12.07.2011

Currently Reading: Emily of New Moon

Emily of New Moon (Emily, #1)“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?”

“No—no!”

“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.

12 comments:

  1. I still need to read the Anne books. One more thing on the list. :)

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  2. I didn't care for the Emily books. They got too depressing, but I understand they're considered a literary notch above the Anne books. Glad you like them!

    --Arabella

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  3. Yeah, I know how it goes, George. :) But I love Anne!

    Arabella, we'll see! I've only read the first one so far; got the other two from the library today. It's interesting that they're considered of higher quality than the Anne books. I'm not so sure I'd go along with that, but can't say for sure till I've gone through, I suppose.

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  4. I liked the first one (though not quite as much as I liked Anne of Green Gables), but I hated the second and third one. In fact I can't remember if I made it all the way through the third one. But that was almost two decades ago too! I might try them again if I have little girls to read to someday. :)

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  5. P.S. There was one particularly vivid scene I remember of Emily being shown around to all of her aunts and uncles on the day of the lottery. She begins to smile at one of them and is hurried on to the next, who ends up being the beneficiary of the full bloom of the smile. Isn't it amazing that I can remember that after so many years? Maybe it's only been 15 years, not 20 -- I hardly remember anything else about the book except that I loved it. But L.M. Montgomery certainly is talented.

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  6. Yay, Emily! My favorite.

    I wouldn't say they're generally considered of higher quality / more "literary" than the Anne books. They are perceived as more obviously semi-autobiographical because they crib a lot from LMM's diaries and deal directly with Emily's development as a writer (even the unsatisfying romances of the last book are really about whether or not Emily will continue to take writing seriously), and they are definitely darker and more. . . spiritualistic, I guess you could say? But really all of L.M.M.'s heroines are autobiographical and there's a good deal of darkness lurking just offstage in all her best books.

    I guess it would be fair to say that Emily was the heroine LMM identified with the most strongly. And they certainly looked alike: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lmmontgomery1884.gif

    The last book is a steaming heap of misery and self-doubt, topped off by a dubious maraschino cherry of last-minute romance. I think it only works if, like me, you have become so invested in the character of Emily to be willing to make excuses for it-- but I still think it's worth making excuses for. I'd be interested to hear what you think of it and Emily Climbs, Jenna.

    Maria, that whole scene is perfect. And, not to be pushy, but if it's been two decades, you might want to give the books another try! They aren't as good as the first one, but there's a lot in them that's interesting and worthwhile.

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  7. P.S. George, you totally do. Anne of Green Gables is really astonishingly good, much better than anyone ever expects from just knowing about it from cultural osmosis. Some of the sequels are better than others (I said, diplomatically), but everyone can agree that Original Anne is amazing.

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  8. Oh my gosh, Laura, your description of Emily Climbs made me howl!! That is EXACTLY how I remembered it! Well, I may give them a go sometime or other. There are some days on which nothing will make it better except a dose of L.M. Montgomery. Everything always turns out right in the end -- the lost are saved, the lonely are comforted, and the villains are thwarted. She's kind of like comfort food. I especially love The Blue Castle, A Tangled Web, and her short stories.

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  9. "The last book is a steaming heap of misery and self-doubt, topped off by a dubious maraschino cherry of last-minute romance."

    Well said, though I've read the ending several times, trying to search for a good excuse for it. :) Review coming soon, Laura! And thanks for your thoughts.

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  10. Er, Emily's Quest, I meant -- I could never remember which was which. By the by, Laura, thanks for sharing that picture of L.M. Montgomery as a child! She looks exactly like Emily of New Moon.

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  11. I second Maria on the thanks for the pic of L.M.M. And thanks, Maria, for the recommendations--I've never read The Blue Castle or A Tangled Web!

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  12. Jenna, you will LOVE The Blue Castle! I can't speak to A Tangled Web because it's been forever since I read it (will probably be reading it in the next few months), but The Blue Castle is delicious. It is like a dark chocolate hazelnut truffle of the soul. It's a short book; you can read it in an afternoon over a couple cups of tea.

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