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I really think the only reason not to find Rainbow Valley one of L. M. Montgomerys better novels in the Anne series is because it obviously has the least to do with Anne or her children. Once Anne finally married Gilbert in Annes House of Dreams (1917), Montgomery seemed to be at a loss as what to do with her delightful red-headed orphan now that she was a mother. So when this book was written in 1919 she focused on the four Meredith children who beloned to new Presbyterian minister, John Meredith, who was a widower. I can certainly see where some readers would be less than pleased with this particular direction, but the scene near the end of the novel where little Una Meredith communes with her late mothers wedding dress before going off to get her father a wife is as touching as anything Montgomery ever wrote.

To be clear, Rainbow Valley is the fifth of the original six Anne books written by Montgomery, which ended in 1920 with Rilla of Ingleside. It would not be until 1936 that she would write Anne of Windy Poplars, which became the fourth book in the series and took us back to when Anne was engaged to Gilbert and waiting for him to finish medical school. In 1939 she wrote her final novel, Anne of Ingleside, which is the least of the Anne books, taking place before Rainbow Valley and engaging in some heavy handed foreshadowing as to what would happen to her characters. This 1919 book is dedicated: To the memory of Goldwin Lapp, Robert Brookes and Morley Shier who made the supreme sacrifice that the happy valleys of their home land might be kept sacred from the ravage of the invader. So clearly Montgomery was thinking of the next book she would write, that would take place during the First World War.

At this point in time Anne Shirley has been married to Gilbert Blythe for 15 years and is now the mother of six children: James (called Jem), Walter, Nan, Diana (Di), Shirley, and Marilla (Rilla). The Mrs. and the Doctor return home to Four Winds Harbor from a trip to Europe and discover the new minister and his four children: Jerry, Faith, Una and Carl. Without a mother and a father given over to deams, the manse children tend to run a bit wild. However, it seems that when they try to do their very best, it occasions the most local gossip, and the children are worried they will cost their father his job. Of course the Meredith and Blythe children become good friends, and the manswe children have Annes stamp of approval, which is good enough for us. Two major plots in the novel involve Mary Vance, an orphan girl who finds an unexpected home and continues to cause trouble for all concerned, and Rosemary West, a young woman who John Meredith falls for but whose sister Ellen does not want to be alone and causes romantic complications that Una needs to iron out in the end.

All in all, Rainbow Valley reminds me more of The Story Girl and The Golden Road than any of the other Anne books, with the Meredith children having a series of humorous misadventures. I am also impressed because as you can tell from the ending when Walter Blythe speaks of The Piper, that Montgomery is already committed to writing about what happens to these children during World War I in her next Anne book, Rilla of Ingleside.

Even though it is atypical Rainbow Valley is my second favorite book in the Anne series. Highly recommended.

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