Recognizing the many ways that L.M. Montgomery’s books have brought people together over time, and mindful that the current global pandemic means we need to be creative about staying in touch with people, Andrea McKenzie and I have started a Rilla of Ingleside readathon on Facebook. Starting Monday, March 30, we will read together three chapters a week from Montgomery’s Great War novel, supplementing our conversation about the text with book covers, reviews, ads, literary allusions, and historical context. Please join us!
Rilla of Ingleside
Those of you who follow this site on social media (specifically on Facebook or on Pinterest) have a sense already of how fascinated I’ve become with a phenomenon that has involved not only Montgomery but also any other still-popular author whose work is in the public domain: cheap reprint editions, either in print or in ebook form. Sometimes it seems as though new cheap editions of Montgomery’s books become available on Amazon every day, many of them offering numerous titles for 99 cents, most of them with cover art that is completely random and, as such, entirely unsuitable, with this recent cover of an edition of Rilla of Ingleside as just one example:
In other cases, creators of these cheap ebooks take art from existing editions, which could mislead readers about what edition they are buying. A couple of months ago, one such edition of Rilla of Ingleside appeared with the cover art from the restored and annotated edition that Andrea McKenzie and I edited for Penguin Canada in 2010. Because most of the editions do not identify any creators or publishers and simply have the line “Sold by Amazon Digital Services LLC,” it is impossible for consumers to know who is behind these editions. Thankfully, though, when we reported this edition to Amazon, it was soon taken down all its platforms.
But now a new twist has occurred, evident in the following screen caps taken yesterday:
While it is true that these books are in the public domain and that anyone anywhere can reprint them or make ebook versions of them, these editions are most definitely not Norton Critical Editions or part of the Penguin Twentieth Century Classics series (which is now called Penguin Modern Classics) or the Oxford World’s Classics series. These are all existing covers, although the cover for The Story Girl is actually from one of eight abridgements done for Zonderkids over a decade ago. Although one would have to buy these Kindle editions to assess the extent that they are “annotated,” my sense is that, if these editions were sufficiently annotated for publication by Norton, Penguin, or Oxford, they would not be retailing for $3.73. Not to mention that the editor of a critical or annotated edition is always identified, since it is that editor’s expertise in the subject matter that is of paramount importance.
And then, of course, is this recent ebook, which appears to be an L.M. Montgomery title no one has ever heard of: Bev’s Childhood. It is actually The Story Girl.
So what do you make of this new trend? What should be most important in terms of the book market?
“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 naught. This will be part of your work, Rilla. And if you—all you girls back in the homeland—do it, then we who don’t come back will know that you have not ‘broken faith’ with us.”
I seem to have dropped the ball on my promise, made in November, to post either an extract of a review or an ad every single day on this website until I received my first copy of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 3: A Legacy in Review. Since mid-December, I’ve been so busy with the end-of-year rush, with illness, with the holidays, and with some behind-the-scenes updates on this website (including lists of journal articles, book chapters, paratexts, dissertations/theses, and reviews) that I haven’t posted anything in several weeks.
But I’m pleased to let you know that my first author’s copy of Volume 3 arrived last week, with the remaining author’s copies getting to me Thursday afternoon. As I mentioned on my own blog last week, the fact that this multi-year project has finally come to an end is bittersweet, and it’s been nice to clear my desk, both literally and figuratively, as I start to ponder what it is I’d like to tackle next. I do hope that the materials included in all three volumes will prove useful and interesting to Montgomery’s diverse readership, and of course I’m always happy to hear from readers in terms of questions, responses, and alerts to items I missed.
For those of you who are in the Toronto area: on the evening of Tuesday, 27 January, I will be joining Laura M. Robinson and Melanie J. Fishbane for an event called “The Canadian Home Front: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on War” at the North York Central Library branch of the Toronto Public Library. I’ll be talking briefly about how Montgomery’s shifting vision of the war appeared in periodicals of the period, not only in terms of some of Montgomery’s essays and letters published prior to the writing of Rilla of Ingleside but also the ways in which all her war books—not only Rilla but also Rainbow Valley, Anne’s House of Dreams, and The Watchman and Other Poems—were reviewed in North American newspapers and magazines. It promises to be a terrific evening, so please join us if you can.
I know it looks like I’ve been a bit neglectful this week of my promise to post every single day a review of or an ad for one of Montgomery’s books (the focus of Volume 3 of The L.M. Montgomery Reader, available late this December). In truth, I’ve become really busy with the end-of-year crunch, but there’s also a method to my madness, since what I planned to show next was an overall marketing strategy for L.M. Montgomery. In the second half of December 1921, Montgomery’s Canadian publisher, McClelland and Stewart, placed—in the Toronto Globe and the Toronto Daily Star—several different ads for Rilla of Ingleside, always prominently at the top of a page, as a way to promote it as a choice title for the holiday season. What’s especially noteworthy is that while Rilla is now celebrated as one of the only near-contemporaneous Canadian novels about women at the homefront during the First World War, the war is barely mentioned in this campaign.
Each image zooms in when you click on it, and you can also go through all of them as a slide show.
First, the Toronto Daily Star published this ad, complete with reviewers’ quotes, on 12 December:
Second, in the Globe, on 15 December:
An almost identical ad appeared the next day, on 16 December, in the Toronto Daily Star:
Third, in the Globe, on 16 December:
Fourth, in the Globe, on 17 December:
This one, too, appeared in the Toronto Daily Star, three days later:
Fifth, in the Toronto Daily Star, on 19 December, advertising Rilla of Ingleside alongside Marian Keith’s novel Little Miss Melody (Montgomery and Keith would eventually collaborate, along with Mabel Burns McKinley, on the volume of essays Courageous Women, published in 1934):
Sixth, the Globe, on 20 December:
Seventh, a similar ad in the Toronto Daily Star, on 21 December:
Eighth, in the Globe, on 21 December:
Stay tuned next week, when I start posting extracts from reviews that were less than enthusiastic about Montgomery’s writing—starting with the earliest known review of Anne of Green Gables.
L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside is justly celebrated as one of the only contemporaneous Canadian novels to depict the experiences of women and children at the homefront. It is important to remember, though, that while Montgomery had planned to write about Anne’s children during the war as early as 1917, it was only early in 1919, after the war had ended that she began drafting this book, meaning that the book’s depiction of characters waiting and working at home was written only after the waiting had stopped.
Yet the novel was not the first time that Montgomery’s perspective on the war made it into print. In a letter to an unidentified friend published as part of the “Writers and Books” column in the Boston Evening Transcript in November 1915, Montgomery offered a spontaneous and uncensored account of her experience at home, one that neither relied on hindsight nor was definitively intended for publication, for the benefit of a recipient living in the United States, which would not join the war effort until 1917.
“As for ‘the boys’ keeping me from literary work—alas it is not the boys. I could manage so far as they are concerned. It is this hideous war. . . . We are at war—at close grips with a deadly and determined enemy. We live and breathe in its shadows. Never for one moment is the strain lifted. . . . This horrible waiting—waiting—waiting every day for the war news—the dreadful uncertainty—the casualty lists—it all seems to me as if I were crushed under an ever-increasing weight. . . . Amid all this think you I can sit me down to calm creation of imaginary people and their imaginary joys and sorrows? No, I cannot. Literature for a while must wait on life and death.”
The full letter is available exclusively in The L.M. Montgomery Reader, Volume 1: A Life in Print, available now.
“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 book 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.” —L.M. Montgomery, “How I Became a Writer,” Manitoba Free Press, 1921
This edition of Rilla of Ingleside—the only modern edition to consist of the full text of the original 1921 edition—includes introductions to the novel and to the First World War, maps of Europe, war poems by L.M. Montgomery and Virna Sheard, and an extensive glossary of terms, allusions, and events. It was edited by Benjamin Lefebvre and Andrea McKenzie and is available exclusively from Penguin Random House Canada.
For more on Montgomery’s depiction of the First World War in her fiction and in her journals, please visit the website of Laura M. Robinson’s excellent exhibit The Canadian Home Front: L.M. Montgomery’s Reflections on the First World War.
For more on Rilla of Ingleside as one of the only near-contemporaneous accounts of the First World War by a Canadian woman, see the following sites:
- “In Celebration of Rilla,” by Melissa, at KitLitHistory
- “‘A Woman Too Soon’: Rilla of Ingleside and World War I,” by Lindsey Palka, at The Toast
- “Revisiting Rilla of Ingleside,” by Anne, at Modern Mrs. Darcy
- “Pressures of the White Feather in L.M. Montgomery’s Rilla of Ingleside,” by Nabila Islam, at Children’s Literature Archive, Ryerson University
- “New Edition of Rilla of Ingleside” at Melanie Fishbane’s Wild about Words
- “Exclusive Q&A with Benjamin Lefebvre” at Indigo website
- Review of 1990 edition of Rilla of Ingleside, by Dorothy Dodge, at CM: A Reviewing Journal of Canadian Materials for Young People
- Rilla of Ingleside, by Lyn, at I Prefer Reading
- Rilla of Ingleside at Picturing a Canadian Life: L.M. Montgomery’s Personal Scrapbooks and Book Covers
Today, on this day of days, we look back on the prediction made by two unidentified reviewers of how L.M. Montgomery’s novel Rilla of Ingleside would eventually be remembered.
As a record of the war years, as seen from Glen St. Mary, the author has presented a faithful and worthy picture, spiced by realistic conversation and records of sentiment, and often illuminated by poetic touches in describing the charm of life in that island garden. —The Globe (Toronto)
A hundred years hence, Rilla of Ingleside will be useful to historians for a picture of Canadian home life during the Great War. Every great event of the conflict is traced with its effects on Ingleside, and Walter, the shy, sensitive boy, the poet of the family, takes his leave – but, why spoil the story? —Manitoba Free Press (Winnipeg)
The call for proposals for L.M. Montgomery and War, the eleventh biennial conference hosted by the L.M. Montgomery Institute and held at the University of Prince Edward Island, has a new deadline of 15 August 2013! Please visit the new conference Facebook page for all the latest updates!
In honour of Remembrance Day, two recent blog entries have appeared discussing L.M. Montgomery’s depiction of the Great War in Rilla of Ingleside and The Blythes Are Quoted. First, Christine Chettle discusses Walter Blythe’s poems “The Piper” and “The Aftermath” on the website for the Centre for Canadian Studies at the University of Leeds:
Most famous for her tale of cheerful red-headed orphan Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery offers a more complicated view of the Canadian war experience. Like many of her contemporaries, the fiercely patriotic Montgomery viewed World War I as a struggle for liberty against a threat of evil from Kaiser’s Germany.
Next, Melanie Fishbane talks about Montgomery’s experience during the war in her fiction and her life writing on the Indigo website:
It is hard for us to imagine that one hundred years ago, the boys we grew up with, the men we may have worked with and our brothers, husbands and partners would have joined in the wake of that strong call to arms in the belief that Canada, as an English colony, was in real danger. It is also hard to imagine, that many of those same men never came home. If we consider Montgomery’s fictional world of Ingleside, as a representation of the different townships across Canada, than I think we will begin to understand the magnitude WWI (and subsequent wars) had on our nation’s history.