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L.M. Montgomery began writing Rilla of Ingleside shortly after the end of World War I. Her story of the war was not about soldiers fighting and dying on Flanders Fields, but about Canadians struggling to "keep the home fires burning." It is a novel that today remains at once both deeply moving and, on occasion, very funny.
As she wrote the novel over a period of two years, Montgomery accumulated 518 handwritten pages. Alongside this stack was another 71 pages, titled "Notes." These notes-- literary second thoughts, as it were--added textual flavour, improving the novel's realism, emotional depth, and humour. Montgomery's handwritten manuscript of Rilla was acquired by the University of Guelph Archival & Special Collections in 1999. This manuscript has been painstakingly rendered in a readable format by Kate Waterston and is now published as Readying Rilla, with an introduction by Montgomery expert Elizabeth Waterston.
This edition is a surprisingly engrossing read, but offers a different experience than the finished novel provides. Here we sense Montgomery's own thought processes, and witness the way she carefully refined her novel. The world has changed much since 1921: now books are mostly composed on computer, leaving behind little record of the writer's creative journey to a final published work. But editing is a key process in creating any great work of fiction, and here is one of the most detailed records of creativity available.