Rilla of Ingleside - L.M. Montgomery

My pick is, yet again, a little odd. It doesn't take place at the front. In fact, it doesn't even take place on the same continent.

 

Rilla of Ingleside is about experiencing the war from the sidelines. It is the perspective of the women and children and elderly who watched with pride as their boys and men sailed off to distant shores, convinced that the war would be a route, a victory parade, a few months of excitement. But the war dragged on. The able men and boys were winnowed away, and those few that returned did not return whole.


I cannot really imagine the horrors of the front. The mud, the guns, the gassing, the dying... it's simply too far outside of my own experiences. So perhaps it is the familiarity of the setting, the seeming mundanity of it all, that causes Rilla's story to touch me so deeply.

 

When I first read the book as a child, certain moments made me cry.

 

Yet the saddest part of all is not the tragedy but the hope that so palpably permeates each page. For the book was written before the second war, when Montgomery truly believed that it was the War to End All Wars, a war against pure evil, a war in which right overcame wrong, not a petty squabble between nations.

It isn't only the fate of the little sea-born island I love that is in the balance—nor of Canada nor of England. It's the fate of mankind. That is what we're fighting for. And we shall win—never for a moment doubt that, Rilla. For it isn't only the living who are fighting—the dead are fighting too. Such an army cannot be defeated.

[...] And you will tell your children of the Idea we fought and died for—teach them it must be lived for as well as died for, else the price paid for it will have been given for nought.

And that, I think, that hope betrayed, is what still brings a lump to my throat.