Thursday, January 27, 2011

Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery

Emily of New Moon (Emily Novels)I have thoroughly enjoyed getting to know another of L. M. Montgomery's delightful young heroines, Emily of New Moon. In fact, I only reluctantly put down Emily Climbs in order to write this review before the end of Carrie's L. M. Montgomery Challenge. Though I didn't get the whole series read during this challenge, I plan to finish the next two books soon and review them here, challenge or no.
L. M. Montgomery Reading Challenge
There will certainly be more L. M. Montgomery novels to choose from next year.

Of course, it is inevitable that one would compare Anne of Green Gables with Emily Byrd Starr, but I'm not ready to make a final decision on which is my favorite. I cannot read Anne without hearing the soundtrack and picturing the movie and the scenery of Prince Edward Island, all of which make me sigh and long to transplant myself there 100 years ago. It doesn't seem like there is quite the allure of the land in the Emily books, but maybe that is because Emily does not invent quite so many fanciful names for her surroundings. Emily is certainly creative, but her imagination is poured into the written word at a much earlier age than Anne. She clearly loves New Moon and the Blair Water and nature in general, but even her early attempts at poetry have a certain refinement that is quite different from Anne's romantic enthusiasm.

There are many similarities between characters and plot, of course. As Amy noted in her review of Magic for Marigold, many Montgomery novels could be summarized as an orphan with an (over)active imagination who overcomes obstacles of misunderstanding and various mishaps to find friendship, recognition, success, and eventually love. But even with these common features, Emily did not seem to me to be simply another version of Anne. Her personality is distinct; her passion is writing, not just imaginative names and enchanting phrases, and somehow this makes her a little less dramatic, I think. (I know Anne is a writer also, but it seems like this comes out later in the books, whereas Emily is almost inseparable from her blank books from the first.) She has a more reflective, less impulsive nature and is very astute in her first impressions and judgments of others. After being ill-used by one friend, she is a bit more reserved in her friendships, though that does not prevent her from forging strong bonds with a few chums: Ilse, a hot-tempered, but fiercely loyal girl of her age; Teddy, a gifted artist with an obsessively jealous mother; and Perry, the hired boy with aspirations of political grandeur.

I think the part that I like best, and which also sets this novel completely apart from Anne, is that her kindred spirit is an adult, and a man at that, but in Dean Priest, a schoolmate of her deceased father, Emily finds someone who understands her way of thinking and can further her imagination and education with stories of distant lands and myths of long ago. "In Dean Priest Emily found, for the first time since her father had died, a companion who could fully sympathize. She was always at her best with him, with a delightful feeling of being understood. To love is easy and therefore common - but to understand - how rare it is!" (272). In a modern novel such a friendship between a twelve-year-old girl and a thirty-six-year-old man would be suspect at best, and predatory at worst. But Montgomery pulls it off with innocence and propriety, and the subtle hints that Dean drops indicating his complete enchantment with Emily and hopes for when she is grown only make me want to keep reading to see how several overlapping love triangles will play out as Emily and her friends grow older.

And with that, I must get back to Emily Climbs!
Emily Climbs (Emily Novels)


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

I love the Emily books, and truly, they are neck-and-neck with the Anne books for my affection. In fact, I have spent much more time with Emily than with Anne since I've been an adult. I enjoyed reading your thoughts.

Oh, and thanks for the link!

Caniad said...

Emily was my favorite character that Montgomery created. I think I related to her better.

Carrie said...

I think that you are teh first person I've come across that appreciates the relationship between Emily and Priest! Most people just think it's creepy. As you say though, perhaps that's our modern sensibilities.

Montgomery got tired of writing about Anne but that's who the public wanted more of. She wrote her in second volume of journals that she wanted to "tell the story of Emily" and kinda move away from Anne.

I'm glad you are going to keep reading straight through and not worry about waiting until next January! I'll be very curious to hear what you think of Emily at the end of it. =) Of course, I'll be watching.

Thanks for reading and playing along!

Page Turner said...

Carrie, I think the chapter where Montgomery introduced Dean was just magical, masterful writing - Emily is thrilled to have someone who understands her, even though she doesn't understand the implications of some of Dean's comments. And he holds himself in check like a real gentleman, even though he can't help there being a double meaning in some of his words. I also thought the timing of his introduction was so perfectly ironic, coming after Aunt Nancy's diatribes on the Priest clan.

I'm probably more disposed to take it at face value because I always had strong friendships with adults as a child, and my husband is 13 years older than I am. Now 13 years isn't 24...but I'll just have to see who Emily ends up with before I make a final judgment!

Jennifer said...

What a well thought out review. I read Anne of Green Gables for the challenge, but I'm soon to be reading Emily of New Moon. If I would just stop checking books out of the library I would get around to it a lot sooner! But your post has made me want to read it in the very near future. Thanks for the thoughts.

Kara said...

It's been years since I read the Emily books! I was going to reread them for the challenge, but decided to read some that I'd never read before instead. Your review makes me want to pick them back up and read them now, as an adult.

bekahcubed said...

I'm still working my way, slowly, through these challenge posts.

I appreciate your appreciation for Emily's friendship with Priest. I don't remember many details of the book--but I can definitely identify with Emily's sentiment that "to love is easy and therefore common - but to understand - how rare it is!"

I spent most of my growing up years relating to "grown-ups"--and now that I'm a "grown up", I've discovered how rare the understanding sort of friendship really is.