When I was a teen, this was one of my less-favorite Anne books. I liked it better than Rainbow Valley and Anne of Ingleside, and I still do. But overall, I don't like it nearly as much as the first five Anne books.
However, I actually think this might be one of the best-written books in the series. It has a well-developed character arc for Rilla, it doesn't wander around on a lot of tangents, and the whole story is quite cohesive.
But I still only like it okay. And it's totally because I don't care much for the characters. Rilla is nice, and she does improve over the course of the book, but nothing about her really interests me. I don't know that we would be friends, if we met -- aside from the fact we don't like babies much, we don't have a ton in common. And I really don't like her teacher friend, Gertrude Oliver, at all. She's gloomy and morbid and deliberately unpleasant sometimes. She's like a warmed-over redo of Katherine Brooke from Anne of Windy Poplars, only without Katherine's salty charm and mostly concealed niceness.
I would have loved to read a book focusing on Jem instead, because he's my favorite of Anne and Gilbert's children, but he's not around much and only gets bits of page time here and there. The whole saga of Dog Monday waiting for Jem to return is my favorite part of this book, and made me cry several times.
Random silly thing: I first heard this book read aloud by my mom when I was like 9 years old, and I didn't know what a soup tureen was, so I decided it was a big bowl made out of an empty turtle shell. And to this day, that's what I imagine first when I hear or read the word "tureen," and then I have to remind myself it's a big bowl thing on a stand with a lid.
Particularly Good Bits:
It does not do to laugh at the pangs of youth. They are very terrible because youth has not yet learned that "this, too, will pass away" (p. 34).
If This Was a Movie, I Would Rate It: G. Good, but not something I love. There's a bit of mysticism in this that some people might object to.
This is my 47th book read and reviewed for the Classics Club, and my 16th for the Women's Classic Literature Event.
And now it's time for Elyssa's questions for this book:
Q: What do you think of Rilla? Is she like her parents? How is she different?
A: As I said above, I don't relate to Rilla much, or even like her very well. She starts out vain and flighty, and although she becomes solid and dependable eventually, she is still much more interested in fashions and people's opinions of herself than I am. She's not as imaginative or enthusiastic as her mother, or as impetuously caring as her father. But she does have her mother's stubbornness and her father's ability to love steadfastly.
Q: After returning to Ingleside, Jem tells Rilla that Walter wasn’t scared at the front. Even though Walter was sickened by the thought of war, Jem said that he turned out to be a courageous hero. Why do you think that was? Anticipating a situation and actually being in the moment can be totally different experiences and sometimes bring out surprising reactions. Can you remember a time when this has happened to you?
A: Just because you don't like something, or find it distasteful, that doesn't mean you can't or won't do it. I don't enjoy cleaning up vomit, but I do it quite a bit now that I have three kids.
And yeah, a lot of times something I think is going to be hard or unpleasant ends up being less horrid than I'd anticipated. Imaginations are pesky that way. Childbirth, for instance, was not nearly as awful as I was expecting it to be. Not something I'd want to do every day, but I've gone through natural childbirth three times and would gladly do so again. But so many people talk about it as the worst pain possible, when for me, breaking both bones in my arm was far worse.
Q: There wasn’t much to Rilla’s relationship with Kenneth Ford in terms of time spent together. How do we know that their relationship is going to last?
A: I think they did get to know each other through the letters they exchanged during the war, and that's one of the best ways to truly come to understand another person, at least in my experience. I fell in love with my husband while emailing him over the course of a summer. I think that, plus the fact that they both remained constant over all that time and distance gives them a good chance of remaining together and happy.
Thank you for hosting this event, Elyssa! I am planning to read at least one more Montgomery book this year -- in fact, I've already started it! I might manage another as well, we'll see. But with Elyssa's encouragement, I've completed my original quest, to read all 8 Anne books in 2016. Hooray!