I read Emily of New Moon by L. M. Montgomery for Carrie‘s Lucy Maud Montgomery Reading Challenge. and Reading to Know Book Club for the month of January.
Emily is similar to LMM’s Anne of Green Gables in many ways: both are orphans and come to live with stern older women. Both are highly imaginative and high-strung. But Emily’s world is harsher, darker, at least at first, whereas Anne’s is more charming and optimistic.
Emily’s mother had died years ago, and Emily lives alone with her beloved father, who is dying of consumption. They had had no contact with her mother’s people, the proud Murrays of New Moon, because her mother had run away and eloped with her father, to the severe disapproval of the Murrays. But “Murray pride” insures they will do their duty by Emily, and the various family members draw lots to see who will take her. The lot falls to Aunt Elisabeth (who is much harsher than Anne’s Marilla, who, though she was not warm, was not unkind.) The blow is softened for Emily a bit by the fact that her Aunt Laura and Cousin Jimmy (who “may not be all there, but what is there is very nice” p. 209) also live with Elisabeth, and they both love Emily, though they don’t “cross” Elisabeth.
It was astounding to me that no one understood either Emily’s grief in the loss of her father nor the jolt it would have been to leave all she had known to live with strangers. But with the resilience of childhood she soon learns the ways of the household and soon learns to love much about New Moon. Starting school is another trial by fire, but she makes dear friends with a girl named Ilse, who has been allowed to run rather wild by her inattentive father, Teddy, a quiet classmate who draws exceptionally well but whose mother is somewhat disturbed, and Perry, who has never been to school but has sailed hither and yon with his father.
Emily’s outlet is writing. She loves “the magic…made when the right words are wedded” (p. 273). She has a vivid imagination and writes fanciful stories and poems and pours out her heart about her trials and tribulations in letters to her father.
I wasn’t sure how well I really liked this book until about the last third of it, when Emily and Aunt Elisabeth have their ‘breakthrough” (and I loved that everything wasn’t all “happily ever after” that, but their different personalities and views still caused them to clash sometimes.) And then the chapter “When the Curtain Lifted” was the best in the book, I think. I also enjoyed Emily’s growth through the book, both in her personalty, as she “learns to mingle serpent’s wisdom and dove’s harmlessness in practical proportions” (p. 314), and in her writing, as she begins to realize that much of her early work is fanciful trash but is encouraged by the glimmers of talent a few others see.
This book is said to be more autobiographical than Anne, with some of the events in Emily’s life taken from LMM’s. It was interesting that a poem someone sent to encourage Emily about the Alpine path was one that also encouraged LMM: her autobiography takes its title from the same poem.
There is also a television series based on Emily, but I have not seen it.
I had hoped to read all three Emily books, but I only got through the first one, so I’ll probably save the next two for next year’s LMM challenge. The book for February’s Reading to Know Book Club. (which is all classics this year: take a peek here and see if you’d like to join in for any of them) is The Scarlet Letter, which I’ll probably listen to via audiobook.
And if anyone is looking for another challenge for February, I invite you to check out the Laura Ingalls Wilder Reading Challenge which starts tomorrow!
My past readings for the LMM Reading Challenge are (all linked to my thoughts on them):
Anne of Green Gables
Anne of Avonlea
Anne of the Island
Anne of Windy Poplars
Anne’s House of Dreams
Anne of Ingleside
Rilla of Ingleside
Looking for Anne of Green Gables: The Story of L. M. Montgomery and Her Literary Classic by Irene Gammel
(This will also be linked to Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books.)