|This little light of mine|
My first encounter with Anne of Green Gables was the made for TV movie staring Megan Follows. My then girlfriend of the time made me watch it, and I have to admit I fell in love with it almost at once.
Part of it was the incomparable Ms Follows, who is truly brilliant in the part, but the major part of it was the writing and the story. Which, of course, was not created by Kevin Sullivan (even though he did a very good job in writing and directing it) but was almost entirely down to Lucy Maud Montgomery.
So I bought a second hand copy of the book, and read it within the weekend. I laughed, cried, giggled and sympathised as the story ran - "My girl, my girl who I am proud of" - and almost at once I realised I wanted to read the rest of the series.
So - one by one - I bought the next five books, stopping with Anne of Ingleside because - quite honestly - I didn't realise there were any more stories after that. In my defence, the end of "Anne of Ingleside" is pretty much a stopping point to the story. Everyone is happy, and all is right in the world.
A few years later, I started exchanging emails with a young doctor in Australia named Diana (no - not her real name) via the Anne of Green Gables website. We were both huge fans, and really enjoyed the series. And that was when I learned that the series extended beyond the six core books. The various side stories (The Chronicles and Further Chronicles) and - most notably - Rainbow Valley and Rilla of Ingleside.
I read Rainbow Valley and - while it wasn't bad - it didn't capture my imagination like "Green Gables" did (but to be fair, none of the other stories did that either. The closest one was Anne of The Island, because I was a big fan of Anne and Gilbert!).
But then I read Rilla of Ingleside and it was almost as if my entire world was transformed.
While it is such a simple story - the trials and tribulations of a young girl growing up during The First World War - it is so, so much more and so much better than that.
The majority - vast majority - of war stories are told from the perspective of those who do the fighting.
It is very rare to find a story told from the perspective of those who stand and wait.
"Rilla" is just such a story. At the start of the war, Rilla is a narcissistic child with no concept of anything outsider her own life, and no thoughts other than her own petty desires and wishes.
But then the war starts and she is forced to watch as, one by one, the playmates of her youth go off to fight in the war. Her friends, the family, the young man she is pretty sure she is in love with all leave their homes to fight the foreign foe.
The story follows her for the next four years as she lives and dies with every day that passes. And with the fact that - while the boys have gone to fight, it is so much worse for those who are left behind because they have no clue what is happening on the other side of the world, and they have no control over anything that is happening to them.
I am not going to give any more way - other than the war does eventually come to an end (but I am REALLY hoping that you knew that already, otherwise I despair of the education system in whatever country you were educated in) - and I am going to really recommend it to everyone, not only because it is a good story, but because it is a book that everyone should read, at least once in their life time.
So, if I were to make one wild, extravagant purchase that I could never properly justify in a million years, it would be a first edition of "Rilla of Ingleside" by Lucy Maud Montgomery.
Because while there an almost infinite amount of books out there in the world, and while I have read a large number of books in my life, there are very few books out there that actually changed my life, and very few books I can read over and over again and yet still be surprised by and moved by.
And to have a first edition of such a book - it would be beyond wonderful.