- L.M. Montgomery and War ed. by Andrea McKenzie and Jane Ledwell
This volume's ten chapters encapsulate the impact of L.M. Montgomery's war literature on one's understanding of Canadian women's war work and of the Great War and its aftermath on the Canadian home front. Though, as editors Andrea McKenzie and Jane Ledwell point out, "scholarship about Montgomery's war writing is slim," this important collection demonstrates just how much readers still have to learn from and about Montgomery's work. Through Rilla of Ingleside primarily, but with nods to some of her other works as well, the contributors interrogate the problem of Montgomery's absence from the Canadian war literature canon, celebrate Montgomery's writing for how it explores women's war work and [End Page 179] elaborates the experience of war from the home front, and prod at a Montgomery whose post-war writing suffered misrepresentation and made an imperfect return to an idealized natural world now imbued with disillusion and despondency.
Though many canonical writers put pen to wartime paper in an effort to pad their wallets and bolster their literary reputations, Montgomery's quest to explore the impact of the Great War on Canada was reflective rather than reactive. Jonathan F. Vance suggests that Montgomery's work is original for this contemplative groundwork – that a Montgomery fully immersed in war herself could later "reflect with the full benefit of hindsight on what the war did to her world." Irene Gammel echoes this sentiment and suggests that Montgomery's writing, which she puts in conversation with Mary Riter Hamilton's wartime artwork, represented a "consoling aesthetic" that commingled "empathy and patriotism" in a way that challenged an overwhelming "rhetoric of sacrifice for one's country." In contrast, E. Holly Pike explores the "disrupt[ion]" in both time and genre between Anne's romanticized vision of war in Anne of Green Gables and Rilla's immersive war experience. And Susan Fisher investigates The Watchman and Other Poems – the only text published by Montgomery during the war – in an effort to answer the pointed question that this first section of the collection seeks to explore: "Virtually every other Canadian writer of note rushed into print about the war. Why not Montgomery?"
Aside from canonical exclusion, contributors aptly interrogate the gendered perspective, rightly giving women's war work its due. "War," and Montgomery's exploration of it in Rilla of Ingleside, "allowed a time for women's ordinary labours to be acknowledged and praised," posits Laura M. Robinson. Sarah Glassford contextualizes Rilla's war work within real World War I Canada, ultimately arguing that women were "active participants during the Great War" rather than "idle spectators" and that Montgomery's writing sought to "evoke" rather than "strictly document" this work. And Maureen O. Gallagher addresses Montgomery's depiction of the gendered experience in Rilla through the lens of a similar German narrative – Else Ury's Nesthäkchen and the World – demonstrating how women could both "bolster and undercut wartime nationalist narratives."
The collection's final section, which centres on time and healing, examines the aftermath of war for both Montgomery and her works. Caroline E. Jones turns to Montgomery's post-war writing and suggests that a perceptible shift – from "sacrifice for the greater good of the world" to "disenchantment" – is evident in her rhetoric. Andrea McKenzie examines a century's worth of Rilla of Ingleside cover illustrations to point to, and problematize, the persistent image of "women in wartime as passive sweethearts who focus only on romance, coming wifehood, or potential motherhood." And, finally, Elizabeth Epperly explores Montgomery's 1927 novel Emily's Quest to underscore "the writer's challenge to withstand [the] despair" of her own posttraumatic world. [End Page 180]
Scholars in this volume go out of their way to situate Montgomery in context – on both local and international scales and through relevant cultural productions of her time period. Readers will benefit tremendously from these writers' nuanced explorations of Montgomery's lasting impact and what persistently undermines...