It’s a little sad coming to the end of a beloved series, and this is a sad book to close the series off. I always come away from this book glad and a little verklempt at the same time. We’ve been building to the Great War, and Montgomery finally dives in, with details from the homefront aspect of fighting, which gives a new perspective to a war novel. This book, like so many others, is haunted by the soldiers who sacrificed and the families who sent their children to the warfront.
Rilla of Ingleside focuses on the youngest Blythe daughter, Rilla. She is almost fifteen and full of shallow ideas of fun and frivolity. It all changes when the war sweeps her brothers and friends away into battle, and she settles in to fight in small ways: a Junior Red Cross, frugal dress, and raising a fatherless baby. Rilla learns how to be a woman in the midst of hardship, the promise of love, and the pain of heartbreak. Further, we learn about the progress of the war and the way in which it reshaped and changed global societies forever.
I won’t get too spoilery about character deaths, but there is one that reminded me a lot of what I’d read in Pat Barker’s Regeneration trilogy, particularly in the poetic dispatches. I felt that the character was probably supposed to be a stand-in for a Rupert Brooke or a Wilfred Owen, two famous young men whose poetry immortalized their service and sacrifice. Like I said, this is a deeply melancholy book and it feels like a crushing end to the series, but it’s a bookend that girds the series in the deep family love that Anne finds and shares with her children and community. I believe it’s always been my favorite of the series, and it certainly has a lasting emotional resonance for me.
Cross-posted to my blog.