Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

Jul 16, 2012

I remembered only two things from my first reading of this book: 1) Emily's cold nights in bed with her austere Aunt Elizabeth and 2) cutting bangs for herself against Aunt Elizabeth's wishes. Now, after having read it a second time, I find it amusing that those were the two things that stuck with me. They are not particularly important to the plot, and even as I was reading it, nothing else stirred or came forward in my memory...not even the mystery surrounding Ilse's mother or Aunt Elizabeth and Emily's relationship eventually coming to a head. Memory truly is a sporadic and flighty thing.

When the story begins, Emily's father is dying of consumption. After he dies (I don't consider that a spoiler since it happened in the first 20 pages), Emily is sent to live with her proud, tradition-loving Murray relatives. Between Aunt Elizabeth's stern dislike, Aunt Laura's sweet and sensitive concern, and Cousin Jimmy's unquestioning love, Emily finds plenty of material to write about on any scrap of paper she can find. (Aunt Elizabeth doesn't believe in having too much paper around.) And then to spice things up, there's also a visit to the unconventional Aunt Nancy, a near-tragic fall down a deep ravine, and a disturbing scandal surrounding the disappearance of Emily's best friend's mother.

Of course I couldn't read this book and not compare Emily to my beloved Anne Shirley. There are three Emily books, and I only ever read this one, whereas I read the entire Anne series plus several re-reads, so it is only natural I suppose that I would be more attached to Anne. That said, Emily is very easy to love and shows some definite similarities to Anne: a  strong, and sometimes overactive, imagination, orphaned, and a desire to write and create. But where Anne is dramatic and emotional, Emily is dependable and somewhat defiant. Anne can fly into a quick temper, but Emily's emotions seem to run a little deeper and last a little longer. And although Emily loves to hear the Wind Woman outside her window, she doesn't give luscious and charming names to every flower and brook the way Anne does. I don't think Emily could ever replace Anne for me, but I'd still take her as a friend.

In true L.M. Montgomery fashion, the story is full of delightful descriptions and memorable characters. I especially love her minor characters...those ones that flit in and out of the story but that leave a marked impression because they are so brilliantly described. Take Father Cassidy, for example. He takes part in just one chapter (save for a couple of brief references later on), but I couldn't forget him because of this image: "Emily thought he looked just like a big nut--a big, brown, wholesome nut." It's not flattering, but it's also not unflattering. It simple and perfect. In addition to that though, Father Cassidy is memorable because he has a distinctive voice ("Don't be afraid of the B'y. He eats tender little Protestants sometimes, but he never meddles with leprechauns.") and he encourages Emily in her talents. I won't bore you with analyzing every single minor character, but just know that Montgomery is just as vivid with all her characters.

Oh, and she has such a wry sense of humor. For example, after Aunt Laura piteously asks Emily what she was thinking, Aunt Elizabeth advises sarcastically, "I think it will be better if you do not ask that child what she is thinking of." I think I used to miss a lot of the subtle humor when I read these books as a child, but now it is another reason why I love L.M. Montgomery so much.

And she also has some great one-liners...those times where she says just the right thing in just a few words. Take this description about Cousin Jimmy, who lives with Aunt Laura and Aunt Elizabeth because he fell in a well when he was a boy and was never the same since: "Whatever was missing, it wasn't his heart." Doesn't that just make you love Cousin Jimmy? And you haven't even read the book!

One last thing that I loved about this book were the chapters that were composed entirely of Emily's letters to her father. In these sections, the writing switches to first-person by Emily, where we get an inside look into how she feels about life and certain events/people. I loved having most of the book told in third-person with the occasional snippets told in first-person. Seeing Emily's character from two angles and perspectives really fleshed her out for me and made her more real.

This was just a wonderful summer read. Since I never read Emily Climbs or Emily's Quest, I'm looking forward to finishing the Emily trilogy.


  1. I've never read the Emily books, but they are high on my list. I've been re-reading the Anne books for the last two years or so and I love them so much. I'm right in the middle of Rilla right now and I'm dreading the fact that the series will be over soon. At least I have Emily as a back up!

  2. I agree. Anne is definitely my favorite but I've enjoyed reading the Emily books a few times as well. The whole set has similarities to Anne's story. It made me appreciate the good in Anne and Emily more. My next favorite book of Montgomery's was The Blue Castle. It's very different from Anne and Emily.


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