Revisiting Rilla of Ingleside

Revisiting Rilla of Ingleside

Rilla of Ingleside Anne Shirley's daughter Gilbert BlytheRegular Modern Mrs Darcy readers know that I’m an Anne of Green Gables fan.  I greatly enjoyed re-reading the series this spring and writing the popular Life Lessons from Green Gables series.  But somehow, I always lose steam before making it to Rilla of Ingleside, the 8th and final book in the Anne series.  Well, not this year.  I opened my copy and thoroughly enjoyed re-reading Rilla for the first time in over 10 years.

Rilla of Ingleside tells the story of Anne’s youngest daughter Rilla (namesake of Marilla Cuthbert) and her coming of age during World War I in Canada.  Rilla is 15 when the book opens–giddy, giggly, and full of life–but her mother laments her lack of ambition.  Rilla’s sole purpose in life is to have a good time.

But then the war begins in a far-off land, and before long Canadian boys–including Rilla’s brother Jem and some dear family friends–are suiting up in khaki and shipping overseas to fight for the Allies.  The book chronicles the war from the perspective of the Canadian homefront.

Wartime brings its challenges, and young Rilla is stretched in ways unimaginable in peacetime.  But in wartime, a girl has to do what a girl has to do, and Rilla rises to meet challenges big and small–from disarming petty girlish feuds to raising an orphaned war-baby.   The war lasts four-and-a-half long years, and Rilla comes out the other side a strengthened, deepened woman.

There’s a lot to like about Rilla of Ingleside. L. M. Montgomery’s heart was in this book–published in 1921, when the battle was still fresh in the minds and hearts of her readers.  The female characters are strong and sympathetic–with lots of pluck, to boot!

But I have my reservations about Rilla.

L. M. Montgomery has woven a love story through this little novel–a satisfying one, on one level.  15-year-old Rilla is smitten with Ken Ford, the son of Anne’s dear friend Leslie (Moore) Ford of Anne’s House of Dreams.  There is something very fitting (and very romantic) about a Blythe girl falling for Ken–a circle being completed.

And completed it is.  Ken indeed loves Rilla–but why?  Because she’s pretty?  Mrs. Montgomery, surely you could have done better than this!

Now, we know the merits of Rilla Blythe–not the giddy and giggly 15-year-old, but the woman she becomes.  And I want to believe that Ken, who has known the Blythe family his entire life, loves her as she deserves, and not as just a pretty face.  But Montgomery doesn’t say that at all–she says he loved her because she was beautiful.

I don’t object to Rilla being pretty–a beautiful heroine does make for a good story.  But I do object to her winning the man of her dreams based on looks alone–a story line that’s far more Disney princess than Anne of Green Gables.  I’ve heard Rilla recommended as a great read-aloud for young girls, but I’m not sure I want my impressionable daughter hearing this story anytime soon–I don’t want her to think her future marital happiness depends on beauty alone.

Rilla had so much depth of character to plumb–if only L. M. Montgomery had done more with it!

Have you read Rilla of Ingleside?  What’s your take?  If you need to refresh your memory–or dive in for the first time–a free Kindle edition is available at amazon.com.

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50 comments

  1. Anouk says:

    Rilla of Ingelside never, ever fails to make me cry. I love Ken and Rilla and I certainly don’t think he loves her only be because she is beautiful. She wrote to him over 4 years. He would certainly have understood her character from those letters.
    My own grandparents fell in love through letters exchanged during WW2.

  2. Katie says:

    Hmm, I am not sure!

    As I recall (and I was OBSESSED with AOGG), it said that Ken “had had a strong fancy for” Rilla ever since the night of a dance, but it was on the night he came to see her that “he loved her and realized it” (maybe loosely quoted?). She was holding Jims because he had had a nightmare and she had run upstairs to get him.

    So regardless of when he called her beautiful (don’t men always, and doesn’t it mean so many things?), I think that he was falling in love with her deepening character.

    (Even when we are introduced to Rilla, she does have a depth of perception that allows her to notice how taken Una is with her brother, and she does not seem to mind this–and believe me, sisters can be very jealous and very picky!)

    I would say the primary difficulty is that Montgomery is developing Rilla from a spoiled fifteen year old (a doctor’s daughter, after all–not an orphan like Anne) into a grown young woman, and this is difficult to do in the course of ONE book. With Anne there were a couple of books spanning her adolescence to engagement. 🙂

  3. Daryl says:

    I have read and reread these books over the years and I always find something new to enjoy. I believe that Ken & Rilla’s relationship also grew in the letters they exchanged which are not shared in the story. Montgomery had to condense the entire War of over 4 years into one book and there were many story lines beside the romance of Rilla & Ken to consider in the book. Ken loved her for more than her beauty.

  4. SJ says:

    I have to say, that naturally reading the AOGG books got a little more serious and a little less dreamy with each book after the third one finished up. I personally couldn’t stand “Rilla”, the book OR the character. But especially the character. She’s whiny, spoiled, and is not deep. I definitely didn’t get that she is deep. I hated her the first time I read it, but read it again several years later and still couldn’t deal with Rilla. She only takes the baby in because Anne thinks it will be good for her, and un-spoil her a little. Oh, wow, how generous. She simply comes off as very superficial. Which was disappointing, because she is the daughter of ANNE AND GILBERT. Oh well.

    • Anne says:

      SJ, It’s interesting that you say the books get “a little more serious and a little less dreamy” as the series progresses. I’ve heard that The Blythes Are Quoted–the final book in the series, that I’ve never read–is downright dark.

      It’s so disappointing to dislike a literary character that we want to be fond of! I’m sorry you feel that way about Rilla. It IS disappointing!

    • becca says:

      Taking on a baby was generous of Rilla. Eventually Jims became healthy enough to send to an orphanage, and she didn’t do it. Rilla didn’t owe that baby or that baby’s family anything. And she gave up a carefree teen years, to take on a baby. She was the primary caretaker too. I don’t think that’s something to be written off. Rilla clearly had a generosity of heart even if she was spoiled.

      As for Kenneth we get very little insights into him. But the view insights we have, say that Kenneth started seeing Rilla as less of a child at the party before the war. And that he did fall in love with her that night. Perhaps looks were part of it, but I think its telling that he fell in love with Rilla, watching her with Jims.

      As for his intentions, the guy ended up marrying her, clearly his intentions were honorable. We don’t know what was said in those letters, it was wartime. We know some romantic things were said.

      Also one could point out that Kenneth himself was clearly not 100% sure about Rilla’s feelings FOR HIM. He barely got time to talk to her that night, and his first words to her, was “are you Rilla MY Rilla? Perhaps Kenneth himself-didn’t want to presume to much.

      But he comes home and immediately get to Glen Oaks were he can claim his girl.

  5. Kaydee Sum says:

    Ken and RIlla grew up together. Ken would know her in her most embarrassing times, and when she’s mad, and he loved her not only because of her beauty, but because who she is. I think L. M. Montgomery just didn’t put it in.

  6. Katherine says:

    Rilla of Ingleside is one of my favorite books, and personally I found the relationship sweet. Sure, Ken initially was attracted to her because of her beauty, but then, over the years, that attraction grows to love, but most assuredly not because of her beauty alone. They wrote for at least two years straight. I consider this extremely significant in the growth of their feelings towards each other, particularly on Ken’s side. Rilla’s growing maturity is extensively conveyed in her letters, and letters can bring people closer than any other form of communication. The book even says that she tried to be humorous in her letters in order to bring light and life into his life (which she most certainly did). This means that her letters had depth, as opposed to simply listing happenings and talking about the weather/war. She infused her letters with her personality and her life. I consider the letters the crucial part of their relationship’s growth.

  7. Kali says:

    I really enjoyed reading these posts. I have read Rilla of Ingleside twice, but it has been several years. The thing I remember the most is her relationship with her brother.

  8. Christine-lmmfan says:

    Rilla of Ingleside has been my favorite book since I read it a year or so ago. I keep re-reading it on gutenberg.org because it is the most amazing Anne book to me. I mostly remember
    1) Walter and Rilla/Una
    2) Ken and Rilla
    3) Rainbow Valley scenes
    4) Walter’s last letter/Una’s and Rilla’s reactions
    I have read The Blythes Are Quoted, the sequel to Rilla. There are many vignettes focused on Walter’s poems in there, and in one of them Rilla is remembering Walter’s love of the forests and how he loved Rainbow Valley etc, ect. Another times Anne admits that it was better for Walter to never have returned from the war—and Walter admits that himself in Rilla.

  9. Amber says:

    I agree that there was little in the “Rilla” book to establish a solid relationship between Rilla and Kenneth. Frankly, I was always struck by the age gap between them. Six years is a lot when it results in one party being a minor and the other an adult (Rilla 16 and Kenneth 22, if I remember the gap correctly.) At the same time, the book shouldn’t be read as a love story. Instead, much like “Anne of Green Gables,” “Rilla of Ingleside” is a coming of age story. From that perspective Kenneth need be little more than a placeholder-type romantic trope because the real point of the story is Rilla’s individual growth of character and progression into adulthood, her ideas of romance being only one aspect of her growing up. From that perspective the aforementioned scene is perfectly in keeping with the story because in it we see Rilla sacrificing her personal desire to present herself in the most attractive light while saying goodbye to Kenneth in order to care for Jims. As an aside, it also seems that her adult behavior of prioritizing and putting her charge’s well-being before her immediate enjoyment may be what struck Kenneth and made hime re-evaluate his attraction to her, but that isn’t the central purpose of the story. The story is primarily about Rilla, as the central character, and her transition from childhood into adulthood.

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