I was supposed to have read Rainbow Valley, the 7th book in the Anne of Green Gables series, in July to stay on the Reeder Reads’ hosted Green Gables Readalong schedule. I started it in July but then I got distracted by other shiny books and it was left unread and unloved for days before I finished it.
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Rainbow Valley follows on the heels of Anne of Ingleside and the Blythe children are still growing up. Except that this book is basically about the Meredith children, the motherless children belonging to the new Glen St. Mary pastor. Jerry, Carl, Faith and Una don’t mean to get into all sorts of trouble but they just can’t seem to help themselves. Their father is in his own world and their Aunt Martha, a seriously senior lady, can barely make palatable meals let alone bring up a brood of children. So the Meredith children keep an orphaned runaway in the house for two weeks before anyone notices, ride pigs in the streets of town, go bare legged to church and sing rowdy songs in the graveyard while the Methodists have their prayer meetings.
If you can get past the fact that this book isn’t about Anne and barely features her children, it can be an enjoyable read. In her post, Naomi @ Consumed by Ink was horrified that the language in the book hadn’t been altered (specifically use of some racial slurs). I have to say, seeing that word in print in an Anne book really did shock me. It hasn’t been updated in my new edition either, Naomi. The conversation about altering text to better reflect modern times is a whole other conversation really…
The one thing that really sticks out for me reading this book again, are the references to war and the Pied Piper. How Walter tells the story of the Pied Piper and how the other children are really creeped out by it, as though he’s telling a prophecy. And later when Jem whoops at the Pied Piper, telling him to come for him, that he’ll follow him anywhere. This is a re-read for me, I know what’s coming. I’d never noticed before how many war references there are in the later books, how sure some of the characters are that war won’t happen again.
Well Jem was to be a soldier and see a greater battle than had ever been fought in the world; but that was as yet far in the future; and the mother, whose first-born son he was, was wont to look at her boys and thank God that the “brace days of old” which Jem longed for, were gone forever, and that never would it be necessary for the sons of Canada to ride forth to battle “for ashes of their fathers and the temples of their gods.”
I mean, that just kills me.
For all that this book is about the Meredith children, it’s really about Faith Meredith and I quite liked her. She’s a lot like Anne was when she was younger. She gets into things before she thinks about them, she says what she means and means what she says and people just can’t help but like her. Because this one is more or less about the manse children, there is a lot of religion and God in this one but, like the offensive language, I guess that was just what people were like at the time. Life definitely seemed simpler even if there were all these rules about behaviour that will strike a modern reader as completely ridiculous.
It’s not my favourite book of the series but it’s a necessary jump to get to the finale. We’ve well and truly left our Anne behind and are left with the trials and tribulations of her youngsters. I’m looking forward to Rilla of Ingleside though, even though I know I will need all the tissues.