Lindsey at Reeder Reads is hosting a Green Gables Readalong, in which we are reading one Anne book a month between January and August. This month we are talking about Rainbow Valley. If you want to catch up, here are my reviews for the first 6 books: Anne of Green Gables, Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, Anne’s House of Dreams, and Anne of Ingleside.
Rainbow Valley is where the children of Ingleside love to play. In Rainbow Valley, the Blythe children are joined by the Merediths, the four children belonging to the new minister for the Glen. They are motherless, and their father is absent-minded to the extreme, so the Meredith children are free to wander where they will at all hours of the day. Despite this, they are very sweet, caring children who are often seen as wild and troublesome by many in the village. Much of the book is about their escapades and the unfortunate consequences of them.
The other main storyline is of their father, the new minister, John Meredith. He is a single father of four children, and according to popular opinion around town, should be finding himself a new wife to bring up his children properly. As much as I love the stories in this book – they are as charming and delightful as usual – I couldn’t help but notice that it portrays men as incapable of looking after their children; they need a wife to do it for them. Not really a message we want our own children to learn.
Another thing that gave me a bit of a jolt was the use of the n-word, and there were also a few mentions of the black heathens in Africa. My edition of the book is old – I’m wondering if anyone can tell me if these things are still included in the newer editions of the book?
Church plays a huge part in Montgomery’s stories. Maybe more so in this book, because one of the central stories revolves around the new minister and his family. Going to church was a major event, and the perfect opportunity to spread gossip. In this case, it was mostly about the ‘bad’ behaviour of the minister’s children. It also played up the rivalry between the Presbyterians and the Methodists; the Presbyterians were mortified that the Methodists would find out about the scandalous behaviour of the children. They were often seen playing in the Methodist graveyard, and once put on a concert in it while the Methodists were having their prayer meeting. There was always something new and juicy for Miss Cornelia and Susan to talk over at Ingleside. I love the way Lucy Maud pokes fun at it all.
As with the Blythe children, we get to know each of the Meredith children well. They are all endearing in their own ways, and all very protective of their beloved father. They meet and take care of the poor runaway orphan they find in a barn. They take it into their own hands at times (and in amusing ways) to make sure their father gets to stay on as minister in the Glen. And, they form the Good-Conduct Club to help ‘bring themselves up’ so that Father won’t be accused so often of neglecting his children. They punish themselves when they think they have done something wrong, because there is no one else to do it.
The highlight of the book for me was the letter Faith Meredith published on the front page of the Journal, explaining why she ended up going to church without any stockings.
I want to explain to everybody how it was I came to go to church without stockings on, so that everyone will know that father was not to blame one bit for it, and the old gossips need not say he is, because it is not true…
She goes on to explain why she didn’t want to wear the “horrid red and blue things Aunt Martha Knit” made out of yarn sent by Mrs. Burr who is said to send things she can’t use or eat to the minister. At the end of the letter, Faith feels it’s a good time to confess to being the ones to take potatoes out of Mr. Boyd’s garden, so that he will stop blaming the Lew Baxters for it. She also mentions how small they were, and that Mr. Boyd might want to use more fertilizer.
Rainbow Valley is full of the innocence of childhood and the troubles and insecurities of the young. To them their fears and sorrows are huge, but we are reminded at the end of the book that they are nothing compared to what is yet to come.
The shadow of the Great Conflict had not yet made felt any forerunner of its chill. The lads who were to fight, and perhaps fall, on the fields of France and Flanders, Gallipoli and Palestine, were still roguish schoolboys with a fair life in prospect before them: the girls whose hearts were to be wrung were yet fair little maidens a-star with hopes and dreams.
Next (and last): Rilla of Ingleside. I’m excited to see if it is as good as I remember it.