I downloaded Rilla of Ingleside by L.M. Montgomery from Manybooks you can get it free here.
The book was first published in 1939 and the Rilla in the title is of course the daughter of Anne of Anne of Green Gables fame. Rilla is the youngest of Anne and Gilbert’s children, she’s just 15 when the story begins and she’s looking forward to her first adult dance.
It’s not long before the outside world bursts in on the inhabitants of Prince Edward Island, in the shape of World War 1 and Rilla has to grow up fast, being catapulted into a life of Red Cross classes and war work and even ends up caring for a new born baby whose mother died in childbirth. Rilla had never even touched a baby before, never wanted to but she just had to get on with it.
Worse than anything though was having to give up her brothers and all the other young men she had grown up with. The locals soon all became experts in the geography and politics of Europe and life revolved around the newspaper reports of battles in previously unheard of places.
What struck me though was how Scottish it all was. One brother is always talking about hearing the piper coming to take him away, the family dog is doing a good impression of Greyfriar’s Bobby, their speech is liberally sprinkled with ‘wee’ and various other Scottish words, and of course it’s just full of Scottish names. There are locals who are Gaelic speakers.
Inevitably this book is sad in parts but if you’ve enjoyed L.M. Montgomery’s books in the past you’ll want to read this one.
The Canadians who were desperate to join up in 1914 and help the ‘old country’ in its time of need had a tough time of it and so many of them never got back. If you visit the Somme today you will find that there is a part of the battlefield which is forever Canada/Newfoundland and is looked after by a great band of young Canadians who show people around that part of the Somme which has been preserved as a memorial and to help future generations understand what it was like. When we were there we were shown around by a young woman called Aloma Jardine – another Scottish surname of course. You can see what it looks like today here.
I think it’s significant that Montgomery didn’t write this book until 1939, I’m assuming that it was a subject which was too painful to write about until then and the prospect of another war brought it all back. I decided to read it this year as part of my own commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the beginning of the Great War.