Author: L.M. Montgomery
Synopsis: Emily Byrd Starr goes to high school, where she experiences the odd mix of acceptance and rejection and mistakes that belong to a writer’s career. While pursuing her old dream, she turns down at least two suitors—even getting caught alone with one at night, albeit innocently; all the while yearning for her old friend Teddy Kent, who sometimes seems to love her.
Notes: I thought I’d read this book before; now, I’m less sure. If I ever did read it, I’d forgotten most of it.
Emily Climbs is darker than Emily of New Moon, but not unbearably. The Murray pride catches up with our post-adolescent heroine; the Starr independence makes her dislike the bonds of convention. In this tenuous and somewhat unsympathetic state, she endures having to board with strict, merciless Aunt Ruth. Worse even then her aunt are the sharp tongues and ill wills of a jealous classmate and Shrewsbury gossips in general.
As a writer, watching Emily progress in her career is interesting. It all seems somewhat different than the way things reportedly work now, but not entirely, and her emotional responses to acceptance and rejection are accurately drawn.
As both writer and romantic, I thought the scene in the old John house was perhaps the most beautiful in the series. Short, but sweet, and oh-so-lovely. Montgomery's portrayal of the passion between Emily and Teddy, expressed almost entirely in looks rather than words, is so hushed and splendid that I can't wholly forgive her for the torment she puts them through—and us with them—in this book and the next.
The book had a few humorous moments as well; Emily’s flippant comments regarding the suitors she did not love generally made me laugh. All in all, I enjoyed the book, and the moment I put it down I picked up its sequel.
Synopsis: Teddy goes off to art school and Ilse into acting, leaving Emily lonely at New Moon. Misunderstanding develops over the distance between Emily and Teddy, and old friend Dean Priest proves his own love by caring for her during a dangerous illness, leaving her with a series of difficult choices. Meanwhile, her writing career takes off, and at last there is hope for the Disappointed House—only not like she imagined it.
Notes: This book actually evoked an angry response.
First, the previously likable Ilse lost both depth and friendliness. Her numerous insensitivities toward Emily were generally unintentional, but cruel nonetheless. Likewise, after years of being in love with Perry Miller, she could not find it in herself to soften to him, to leave off hounding him for a moment, until—well, for the sake of being unspoilerish, I won’t say what happens; I’ll just recommend, for enjoyment's sake, the scene where she finally goes to Perry. Even though her deed is positively awful.
The second cause of annoyance was the series of misunderstandings between Emily and Teddy, resulting in years upon years of agonized separation and depression. The only truly serious issue was Mrs. Kent’s interference; the young pair had no other good reason for being apart for what appeared to be something like a decade. It upset this reader so much that I was almost ready to root for Dean Priest, whom I liked despite his obvious unsuitability and his jealousy.
Emily’s trouble was pride; Teddy’s, an inability to man up and speak, and the two had me in a state of mad half-despair for over two hundred pages. And then the finale was so brief, so inexplicable, that it left me furious even though it was, in theory, a satisfactory resolution.
From Laura, commenting on my review of Emily of New Moon:
“The last book is a steaming heap of misery and self-doubt, topped off by a dubious maraschino cherry of last-minute romance.”I can't improve on that summary. I can think of ways Montgomery might have saved her story without much effort. But, again following Laura’s lead, I make some excuses to myself for the book. Emily is a particularly fascinating heroine, owing in part to her skill with words, in part to the Murray-Starr conflict within her, and in part to her supernatural gift. The scene where she connects with Teddy across an ocean was breathtakingly believable despite its unlikelihood; it was also another sublime Teddy-and-Emily scene. The comparison between Emily and the Disappointed House comes as near as anything else to making something decent of the tale, and—well, Emily becomes a successful novelist. Which makes her, in some sense, a hero of mine.
Joint Recommendation: Not nearly as pleasant as the Anne books or Emily of New Moon, but containing some gems nonetheless.