Note: Jane at Greenish Bookshelf and Jackie at Death By Tsundoku are co-hosting an Anne of Green Gables series readalong for the remainder of the year. Check out their blogs for more info on how to join the fun!
To sit in Rainbow Valley, steeped in a twilight half gold, half amethyst, rife with the odours of balsam-fir and woodsy growing things in their springtime prime, with the pale stars of wild strawberry blossoms all around you, and with the sough of the wind and tinkle of bells in the shaking treetops, and eat fried trout and dry bread, was something which the mighty of earth would have envied them.
Rainbow Valley is not about Anne Blythe; not even really about her kids. It’s mostly about the new neighbor kids, the Merediths, who are running wild while their father, John Meredith, the new minister, walks around absentmindedly with his head full of theological and philosophical questions. It’s got the trademark Montgomery musings on the beauty of the natural world, a dash of romance, and just enough of Anne and her family to keep me invested and turning the pages quickly.
After my disappointment with Anne of Ingleside, I was a bit nervous approaching this one. But many bloggers reassured me that #7 in the series was a winner – and they were right! A short novel (my copy was 225 pages,) Rainbow Valley was a fast read for me – something that the previous novel was decidedly not. The Meredith children – Jerry, Carl, Una, and Faith – are spirited and enterprising, conscious of their father’s parental shortcomings in the eyes of the town gossips. They often tried to take matters in their own hands and not bother their father, who they clearly loved and who clearly loved them. I didn’t find them as annoyingly naive as the Blythe children were depicted in Anne of Ingleside. Mary Vance, an abused orphan girl who runs away and shows up in a neighbor’s barn, is a vexing character and does her best to upset the Meredith kids with her know-it-all ways. But I couldn’t totally dislike her because Montgomery does show how horribly mistreated she was in her former situation. I was glad that Miss Cornelia adopted her, even if her improvement in life led her to be even more insufferable.
My favorite aspect of Rainbow Valley was the emerging romance between Rev. Meredith and the spinster Rosemary West. Rosemary and her sister Ellen lived together and Rosemary had promised her sister years before that she would never marry and leave her alone. I was irritated initially by Ellen’s stubborn refusal to release Rosemary from her promise. But then I considered Ellen’s plight and felt sympathy for her as a single woman in a time when single women had it pretty hard.
It is never quite safe to think we have done with life. When we imagine we have finished our story fate has a trick of turning the page and showing us yet another chapter. These two people each thought their hearts belonged irrevocably to the past; but they both thought their walk up that hill very pleasant. Rosemary thought the Glen minister was by no means as ashy and tongue-tied as he had been represented. He seemed to find no difficulty in talking easily and freely. Glen housewives would have been amazed had they heard him. But then so many Glen housewives talked only gossip and the price of eggs, and John Meredith was not interested in either. He talked to Rosemary of books and music and wide-world doings and something of his own history, and found that she could understand and respond.
I also loved that John and Ellen got along so well – she even thought at one point “what a great brother-in-law he’d make! Oh well, Rosemary promised!” I won’t spoil what happens in the end but, if you’ll note, I do categorize this under “Comfort Reads” so draw your own conclusions!
So why did I rate this three stars and not more? It’s pretty simple – not enough Anne! My favorites of the series – the third, fourth, and fifth books – were Anne-heavy and she was a dynamic character. Now that she’s middle-aged and a mother of six she has kind of faded into the background, unfortunately. Overall Rainbow Valley was a comforting story, with Montgomery’s almost cinematic descriptions of the natural landscape, charming children, and a sweet romance. Perhaps I’m unfair to compare it to the others in the series (I dare say one could read this as a standalone and enjoy it) but I can’t help but find the lack of Anne a bit disappointing. If I’d read this as a child I would probably have liked it more, since the Meredith kids are so spunky and appealing.
So, just one more book to go! I’m excited that I’ve managed to stick with the Readalong! Have you read Rainbow Valley? What did you think?