Our Year of Anne (or year-and-a-half-ish) continues! It is with great joy and excitement that we near the end of the series; to me, they get better and better. Oh, I love them all, to varying degrees of adoration, but the last couple of novels have my heart–lock, stock, and barrel.
If you haven’t read it, Rainbow Valley is really about the Meredith family. The Merediths are five: Mr. Meredith, the new Presbyterian minister, and his four children–Jerry, Faith, Una, and Carl. Mr. Meredith is a widower and quite a dreamy, distracted individual (“moony and absent minded,” according to Miss Cornelia, but also “the best preacher we ever had in Glen St. Mary church.”) The Meredith children are full of innocent mischief, and they create several unwitting scandals throughout the course of the novel. They congregate often in the Methodist graveyard, much to the horror of the Presbyterian elders. They tell the truth when it seems impolite at best and sacrilegious at worst to say it. Faith, by far, is the one with the worst reputation, but she’s also quite endearing in her innocence and vivacity. The Blythes are their neighbors and the children all play together in the enchanting Rainbow Valley. Like all of Montgomery’s books, this one is full of delightful vignettes, but the overarching storyline of this one involves Mr. Meredith’s obvious need of a wife. It is resolved happily in the end, but not without several bittersweet notes perhaps perceptible only to those who’ve read the final book.
Anne is a minor character in this book, a point which might cause some fans to discount this story. However, it’s worth noting that Anne loves the Merediths for their motherless-ness. It seems to me that she sees herself in them. The summary on the back of my book attributes the denouement of the story to Anne: “But in the end, the warmth and laughter of Anne of Green Gables taught them all an unforgettable lesson of love.” That might be a stretch. However, Anne does give a stirring speech of support about the Merediths to Susan and Miss Cornelia. After going through so much with the Merediths, I wanted to stand up and cheer (or, more true to my nature, dab the tears out of my eyes):
I’d like to call a meeting of the Ladies’ Aid and the W. M. S. and the Girls’ Sewing Society, and include in the audience all and any Methodists who have been criticizing the Merediths–although I do think if we Presbyterians stopped criticizing and excusing we would find that other denominations would trouble themselves very little about our manse folks. I would say to them, Dear Christian friends–with marked emphasis on ‘Christian’–I have something to say to you and I want to say it good and hard, that you may take it home and repeat it to your families. You Methodists need not pity us, and we Presbyterians need not pity ourselves. We are not going to do it any more. And we are going to say, boldly and truthfully, to all critics and sympathizers, We are proud of our minister and his family. Mr. Meredith is the best preacher Glen St. Mary church ever had. Moreoever, he is a sincere, earnest teacher of truth and Christian charity. He is a faithful friend, a judicious pastor in all essentials, and a refined, scholarly, well-bred man. His family are worthy of them. Gerald Meredith is the cleverest pupil in the Glen school, and Mr. Hazard says he is destined to a brilliant career. He is a manly, honourable, truthful little fellow. Faith Meredith is a beauty, and as inspiring and original as she is beautiful. There is nothing commonplace about her. All the other girls in the Glen put together haven’t the vim, and wit, and joyousness and ‘spunk’ she has. She has not an enemy in the world. Everyone who knows her loves her. Of how many, children or grownups, can that be said? Una Meredith is sweetness personified. She will make a most lovable woman. Carl Meredith, with his love for ants and frogs and spiders, will some day be a naturalist whom all Canada–nay, all the world, will delight to honour. Do you know of any other family in the Glen, or out of it, of whom all these things can be said? Away with shamefaced excuses and apologies! We rejoice in our minister and his splendid boys and girls! (183-84)
Anne’s speech sums up for me how I feel about the Merediths: I love them. The last two chapters of the book totally had me by the heart. I think they affected me more this time through than ever before because this is the first time I’ve read the novel since having children of my own.
The girls and I are already several chapters in to Rilla of Ingleside, which might be my favorite book of all. This has just been a joy. To read more about our Year of Anne, click here.