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for Through the Dark Clouds shining (English version)

12/12/2017 c7 10Excel Aunt
I like the fact the Mrs. Talbot insists Rilla take her breaks. That seems unlikely given the setting and possible sternness of her character—albeit, Rilla did manage her well enough when she reported another broken thermometer. I had a moment where I thought Mrs. Talbot might throw Rilla under the bus and have her report broken thermometer directly to Capt’n Sheperd.

You’re doing a great job showing Rilla’s qualifications in her role as a nurse. So much so that I’m now super worried about Jerry. I hope that his condition isn’t as poor as I fear, that he might be hiding the depths of his injuries. I hope Rilla investigates that.

‘His inexplicable leanings towards incense and myrrh’ had me laughing! I promise to stop protesting that Walter is a priest now. I want to be a fly on the wall in Jem is told though. Oh, I think I would have enjoyed smoking cigarettes with Betty and Polly and lamenting on “Father What-A-Waste”.

“I haven’t left anyone who depends on me,” gosh—I feel for Jims now. What became of the war baby without Rilla?

That was a nice dynamic between Rilla and Betty. The oldest of one family talking with the youngest of the family. Betty having a sense of responsibility for her siblings still and Rilla wishing to be somewhat freed from hers. I have a sense of disappointment from Rilla in her sisters, Nan and Di, her feeling closes to Faith is probably a good example of that. And I have to wonder how Rilla and Joyce might have been together.

Another great update!
12/9/2017 c6 42oz diva
The explanations of class structure and why it's a good idea to separate the ranks in hospital is very well done. I live in an egalitarian society (for the most part) so I miss this part of English life, but it was so true. Having to live up to your potential when you were spewing your guts out would have been a problem.

How lovely for the siblings to get a chance to catch up overseas but away from all the action so that they can actually talk. I liked him calling her by her old nickname Rilla-my-Rilla. It was great to have them chat frankly about his decision to become a priest.

All these losses that you and Elizasky are writing about. It's all too sad.

But excellent writing as ever, thank you.
12/9/2017 c6 5McFishie 7759380
I really enjoyed this, you gave such depth to the story. I can see Rilla travelling to the hospital, getting lost in the area and then finding the big country house. I love the details you give, using army terms then naturally adding the explanation so it's clear what you mean. And the back story on the family is wonderful. Faith kicking her heels teaching until Jem graduates (how frustrating for our energetic Faith), Jem's maturity about making devisions for his family not himself now, Di focusing on womens rights (more on that please!). What I really enjoyed here is Walters story. I'm glad Rilla still got to be his confident in times of trouble. I really like how Gil supported his decision through many nights of long discussion. I feel this is a fully developed Walter, with peace and a sense of purpose in such troubled times. There is a depth to him that feels very satisfyou. And then we have the wonderfully warm mature woman Rilla has become, I do love her
12/8/2017 c6 19Alinya Alethia
I've been looking forward to this ever since you promised me more on the family this chapter, and this was worth the waiting for. I don't think I've said, but I love the voice you've given to Rilla, a bit wry in spots, often playful, but knowledgeable too, and the world just beginning to creep into her soul. That last especially makes itself felt here as she tacks between Rilla-the-nurse and Rilla-my-Rilla of childhood. She's found a purpose (I laughed over her aside about blaming Faith) but she's still wrestling with some of the things it brings her into contact with. And why not -it can't be easy being nurse to a relative, even if the case at hand is trench fever and not as acutely traumatic as it could be. And the way Rilla tells it, it's obvious this is more than enough.

I especially enjoyed the exploration of how Walter got where he is. Weaving between Catholicism and Presbyterianism landed me in the Scottish Episcopacy, but that's not really a viable option here, and besides, I stand by what I've said before and you say here, Catholicism really does seem peculiarly suited to Walter. It sits comfortably with the old-world chivalric cast of his character. What stands out for me here is his connection to his men. That for me ties him very much to Jem, both wanting to serve people albeit in different ways.

I like too the observation that Jem is bearing in mind that he must come home to the family he's left. He's ever been an adventure seeker, but one with a deep sense of loyalty, so it follows that in this world he would put getting back to Faith before anything else.

A lovely interlude reconnecting us with family -and as ever, I'm looking forward to where you take us next.
12/8/2017 c6 14elizasky
I suppose I should be a bit more sympathetic to poor Walter and say I'm sorry he's ill, but it's so nice to see him alive on September 24, 1916 I can't quite muster it. Seems we should be throwing him a party instead. (Though I do suppose his men do rather need him at the moment - lot of last rites going unsaid.)

At first, seeing the new address, I thought you were transferring Rilla already and thought it was quite soon, but it made sense soon enough. A question: that corporal with the wagon was a bit flippant with Rilla - should he be treating her with more deference since she is an officer? I ask because you do get into the importance of the distinction with the wards, but raising your cigarette hand doesn't seem like much of a salute. (Incidentally, I just read through a description of training at Bexhill-on-Sea where they're running through all these different saluting scenarios and even though I understand the need for army discipline, I couldn't help but laugh thinking of Jem getting pulled out after Passchendaele to attend salute-protocol training.)

I like the little touches you put in that show Rilla's slight discomfort with her surroundings - the musings about English hospitals being in mansions, noting the class snobbery of the officer who shows her to the ward, etc. It is an effective way a keeping her unsettled even when things are mostly calm.

This reunion was a bit more restrained than I was expecting, but then, it is Walter, so I guess maybe it makes sense he's not much of a hugger. Rilla is bright and cheerful, trying to make jokes, but Walter is just his haunted self. That's an interesting commentary on canon - if this Walter's eyes are just as "shadow-rimmed" (good writing!) as in canon, it seems that it's not perpetrating violence that breaks him, but perhaps seeing it. That's been a question I've been asking myself: Jem assures Anne that Walter never bayonetted anyone and I am wondering whether that's a Jerry-writing-letters lie to spare her after she's read "The Aftermath." Your universe seems to be arguing that Jem is right - that Walter doesn't need to kill in order to be haunted by the war.

His loyalty to his men and his passion for serving them does come through, though. I wonder - would the men he serves be mostly French and Irish? You talk a lot about class divisions among the English - among English-speaking Canadians a lot of those class divisions would have an ethnic gloss (as they do in LMM's writing and her characters' disdain for French-speakers in general).

I can see Walter as a priest. I agree with you that something about Catholicism would call to him (and to Anne). He maybe became a priest a bit quickly (could you attend seminary immediately after converting?) but it may also be true that converts tend to be on fire for their faith. On the first read, I misread a bit and thought you were foreshadowing that Walter had been wounded and lost his arms and my first thought was that he was going to miss administering the Eucharist to his men. I think you are right that something about the mystery of the Trinity and the ceremonies of the Church would satisfy Walter. All those knights and ladies transformed into spiritual practice. I was a little surprised that he didn't have a blessing or a bit of poetry for Rilla, though, and that makes me worry that he's doing quite a lot worse psychologically than just missing his men.
12/8/2017 c6 10Excel Aunt
I'm still having a hard time believing Walter became a priest, although, I was happy to read that his conversion to Catholicism was a long day in coming. I've talked with many, many converts to Catholicism and usually, the transition takes a great deal of thought and prayer. I'm not seeing that from Walter but his story is from Rilla's POV so that probably explains it.

I lament Walter's decision to become a priest. I always thought he'd be very happy has a husband to someone (I always hoped for Una and proud father to many, many Blythe kids). So when I read Gilbert and Anne also struggled with it I felt some vindication there.

Not that I don't agree with him becoming Catholic. I do see him more inclined to enjoy the elements of mysticism as you mentioned over the more austere practice of Protestantism, but a celibate vocation is rather unsettling for me for someone as dreamy as Walter Blythe.
12/8/2017 c2 5McFishie 7759380
You bring this to life brilliantly, not sparing us the horror but balancing it with Rillas experience. My grandmother had 4 brothers at the front, 3 who never returned and I find I read this with them in mind, hoping that in their need they had someone as brave and strong and compassionate as Rilla beside them. I also have in mind the 15 year old Rilla and find myself comparing their journey. Both brave, both endeavouring to take on new things. Which journey would I have preferred? it's hard to say but there is something about being part of the machine that's compelling. I am in awe of Rillas strength. How she. carries on with a smile. I liked your details and references to scrubbing hands. I'm reminded of how Diana did her hands up with lemon juice after setting potatoes but I think Rillas hands are beyond this. I'd like to know the older orderly better, I feel he could be a great source of wisdom for Rilla. The ending was fitting. I imagine Rillas tears are as much from exhaustion as what she has seen. The comfort of a friend helped herand us- feel less alone . I still can't think believe English is not your native language. This is a remarkable piece of work
12/6/2017 c5 19Alinya Alethia
Well, I for one love it. I am all in for medical descriptions of Rilla’s trislmby fire. Of course, I may be the wtong person to ask, but there you are.

There’s a lovely tension here between innocent, untouchable Rilla of the books, with her stubbornness and pluck, but also the more mature woman she has become. I love wholeheartedly that she don’t let herself stop, or even give in to tears around her patients, but can’t help succumbing in bed, alone. It brings home how young she is, how quickly she has grown up. I’m also struck by the line about how unlike the work she was trained on is her hospital found. She is seeing things no one should have to, much less experience. And yet, I think for all the grim reality and the brutality of it, you capture the beauty of the work too, the restoration of life, those little human connections we reach for when we have nothing else.

The date gave me a jolt. I’m preconditioned in this community to expect dread things at Courcelette, so I’m interested to hear hoe family connections are faring. But in the meantime, by all means keep on as you are. It’s real, powerful and compelling writing.
12/5/2017 c5 42oz diva
Oh goodness, this is gut wrenching. Amazing but gut wrenching. Of course the nurses see terrible sights just like the men. Different of course, but no less horrifying for all that. and they're all such babies, the poor things. I'm pleased Polly was there to comfort Rilla. She can't go through all that day after day without some release or support.
12/5/2017 c5 14elizasky
The immediacy of the first-person narration really works for you here. The whole time I was reading, I felt immersed in the scene. I particularly enjoyed the way you let Rilla's mind flit into imaginings and counter-factuals — considering going through the doors to lie down, thinking of the amputee on his way home, etc. so that even as she is in the moment, her mind is pulling in memories, associations, and possible futures. That makes her mind feel like a rich place.

I particularly enjoyed the pause while she washed her hands. By describing the procedure in detail, you let the reader take a breath just as Rilla does.

You also did a good job of showing the difference between what Rilla is feeling/thinking and how she is acting. Several times, she surprises herself by having a steady voice or a smile, but of course the people seeing her won't see the extent of her self-doubt (except for that perceptive orderly - he's probably seen 100 like her). A question about that orderly - would he be an enlisted man or a volunteer? You mention that he is older, so would he be a soldier who was assigned to this duty because of his age or was there another sort of service for Canadians who couldn't do active duty but could still serve as he does? (or is he English?)

I appreciate the explanation of gas gangrene (and experimental treatments) and can't help but fear that you are telling us this now because it is going to be even more important later.

Glad Rilla has a friend like Polly.

One request - would you consider putting some date references in the chapters (even in the footnotes)? I had forgotten it was so late in the war and was a little startled that it is already Flers-Courcelette. Though this has me thinking lots about alternative universes, and how tweaking things just a little can make a big difference. I guess I'll have to wait another chapter or two to be sure, but it seems like Courcelette may not be such turning point for the Blythes in this universe. Though now I am scared because I know all the canon woundings and deaths, but yours could happen at any time!
12/5/2017 c5 10Excel Aunt
Reading this update I get the feeling that Rilla has gone through this strange baptism, where instead of being sprinkled with water, she’s been dosed in arms and legs and all other sorts of limbs.

I enjoyed how you Rilla comes to find a new definition of the word coward. She can’t bear to tell the soldiers that their limb will be amputated. She sticks to the straight facts. She answers the questions, but she doesn’t offer a bigger explanation. I don’t think it would be wise for her to be more personal with the patients. Although, I would wonder how she would do if her nursing was less about bandages and prep for surgery and more about administrating to the boy's needs.

Rilla seems to wear the occupation ‘nurse’ as a vocation now, as opposed to a skill she has acquired. Never again will she not be a nurse.

Question—were nurses called ‘sisters’ or is it some sort of confusion with the veil?
12/2/2017 c4 19Alinya Alethia
You make wonderful use of Rilla’s capability here. Her French, her knowledge, her pluck in wanting to get as close to her brothers as possible. She’s still recognisable as the spirited girl of the books, but more grown up too. She might have set out to distinguish herself from her sisters, but she obviously has come to enjoy her work, and she’s good at it. We don’t see much of it here, just glimpses, but she knows her subject and it’s coupled with the same instinctive compassion that made her love Jims in spite of herself. The conversation she has with Henri is beautiful, the recognition that home is always the loveliest place there is is a lovely sentiment, especially after our glimpses at Rilla’s childhood. It doesn’t matter how she talks about place or people, both obviously have her heart. I’m liking Talbot too. Unfussy is the perfect word for her. She does what needs doing and expects Rilla will to, and seeing them both good at their work makes for great reading. I’m looking forward to more of them together.
12/2/2017 c4 2Kim Blythe
The first part of this chapter was full with so much history and things I never knew about war and the medical field.

I can feel that Rilla is there to face whatever work, patients, she will meet throughout her stay in England !

The second part of this chapter was a good way to know that Rilla does indeed speak french. Seeing her speak so easily with Henri, in French, (even though you didn't translate english from french, it didn't really matter) was a real pleasure for me and a real reassurance and comfort for Henri.

I was really glad at the end that Miss Talbot turned back towards Rilla and said to her ''Good job, Miss Blythe'' !
12/2/2017 c4 5McFishie 7759380
So this Rilla went to Queens, and learnt to speak French. While possibly still not as academically driven as the others, she put her brains to good use. I love how she takes things in her stride, not hesitate to help the young French solider. I'm really enjoying the depth of this Rilla and looking forward to more.
12/1/2017 c4 14elizasky
I always learn so much from your writing. Thank you for putting the time and effort into getting the details right (and explaining them as well). It seems that it will be Rilla's goal to go over to a CCS (but she is maybe still a bit too young for that?). I'm interested to see that both from a character perspective and because I know you will give us excellent and accurate information about what that would have looked like. I'm almost sorry she won't get there before I need to post some of my wounding chapters — I need that background information (but I'm sure you will tell me when I go too far wrong!). The countdown until Rilla is eligible for such a transfer also gives the story a nice ticking clock, so it has some momentum.

Your Rilla certainly has grown up a lot in these four years. She understands (and seems to like) Miss Talbot, she learned useful French, she doesn't mind scrubbing floors. I wonder if you will ever explain what made her change when she was 15 — this Rilla went to Queen's, but canon Rilla was not on that path, so I am wondering whether you have an explanation in mind or if this is just one of the starting conditions of this AU.

Henri is heartbreaking, of course, but the comfort he took in being able to talk to someone was well done. The part about there being two most beautiful places on earth was very sweet. And the counting how long for younger boys hit me in the feelings.

I like Miss Talbot so far (she reminds me of Katherine Brooke). I don't know whether she and Rilla will become friends, but am am in favor. I still find the term "sister" jarring, but am acclimating to it the more I read.

Loved the reference to Jem's letter and his commitment to poking at her even across a continent while there is a war on. I think that he and this more mature Rilla would have been better friends than they were in canon. I wonder what Rilla's letters to her parents are like. I'll bet Gilbert would like to hear about her work, even if they didn't necessarily approve of her going.

Do post again soon!
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