last installment of the Green Gables series:
It was one of the evenings Rilla was to treasure in remembrance all her life--the first one on which Walter had ever talked to her as if she were a woman and not a child. They comforted and strengthened each other. Walter felt, for the time being at least, that it was not such a despicable thing after all to dread the horror of war; and Rilla was glad to be made the confidante of his struggles--to sympathize with and encourage him. She was of importance to somebody. (48)
Isn't it true? We all need to feel that way--as if we are needed and wanted by somebody... This relationship made me truly miss having had siblings--though I realize not all siblings are this close, at least there might have been a chance for that type of relationship. Though Rilla-my-Rilla soon becomes indispensable to another...

Walter bemoans the idea that he "should have been a girl" so others wouldn't expect him to enlist. Though the females helped as they could, especially by sending their loved ones off to fight: 
"When our women fail in courage, 
Shall our men be fearless still?" (40)
Rilla surprises everyone by founding, organizing, and maintaining the Junior Reds to help with war efforts as they would sew and knit, and collect items for the troops. Yet while trekking through the Glen and Four Winds to ostensibly collect Red Cross supplies, Rilla-my-Rilla discovers one item that demands much more care than she had ever imagined...a "war" baby! (I had never seen this term before...) Noting its delicate physical condition and the fact that his constant crying was ignored by the poverty-stricken woman left to care for it, she places the babe in a soup tureen and hauls it home to Ingleside, assuming her mother and Susan would care for him, a thought of which her father/Gilbert quickly disabused her...
She would look after this detestable little animal if it killed her. She would get a book on baby hygiene and be beholden to nobody. She would never go to father for advice--she wouldn't bother mother--and she would only condescend to Susan in dire extremity. They would all see! 
  Thus it came about that Mrs. Blythe, when she returned home two days later and asked Susan where Rilla was, was electrified by Susan's composed reply.
  "She's upstairs, Mrs. Dr. dear, putting her baby to bed.  (67)
Quite the shock to Anne, I'm sure! It was fascinating to watch Rilla develop as she cared for little Jims. Initially she stated, "If I can't love you I mean to be proud of you." But can imagine. :)

As with all the Green Gables books there are many subplots and characters. Jem's Dog Monday is quite the tear-jerker, as he waits and waits for return of his buddy, never leaving the train station and inspecting all arrivals, searching for his Jem. (This was particularly fascinating as poor Jem initially had such a challenge in finding a dog he could truly bond with as a youngster.) Mary Vance has a beau, as does Rilla, though both enlist. Some volunteers return and some don't. However, the war perhaps helped some to put certain aspects of life into a larger perspective:
  "I used to hate Methodists," said Miss Cornelia calmly,..."but I don't hate them now. There is no sense in hating Methodists when there is a Kaiser or a Hindenburg in the world." (173)
So if there can be one good thing to come of war, perhaps it is to accept others, regardless of our personal preferences or opinions, we are all just humans after all, with many more commonalities than differences. 

Walter says to Rilla-my-Rilla on the night he decides to enlist:
"It's not death I fear--I told you that long ago....There's so much hideousness in this war--I've got to go and help wipe it out of the world. I'm going to fight for the beauty of life,...this is my duty. (118) 
Being in the middle of a Gone With the Wind read-along, I was reminded of Ashley Wilkes and his own feelings about war and fighting. Walter does become a published poet as he desired, though perhaps not in a way he might have foreseen.
"Comes he slow or comes he fast
It is but death who comes at last." (118)

And this eventually comes to pass for each of us. Though I was relieved to discover that when a person with whom I was discussing this series let it slip that Gilbert died...she was wrong! Both Gilbert and Anne outlived the series! :) (Bit of a spoiler, perhaps, but really...there are only so many tissues manufactured and available at one time!!) I'm certain I was much more relieved about that than I might have otherwise been...

Now these books go to my grandchildren. I only hope they have a portion of the amount of enjoyment from them that I have had! :) And...if you've never read is NEVER too late! 


  1. I'm glad you liked the books so much, Lynn!
    Walter's role in this book and Dog Monday's were the big tear-jerkers for me. But, I didn't know what to think about Rilla and Walter being so close. I felt like it wasn't realistic, but things would have been different then, especially with the war looming over them. And, it did contribute to the growth of Rilla's soul. I really loved this last book. :)

    1. I loved the whole series, but I did think this last book was a great one! I also loved Kenneth and the way he asked Rilla if she was HIS Rilla! :) Montgomery's writing amazed me!

  2. I too am grateful to Lindsey Reeder for inspiring so many people to reread the series. Over the past few years I had reread the first three, and it's been great to read the later books along with other interested readers and bloggers. I haven't caught up yet but I'm especially keen to reread Rilla. I'm intrigued by that line you quote, "If I can't love you I mean to be proud of you." I had forgotten all about the baby she adopts. Thanks for highlighting these passages from the novel.

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Sarah! That sentiment seemed so very cold and calculating to me when I read it, however, Rilla does eventually come to care for Jims in a much deeper way and I did admire her responsible attitude toward 'raising him right,' as it were, even if she did seem to initially lack a capacity to love him. You can catch up with the Green Gables Read-Along as I play catch up with the Gone With the Wind Read-Along! BTW, I am planning a Laura Ingalls Wilder Read-Along for this next January-November (2016). I have NEVER read any of these books and really want to...feel free to join me if you're interested! :)