As you might have noticed, I’m a bit behind on my #AnneReadAlong2017 reading! Life has a way of changing our free time and priorities sometimes, doesn’t it? In this particular case, while I found Rainbow Valley endearing and adorable, it was a really slow read for me. I found I didn’t become enraptured with the storytelling the same way I had with earlier books in the series. Over a month behind, it’s time to finally dig into how Rainbow Valley didn’t help my reading slump.
The 7th book in the Anne of Green Gables series, Rainbow Valley, is focused almost entirely on not just the Blythe children, but the newest family to join Four Winds: The Meredith’s. Reverend John Meredith is a brilliant preacher, but a bit distracted by his academic studies. When he becomes the new preacher for Four Winds the town is scandalized to learn he is a widower with four children– none of whom are well attended. These children are good-hearted but consistently get into some predicaments which are embarrassing to the town gossips.
What would women do if headaches had never been invented, St. George?
The four Meredith children quickly become friends with the Blythe children. They spend many hours in Rainbow Valley; the beautiful dip between their two homes. It’s a place filled with imagination and wonder. They are also joined by the street-smart runaway Mary Vance. These five new characters quickly outshine most of the Blythe children in my eyes. All but Walter, my personal favorite. In particular, Una and Faith Meredith are well-developed unique characters who make it clear to me how interchangeable Nan and Di Blythe have become.
All new characters in this book are wonderful. In addition to the children, we are also introduced to Reverend John Meredith, Rosemary and Ellen West, and Norman Douglas. All four are all unique adult characters to contrast the vivacious children. While Montgomery allows us a few interludes with Anne, Susan, and Miss Cornelia, these adults are more of the focus throughout the book as we go on adventures with the Meredith children. Their calm adult reflections act as a foil to the machinations of these children. In particular, I am fascinated by how John Meredith is portrayed.
People won’t be able to talk about us any more. Jem Blythe says it’s only old cats that talk, but their talk hurts just as much as anybody’s.
In modern times, the Reverend John Meredith would be considered a terrible father. He loves his children but he is incredibly neglectful. His housekeeper, an aunt, is completely unfit to care for his children and he has no idea. He does not provide moral or educational support. He has no idea what his kids are doing at any moment. The members of the Four Winds community see this and instead of telling John Meredith to take control of his house they encourage him to marry. After all, he needs a woman in his life to care for these children. It’s certainly not *his* job. While I recognize the world was different in 1919, I wonder how much of John Meredith (and Gilbert Blythe’s!) lack of interaction with his children is a reflection of Montgomery’s interaction with father-figures. I look forward to eventually reading her Journals and learning if my hypothesis rings true.
Only I’d like to know what your father things about heaven — he CAN think — rarest thing in the world — a person who can think.
Reading Rainbow Valley reminded me a bit of reading the Oz books. Around this same point in the series, Dorothy and Toto were almost lost to obscurity. Books 8 and 9, Tik-Tok of Oz and The Scarecrow of Oz are both texts where Dorothy is a side character if that. In Anne of Ingleside, Anne Blythe herself was becoming a side character in her own story as her kids were growing into this space. This makes sense; there needs to be a passing of the torch as Anne grows older to keep the reading level the same. However, in Rainbow Valley, the story is focused almost entirely on the Meredith children. The Blythe children are a side note in their own series here! In fact, I think we see more of Anne Blythe than her kids throughout the novel.
It is never quite safe to think we have done with life.
Don’t get me wrong; this isn’t a bad thing. I found myself consistently amused by the Meredith children. They have a very different set of life circumstances compared to the Blythes. This made for a refreshing and new set of mini adventures. I just found myself consistently waiting for the moment when Montgomery will tie the Blythe children closely back into the story. Well, it turns out I was waiting for something which never happened. This led me to be distracted and disengaged waiting for a moment which was never to arrive. This certainly disinterested me and put me in a bit of a reading slump.
“Well, anyway, Adam is dead and I am NEVER going to love anything again.”
“Don’t say that, dear. We miss so much out of life if we don’t love. The more we love the richer life is – even if it is only some little furry or feathery pet.”
My personal belief is that by this point in her writing, Montgomery was a bit tired of the Blythe family. While this is the 7th book chronologically, this is the 5th book out of 8 which are published in this series. Rainbow Valley was published in 1919. Rilla of Ingleside, the 8th book in the series follows closely in 1921, but books 4 and 6 are published in 1936 and 1939 respectively. Reading Rainbow Valley feels a bit like reading an original novel set in the same universe the Blythe family exists in. This bait and switch left me wanting.
I will say, the book ends with some powerful foreshadowing of the impending Great War. While Rainbow Valley did put me in a bit of a reading slump, I am quite intrigued to start reading Rilla of Ingleside immediately!
“Let the Piper come and welcome,” he cried, waving his hand, “I’ll follow him gladly round and round the world.”
The stories of the Meredith children are certainly fun and refreshing. While my own personal reading was a bit distracted, I hope that if you pick up this book someday you’ll know what you’re getting into. Perhaps with the understanding that the Blythes take a backseat in this book, you’ll enjoy it more than I did! I am sure upon a re-read, now knowing what I am getting into, I’ll really enjoy Rainbow Valley.
What do you think?
- Have you read Rainbow Valley? What do you think of this novel?
- What books have you read which leave you wanting more? Why do they make you feel this way?
- Have you ever read a book and felt baited and switched? What book made you feel this way? Why?