Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beyond Anne of Green Gables

L.M. Montgomery has a rightful place among authors of classic children's literature. As a girl I devoured the entire series of Anne books, relating heart and soul to the red-headed orphan who was accidentally adopted by a shy farmer and  his sharp-tongued  sister.

The last book in the series is my favorite. Rilla of Ingleside isn't really about Anne; it's the story of Anne's daughter, Rilla, and  how she grew up in Canada during the First World War. Canada was one of the first countries to send troops to Europe, and girls like Rilla had to wait for the  newspaper  every day to get news of their brothers and sweethearts.

In the first book, Anne was a wonderful creation - she never stopped talking, or reading, or writing. Later in the series, however, she seemed to fade from view, becoming a sort of an invalid while L.M. relied on minor characters and side stories to push the series along.

With Rilla the author had a true, solid theme. The horror of the war, the desperate wait for news, the war efforts at home, the political views of the pacifists, and the daily privations (no flour, no butter, no sugar) are fascinating to read. And Rilla's own story is well-developed - she starts as a rather vain, very pretty, quite silly fifteen year old girl who becomes a woman by the end of the book.

There is a love story, told at third hand, since Rilla's beau has to go to war, after all. There is a war baby, whom Rilla volunteers to raise. And there are the usual minor characters, such as "Whiskers-on-the-Moon" and  Susan Baker, the housekeeper.

'WARSAW has fallen," said Dr. Blythe with a resigned air, as he brought the mail in one warm August day.

'Gertrude and Mrs. Blythe looked dismally at each other, and Rilla, who was feeding Jims a Morganized diet from a carefully sterilized spoon, laid the said spoon down on his tray, utterly regardless of germs, and said, "Oh, dear me," in as tragic a tone as if the news had come as a thunderbolt instead of being a foregone conclusion from the preceding week's dispatches. They had thought they were quite resigned to Warsaw's fall but now they knew they had, as always, hoped against hope.'

1 comment:

Johanna Garth said...

My daughter and I read Anne of Green Gables together in the fall. I was worried she might not like it because the series was one of my favorites growing up (read, like 100 times) but she LOVED it. She's committed to finishing the Harry Potter series now but I'm looking forward to when she turns her attention back to the little red-headed orphan girl.

Btw, did you ever read the Emily series by L.M. Montgomery? I think I loved those almost as much as the Anne series.