Rainbow Valley is the seventh Anne book and WWI marches ever closer, the mentions of the war are a lot stronger here then in previous books and Montgomery’s foreshadowing was, occasionally, heavy handed. I’d forgotten how very little of the Blythe family is in this book, let alone Anne, instead it’s mostly about the Merediths and their adventures and scrapes. However, despite those two complaints, I really do enjoy this one. In many ways, this book is a return to what Montgomery does best, simple romance and adventurous children.
Mr. Meredith is the new minister and a widower with four children. Mr. Meredith is what one would call the absent minded professor stereotype and so for the most part neglects his children rather shamefully. I’ll be honest, re-reading the book this time, I found John Meredith to be an idiot and I had a very hard time sympathizing with him. He’s a very strong predecessor of the notions that men don’t actually take care of their children, fathers are babysitters and daddies don’t do housework. It was aggravating. Even worse was his occasional pleas, silent and out of earshot, to the woman he was courting in this novel to come and save his family. Dude, if you could pull your head out of your books for one second you could do it yourself. UGH. He courts a woman and marries her and it’s sweet. But what makes the book so enjoyable are the Meredith children, the girls Faith and Una in particular. Their many misadventures had me laughing quite a bit. Add in the orphan Mary Vance, who gets adopted by her spiritual mother Miss Cordelia Bryant/Mrs Marshall Elliot, and the recipe is there for a spirited good time. The Blythe children are occasionally mentioned as co-participants in the scrapes, and twice Walter Blythe has the ‘premonition’ of a piper who would cal the boys far away to some terrible destiny.
This book was published in 1919, so right after the end of the war, meaning it was probably written near the end, and the fear of WWI is all over the book. The Kaiser of Germany is mentioned occasionally by one character as a dangerous man who would drag the world to disaster (like it was all his fault, really). The set up for Rilla of Ingleside is stronger in this book then any other book has set up the others.
Montgomery has a timeline problem, which I’ll talk more about in Rilla of Ingleside, but it also affects her math when it comes to ages. Marilla is said to be 85 in this novel, in Anne of Green Gables she and Mathew were ‘in their sixties’. Even if we’re generous and say that Marilla was 60 at the start of Anne of Green Gables that leaves Anne 25 years to go from 11 to about 41, which is where Wikipedia has her in this book. It’s much more likely that Marilla was younger then the vauge ‘sixties’ referenced in Green Gables, but she’s not the only character who has a variable age. This lovely post on Shirley, the forgotten Blythe child, looks to be fairly accurate and is a hilarious rendering of his shifting age. I think this age issue mostly likely has to do with the fact that Montgomery kept her characters in the years between 1890 and 1910 for much longer then the 20 years reality gave her. I think I want to save that discussion for Rilla of Ingleside though.
I’ve always enjoyed this book, and I liked it quite a bit again this time. It is only nominally attached to Anne herself though, as these books progress, she becomes an ever more distant character. Still as a set up for Rilla of Ingleside, and an introduction to the characters who will participate in those events, it’s a fun little addition.