Anne Shirley is grown up, has married her beloved Gilbert and now is the mother of six mischievous children.
These boys and girls discover a special place all their own, but they never dream of what will happen when the strangest family moves into an old nearby mansion. The Meredith clan is two boys and two girls, with minister father but no mother — and a runaway girl named Mary Vance.
Soon the Meredith kids join Anne’s children in their private hideout to carry out their plans to save Mary from the orphanage, to help the lonely minister find happiness, and to keep a pet rooster from the soup pot. There’s always an adventure brewing in the sun-dappled world of Rainbow Valley.
Please note: this is the seventh in the Anne of Green Gables series to be discussed on this blog. If you missed the previous instalments, please click here to catch up.
Book seven sees the story truly shift from the narrative of Anne and Gilbert to that of their children. Anne and Gilbert are back from the European medical conference Gilbert promised at the end of the previous book, and there is gossip to share, including a new family in the manse. Gerry, Faith, Una and Carl quickly become part of the Ingleside crew, and there are SHENANIGANS, people! Many, many shenanigans!
Strangely enough, while I wasn’t as fond of the children’s storylines in the previous book, I actually really enjoyed reading about the escapades of everyone in Rainbow Valley, perhaps because there were a few story arcs that threaded their way through the books. The introduction of Mary Vance definitely stirs things up a bit – I’ve always found her to be a mix of Rachel Lynde in her forthrightness, with Anne’s lost soul as an orphan and Susan’s practicality.
As a younger reader, I always found John Meredith’s absent-mindedness enduring; as an adult, I wanted someone (Anne! Cordelia!) to take him in hand to show him how he was neglecting his children. I felt a lot less sympathy for him – at least until Rosemary spurns him. I though Ellen was also incredibly selfish this time around, and thought Rosemary was far more generous in giving her permission – but then again, she’s a smart woman who won’t cut off her nose to spite her face. I was pleased that John and Rosemary ended up together, not only because they were a good fit but because they two intelligent people who deserved to be enjoy their lives instead of living in the past.
The concept of self-punishment and regulation as led by Jem seemed far more dangerous to me now as an adult than it ever did as a child. I do like that the children are growing up enough to be self-aware, and to see that their actions have consequences beyond the immediate. Kids are often toughest on themselves, and I can absolutely see how they would take things to extremes. It’s this section and the scene with the rooster that made me really like Faith, as I think she’s turning into a particularly spirited young woman, with a voice and a determination that will serve her well. Her spitfire response to Norman Douglas was reminiscent of old Anne and the carrots incident – probably why I loved it so!
A word about Walter: no spoilers here for future books, I promise, but Walter has always seemed as though he’s not really part of this world. The fight scene with Walter shows us that his passions run deep, and that he can fight if the motives are right. I loved that he was compared to his “Uncle” Paul the poet so early on, because I’ve always thought that they were kindred souls. As Ellen darkly forecast, bad days are coming for our folk at Ingleside and beyond, and I distinctly remember reading this book as a child and thinking that something bad was going to happen to Walter.
As a adult, I thought I might find this book dreary; instead, I found it charming and a good transition from the focus on Anne. I still miss her stories, and wish that there was more about Avonlea folk, but I suppose that it fits the time period. Once you moved away from a place, you didn’t visit often because it was a process to get there, so your new town became the centre of everything. Still, Green Gables and Avonlea will always have a special place in my heart.
What did you think? Have you read Rainbow Valley? The next book – Rilla of Ingleside – is the last ‘official’ book in the series – will you be sorry to see it come to an end? Join Lindsey at Reeder Reads and the rest of us as we read (or re-read) the Anne series in 2015. Leave your comments and join our readalong at any point!