“Poor Ilse!” said Aunt Laura, sighing.
“Yes, her father doesn’t like her. Isn’t it dreadful?” said Emily. “Why doesn’t he?”
“He does—really. He only thinks he doesn’t.”
“But why does he think it?”
“You are too young to understand, Emily.”
Emily hated to be told she was too young to understand.. She felt that she could understand perfectly well if only people would take the trouble to explain things to her and not be so mysterious.
“I wish I could pray for her. It wouldn’t be fair, though, when I know how she feels about it. But I’ve always asked God to bless all my friends so she’ll be in that and maybe some good will come of it. Is ‘golly’ a proper word to say, Aunt Laura?”
“I’m sorry for that,” said Emily, seriously, “because it’s very striking.”
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Synopsis: When little Emily Starr’s beloved father dies, her aunts and uncles cast lots for who will take her, and she goes home with spinster aunts Elizabeth and Laura of New Moon. Scolded by Elizabeth and coddled by Laura, she finds allies in ‘crazy’ Cousin Jimmy, atheist wildling Ilse Burnley, and a secret talent for the literary arts.
Notes: The impressive thing about Montgomery’s writing is that, though I only recall reading this once before, and that probably close to two decades ago, I remembered an impressive percentage of the story as I re-read it. Her descriptions are more effusive than is usually tolerated today, more poetic-prosy; her interactions get away with dialogue tags and adverbs more frequently, not to mention the passive voice; but things play out memorably, and with warmth and interest.
Emily had interested me when I first read her, perhaps in my early teens. This trip through, she won my heart. I found something of the kindred spirit in her, what with her penchant for scribbling and her rather lonerish way of looking at the world.
I enjoyed rediscovering a lot of other characters as well: Ilse, whom I'd always loved; Mr. Carpenter, whose unorthodox classroom rule made me smile; Father Cassidy, whose brief appearance was so packed with kindness and a love for all things faerie that I picked him out as a favorite on the spot. Jimmy, the gentle poet. Elizabeth and Laura, the grim aunt and the kind, yet both wholly human—Elizabeth proven to have a heart, and Laura to have weakness—and both ultimately lovable.
The book was darker than the Anne of Green Gables series, as introspective, passionate Emily is darker than laughing, sparkling, fiery Anne. I like a little darkness in story, provided it exists to set off light rather than to moralize or just be dark for dark's sake, and Emily passed the test in this her first book. I intend to get hold of the sequels immediately. Emily Climbs I’ve once read, but Emily’s Quest I have not.
Recommendation: A fantastic, wintery sort of book, especially good for introspective, writerly types.