Rilla of Ingleside
A book review for parents
This historical novel is the eighth book in the "Anne of Green Gables" series by L. M. Montgomery and is published by Starfire, an imprint of Random House Children's Books.
Rilla of Ingleside is written for kids ages 12 and up. The age range reflects readability and not necessarily content appropriateness.
Teen Rilla Blythe, the youngest of Anne's children, grows up during World War I. The war affects everyone in the community, and their lives revolve around news and the latest battles. Rilla saves the child of a soldier when his wife dies. She changes from a girl who dislikes children to one that loves the baby she has saved. She hopes for her brother, boyfriend Kenneth and neighbors to return unharmed from the war and wonders if Kenneth and she are actually engaged. Rilla leads a Junior Red Cross chapter in her town to provide a way for young women to assist with the war effort. Her dearest brother, Walter, dies in battle, and Rilla later receives his last letter to her. At the end of the war, friends return. When Kenneth returns, he comes to see Rilla.
Rilla, her family and the community hold firmly to the belief that God is on their side in the war that Germany began. They sing hymns and Psalms at church. Walter shares the visions he has of a piper calling him to fight. He believes God has given him the vision. When Kitchenere, England's Secretary of War, dies, Susan, the Blythe's housekeeper, declares that God was the sole one for the allies to trust. Mr. Meredith, Rilla's pastor, shares how the sacrifice and bloodshed of so many would also bring a new vision and understanding of life and faith. He talks about how the kingdom of heaven is within a person. Mr. and Mrs. Meredith struggle over Bruce's act of sacrifice. He offers up his beloved kitten, bargaining with God to keep Jem safe. His parents know the lad is too young to understand that God doesn't always answer our prayers as we hope and that we can't bargain with God.
Gilbert Blythe, her father, tells Rilla that she must take full responsibility for the baby she has rescued and brought home and not expect her mother to take over. Rilla obeys and uses the authority of a book she reads to care for the child. Mr. Meredith's words bring hope to the Blythe household.
Other Belief Systems
Gertrude is considered superstitious, especially because she has dreams about the war, although they tend to be prophetic.
Their neighbor, Cousin Sophia, shares true stories about a girl who drops dead dancing and a boatload of youth who drown. Jem shares a story about a doctor who has both legs smashed in a war, yet as he died he held a bandage around a bleeding soldier and saved the man's life. When Germany declared war, Walter explains how the war would last years and they would grapple with death and millions of hearts would break. The news reports Germans bayoneting babies and soldiers gassing people. Walter shares his fear of bayoneting a man and of lying torn, mangled and thirsty on a battlefield. Jem writes home about the first soldier he saw shot and describes how rats and cooties fill their trenches. Walter writes home about a rat-spearing contest they hold. Women and children share fantasies about hurting the German Kaiser by boiling, caging or poking him. News reports tell about the sinking of the Lusitania and how babies and women drown and their bodies floated in ice-cold water. Susan, the housekeeper, entertains Rilla and Kenneth with memories of the childhood spankings that have been given and of a child who dies from swallowing his mother's medicine. Norman Douglas, a church member, shakes the town pacifist at a church meeting and calls the man derogatory names. Mr. Pryor chases away a government man with a pitchfork. Jims, the war baby, is sick and a friend heals him by holding his head over hot coals and sulfur vapors until he coughs up the membrane that was choking him. Jerry Meredith is shot in the back in battle. Mary Vance reports that her beau, Miller Douglas, is wounded and has had his leg amputated. Carl Meredith is shot in the eye and loses his vision in that eye. Jem is shot in the thigh, is captured, grows delirious with fever, is imprisoned, escapes and then is hospitalized. Susan struggles with the temptation to swear and said darn twice. Rilla watches a movie where a German soldier tries to drag away a heroine who grabs a knife and stabs the soldier. Little Bruce Meredith drowns his kitten as a sacrifice to ask God to spare Jem's life. By the end of the book, news reports that 50,000 Canadian boys have died in the war.
Ken gives Rilla her first kiss and asks her to promise not to kiss anyone else until he returns from the war.
If your children have read this book or someone has read it to them, consider these discussion topics:
- What are some responsibilities that come with raising a child?
Why do you think Rilla took on these responsibilities?
- How does responsibility for another life help Rilla mature?
What responsibilities and experiences have helped you grow up?
- What world events impacted Rilla's life?
What world events impact your life?
- How can you honor soldiers?
How can you honor wounded soldiers?
How did Rilla honor them?
- Who are some of the people in this story who were afraid?
How did they overcome their fears?
What helps you overcome your fears?
Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. A book's inclusion does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.