The title of Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery is taken from an area where the Blythe children play which they named. In this seventh of LMM’s Anne series, the action picks up just after the place where it left off in Anne of Ingleside. Anne’s four older children are joined in the valley by four new children from the manse. The Presbyterian church has got a new minister, but they hadn’t known beforehand that he was a widower. He in an excellent preacher, but is a bit absent-minded, easily lost in his thoughts or a good book to the point of forgetting to keep tabs on his children. That causes a series of scrapes and misunderstandings, mostly comical though some are scandalous to the town and especially the congregation.
It’s an interesting story in itself, but, for being in the Anne series, there is very little of Anne in it and even less of Gilbert. Anne seems to be the voice of reason and balance, seeing the humor in the various situations that come up and defending the children. Anne’s children are best friends with the manse children and interact with them often through the book, but still the focus seems to be on the latter. I’m curious as to why Montgomery focused on the manse family in this book — whether the Blythe children were not likely to get into some of the situations the manse children were, or whether perhaps as a pastor’s wife she wanted to shed a bit of light on how a pastor’s family, particularly the children, can feel with the watching eyes of the church and community on them and how the most innocent of actions can be blown into a major scandal by gossip and a lack of charitableness. If any of you have read of the background behind this one, I’d love to hear it.
I thought Rosemary West’s story was very sad and sweet, and I loved the glimpses into Mr. Meredith’s (the pastor’s) thinking and struggles when he was “awake,” as one of the children’s friend’s called it when he was focused. There’s foreshadowing of the coming war. I’ve read this series before, but I can’t remember which of Anne’s sons goes off to war in the next book (don’t tell me — I want to find out in the book). I wonder whether there will be any romances between the Blythe children and the manse children as they grow up (if so, perhaps that’s another reason for the focus on the manse children here.)
I’d have to say this isn’t my favorite of the Anne series, but it is still very good.
(This review will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)