Thursday, January 13, 2011

Rainbow Valley, by Lucy Maud Montgomery

In the past, I've always faded away from reading the concluding books in the Anne series. After Anne of Ingleside, the story strays away from Anne and focuses on her children and their playmates. I've always been vastly more interested in Anne as the subject.

However, this time I really enjoyed reading Rainbow Valley which is the seventh book in the series. It's true, Anne makes periodic appearances in this book and is mostly referenced as Mrs. Blythe by the focal characters in this tale. We find Anne removed from the scene (and Gilbert only has one line! Gasp!) and her children romping about and playing with the new minister's children, the Merediths. Anne and Gilbert are proud parents to six little ones, only four of which are really featured in this particular volume.

The majority of the story highlights the Meredith family who are new to Ingleside. Their father is a the new minister and widower who seldom takes notice of his four children. Tongues are wagging all over Ingleside as the Meredith children get into one scrap after another - in typical Anne style. They are "basically good" children who have a knack for trouble to spite themselves and their poor neglectful father. He is wallowing in grief. They are trying to get by. They Meredith kids make friends with the Blythes and spend many happy hours playing in their magical playground which they have named Rainbow Valley. (Hence the title for the book, of course!)

You'll find some familiar characters from Ingleside, such as Susan, Anne's faithful housekeeper turned Blythe family member. Of course, Miss Cornelia still exists to fulfill the role of Mrs. Rachel Lynde. She is well meaning but quite the gossip and always up in arms about what those "manse children" are doing! Such a shocking disgrace they are to the Presbyterian faith! What WILL the Methodists say!?

As I mentioned, previously I haven't been able to really get into this book. I've missed Anne. However, this time I read it and rather thoroughly enjoyed it and wasn't a lick disappointed not to get to know Anne very well as a mother. I think the reason why is because once you become a mother and have children, most of your life is given away to them anyway. When you talk with friends, you have to resist the urge not to speak about your children constantly. Why? Because they are your life. You laugh at the silly things they say. You tell stories on them, to them and encourage them in their pursuits. ME-time is rightfully over. Motherhood cannot be a selfish pursuit and if it is, then motherhood is actually more of a burden than a blessing. With that said, Anne fading into the background seems almost right somehow. No, I do not get to know her children through her eyes. Instead I see her through theirs. That's an interesting perspective and the story stays focused on children at play. I just rather liked it.

The only thing I really notice about Montgomery now that I've read some of her diaries and her biography (linked to my review) is how little she understood God. Even though Montgomery was a minister's wife, she writes about a minister with a complete lack of understanding. She raises theological questions and then either fails to answer them or demonstrates that she doesn't know how to answer them. It's mildly shocking and mostly just sad. Clearly her husband did not care to minister to his wife's soul because complete lack of understanding runs throughout this book. I had a hard time ignoring that. Yet I do think I have come to accept it as part of who the author was.

Montgomery is a great story teller. She delights and makes her readers laugh and cry. I like her style, even with its flaws. The books are what they are and I merely mean to enjoy them.


Barbara H. said...

It's been ages since I read this one, and I do remember missing Anne in the later books but enjoying the story. Looking forward to getting back to this one some time.

Annette W. said...

I am reading Ingleside...started it last January...restarted it this one. The kids named Rainbow Valley in Ingleside, in case you didn't remember. I thought that was neat.

As I am listening to Anne of GG and reading Ingleside, I have been quite aware of misunderstandings about God and the Christian faith, too. Some I wonder if it is how removed people were from the faith...bc going to church was expected, not bc it was a real faith.

Just last night I was listening to Anne say how she'd like to be a minister bc they have such a profound impact on the people around them. (or something like that)...and that is very true. In Canada women couldn't be ministers at that time...

Janet said...

Such great thoughts. I agree with you that the misunderstandings are sad -- especially for someone who lived at such close range to "ministry."

Good to be reminded that my job today is to give myself away to my children.

Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

So many thoughts here, Carrie. . .I've always loved the books about Anne's children, although I will admit that I have thought in the past that Anne sort of leaves the raising of them up to Susan. As far as LMM's views on Christianity, well, I've been reading Magic for Marigold, and "serious" Christianity doesn't come off too well in it. I'll try to elaborate more when I review it. :-)

Brooke from The Bluestocking Guide said...

I wonder how much of LMM's views on Christianity were due to the fact that back then going to church was a matter of course rather than necessarily because people believed. You'd think that a minster would take care to see what sort of spiritual understanding his wife possessed.

I know in England, there were a shocking amount of vicars who were simply interested in the living rather than actual ministry (consider Mrs. Elton in Emma). I'm sure the US wasn't too different in that regard.

Anonymous said...

Interesting that you note Montgomery's lack of spiritual wisdom. I am enjoying Emily of New Moon but certain parts have made me slightly sad already, about how Emily's beloved father failed to tell her anything about God.

Just read the other comments here and it is interesting to remember that in the time in which Montgomery wrote a lot of people were just going through the motions at church because that was what was expected. Come to think about it, that sounds a lot like now, too! :-)

Sky said...

I save Anne's world and Father Tim's world for when I know I'll need a pick me. Happy-chappy engaging characters! I can't wait to read Anne and Emily and the others to my girl!

Stephanie Kay said...

Maybe next year I'll read the later books in the Anne series. Until then, I'm enjoying reading your thoughts on them.

Carrie said...

Yeeees.....people did go to church more frequently as a matter of habit and because it's "what you do." However, I have an extremely difficult time dismissing a minister of the Gospel from faithfully studying, instructing and living out the Gospel. It's unfathomable to me, in any age, that someone would enter the ministry only to fail to minister.

I can't accept the excuse in this case. Reading this book and seeing all the theological flaws raises a lot of questions about her minister husband in my mind. Was he a student of the word? (I have my doubts.) Why did he not choose a helpmeet that would share his views on Christianity and the Bible? Why did he not take the time to address her spiritual health?

No, he dropped the ball in so many ways. To me this isn't a question about Montgomery's faith so much but, as Mary Bailey pointed out - we don't take our faith so very seriously in today's age either.

But we will still be held accountable. And that is what is so very sad about Montgomery.

bekahcubed said...

Rainbow Valley was one of my favorites growing up--and I never missed Anne even one bit. I was too taken with Faith Meredith. Such vigor, such spunk! And then, of course, there was the incident with Walter and the pig. How I longed for a Rainbow Valley of my own!

Ruth said...

I was never a real fan of Rainbow Valley when I was growing up because of the absence of Anne, but you make some interesting points. Now,perhaps this book doesn't have theological significance, but I always thought the Story Girl series answers a few more theological questions. I always felt that the author's faith does come through, but perhaps if I were to reread these, I would come to the same conclusion. While she does not have the understanding of Christianity that I do, I always thought it was there.

Annette W. said...

I really enjoyed reading all of the comments here...and I do agree that a minister should have a true ministry...especially to his wife. I guess we can't know all of the circumstances, but we know the end sad. It makes you wonder.

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