Goodreads: 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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