There are some stories that never quite let you go. My love for Rilla of Ingleside has been mentioned here more than once. That love led me to my senior thesis and, more recently, to my most recent publication on the Dallas homefront during WWI. So is it any wonder that I was thrilled that Benjamin Lefebvre and Andrea McKenzie were coming out with a new edition of one of my favorite books? And that I was also just a wee bit jealous?
There are many, many things that thrill me about this book. Finally, all your major questions sparked by the history in this book are answered within it! The original text is restored, after having been “silently” cut decades ago. And it’s just a pretty book.
But my biggest thrill is that I finally have proof that people besides me value this book and realize how important it is–to both literature and history. When I was doing my research for the article on Dallas clubwomen during WWI, I knew I wanted to focus not on the extraordinary–the women who worked outside the home, went to France as nurses, or did any number of remarkable things. No, I wanted to focus on what most women would have done–fit war work into existing lives. Those lives were stretched, but not completely undone. And as I wrote that paper, I desperately wanted to quote Rilla, though I just couldn’t quite justify it.
If I had to pick just one book to explain my whole thesis about kidlit history–that there is some history that is be found in children’s literature and can’t be found anywhere else, this book would be the one I would pick. Primary sources on the emotions and daily lives of the women that watched and waited are hard to find. We tend to document the extraordinary. Though these women were living in extraordinary times, I don’t think they realized how much their lives were changing.
Montgomery knew she was telling the story of the masses of Canadian women that worked at home and waited. She wrote “In my latest story, ‘Rilla of Ingleside,’ I have tried, as far as in me lies, to depict the fine and splendid way in which the girls of Canada reacted to the Great War–their bravery, patience and self-sacrifice. The books is theirs in a sense in which none of my other books have been: for my other books were written for anyone who might like to read them: but ‘Rilla’ was written for the girls of the great young land I love, whose destiny it will be their duty and privilege to shape and share.” Lefebvre and McKenzie go on to say “Rilla of Ingleside thus pictures, as no other war novel of its time does, a uniquely Canadian perspectie about the women and families who battled to keep the home fires burning throughout this tumultuous era.”
Frankly, I can’t think of another novel, from any country, written so closely after the war that takes the time to talk about the home front. So, I lift my glass to Montgomery for writing this wonderful book in the first place. And I lift my glass to Benjamin Lefebvre and Andrea McKenzie for working so hard to put this book in a wider context and give it the attention it so richly deserves.
For now, United States readers have to order this book directly from Canada. Here’s hoping that one day it will be easily available in the United States. The good news is that the exchange rate is currently almost even. Trust me–you need this book in your personal library.