New Chronicles of Rebecca by Kate Douglas Wiggin

New Chronicles of RebeccaGoodreads: New Chronicles of Rebecca
Series: Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm #2

Review: New Chronicles of Rebecca defies easy categorization as it constitutes neither a sequel nor a companion book to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  The stories contained in it take place during the same time as many events of the first book, so that it can almost be thought of as an extension to Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.  Reader reaction to it will thus largely depend on what they expected to find in a sequel.

Personally, I always wanted to see Rebecca grow up and I looked for this book for years in hopes of discovering what sort of career she might choose or whom she might marry.  Wiggin left hints but nothing concrete, and I longed for some sort of certainty.  This book spans enough time that it suggests, once again, that Rebecca’s marital prospects lie in a certain direction, but readers never get to follow her on that journey.  I had to accept this disappointment before I could judge the book on its own merits.

Since the stories in New Chronicles fit in between those of Rebecca, the timeline can prove confusing, especially to those who have not read the first book in some time.  However, if readers feel comfortable not quite remembering who all the characters are or their actions in the past, they will find that Wiggin provides enough clues to allow them to orient themselves in a general way.  As long as they can recall that certain characters are friends, others outcasts in Riverboro society, the reading proceeds smoothly enough.

Unfortunately, I did not find the stories in this book as captivating as those in the first. The focus of the stories seems to lie on how impressionable Rebecca is—thus, we have the rather standard account of how she forms a missionary society to save souls after hearing a speaker or the story of her attempt to find a young orphan a home.  Some laughable consequences occur, but largely Rebecca seems to realize her own mistakes and clashes with her strict aunts are reduced to a minimum.  It is hard to believe these events occur at the same time as Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm—a time when a young girl struggled valiantly to make herself fit into a new society and please her relatives.

I did appreciate, however, the realism Wiggin brings to the stories.  Even though the incidents she narrates are not highly original  (a lot of them occur in L. M. Montgomery’s stories or similar works), she does not romanticize them too much.  Thus, readers can never feel assured that the orphan with a home will stay in that home.  Likewise, Rebecca’s amateur missionary society does not succeed in making churchgoers of all of Riverboro.  Such doses of reality can make hackneyed plot points more palatable to the general reader.

If such stories had comprised the entire book, I would have been pleased enough with more adventures of Rebecca’s, if not overly impressed by the execution.  However, portions of the beginning of the book are written as diary entries of Rebecca’s.  I did not find these precocious entries, with their earnest attempts to sound eloquent and profound notwithstanding the poor spelling, very amusing.  I think a lot of girls who longed to be writers have been there.  Some will empathize with Rebecca and think back fondly on their own childhoods.  Some will probably grimace in pain and a bit of embarrassment.  I was with the latter, even though I think Wiggin’s attempt to write with the voice of childhood was a bit too naïve and earnest to be convincing.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is rightly considered a children’s classic, but New Chronicles of Rebecca lacks much that gives the first book its charm.  Relationships and personalities are considered established, so that readers never see how much the love of certain people means to a lost young girl or how desperately that young girl wants to be accepted.  Rather, Rebecca moves through Riverboro as if in her own world, going through the motions of what young girls do—play with their friends, go to school, make mistakes.  She does not seem to live on the page in the same way and even a glimpse into her diary cannot make her seem real.  After years of searching, I find myself disappointed by New Chronicles of Rebecca.

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7 thoughts on “New Chronicles of Rebecca by Kate Douglas Wiggin

  1. jennasthilaire says:

    I TOTALLY wanted a sequel to Rebecca. One where she got to really fall in love with Adam Ladd and marry him! 🙂 Wiggin’s great-nephew, Eric, did write a couple of sequels that developed in the obvious direction way back when, but no guarantees that they’re any good. I only flipped through them once in a bookstore once when I was a kid… apparently didn’t have any spending money that day. 😛


    • Krysta says:

      I think I sort of knew about those sequels, but I’m never sure about continuations of stories not written by the original authors. I’ll have to try to track them down anyway, though–they might be good! (And I need to know–is it Adam Ladd?? At first New Chronicles made me think, “YES!” and then it made me think “No?” and then I was just confused and sad. It’s almost like Christy (I don’t know if you’ve seen the TV series?). The suspense is cruel.

      EDIT: It’s confusing, but it looks like Eric Wiggin rewrote Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm “for the modern reader” in two volumes and then the real “sequel” is Rebecca Returns to Sunnybrook.


      • jennasthilaire says:

        Ah, I didn’t realize that. Thanks for the clarification. Well, one sequel would be better than none, but I don’t think I’d go for a “for the modern reader” edition. The original is too perfect.

        As I recall from my bookstore flip-through, Eric Wiggin does give Rebecca her Adam. And I have the same worries about non-author sequels that you do, so that may be the only good thing about the book. 🙂

        And yeah, I have seen Christy. That series ended in the meanest possible place. Have you read the book? It gives you a good old-fashioned happy ending, and an honestly beautiful one at that.


        • Krysta says:

          I don’t know why anyone would want to rewrite Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm! From reviews, it seems like he wished to place a greater emphasis on evangelical Christianity, but I don’t see how that corresponds to the “modern reader.” At any rate, I am willing to read this book to see my Adam/Rebecca ship sail. 😉

          I have read Christy! I’m actually a bigger fan of the television series, though. (Should I be admitting to this?) It has more action, more drama, more romance. I think Kellie Martin has the perfect blend of spunk and innocence to play Christy. So I really, really wanted to see that series wrap up. I watched the three movies they released to appease fans, but with most of the original cast gone, it was disappointing to say the least. I like to pretend those movies don’t exist.


        • jennasthilaire says:

          If you read it, I hope you review it!!

          Kellie Martin was the perfect choice to play Christy. I really liked her in that role. I also liked Dr. MacNeill and David and Fairlight and Ruby Mae and a number of others, though unfortunately not Tyne Daly… my picture of Miss Alice, in both person and personality, was just too different. But I wanted to see that series wrap up properly, too! I didn’t see the movies…. it’s never the same when the original cast is gone. 😦


  2. ara says:

    Re: “Even though the incidents she narrates are not highly original (a lot of them occur in L. M. Montgomery’s stories or similar works), she does not romanticize them too much.”

    Anne was published 5 years after Rebecca so if anyone was repeating incidents, it would be LM Montgomery. 🙂


    • Krysta says:

      I wasn’t trying to say that one author copied the other, only that the elements can be found in other stories and so don’t come across as original. L. M. Montgomery was a specific example I gave, but “similar works” covers, I think, the idea that I’ve read the incidents in the book in various other works.


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