Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
Jul 16, 2012
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.