Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Review: Emily of New Moon

Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery
3 stars

Summary (adapted from Wikipedia): Emily Starr is sent to live at
New Moon Farm on Prince Edward Island with her aunts Elizabeth (the stern one) and Laura (the sweet one) Murray and her "simple" Cousin Jimmy, who composes poetry. She makes friends with Ilse Burnley, Teddy Kent, and Perry Miller, the hired boy . . . Emily has a hard time getting along with Aunt Elizabeth, who doesn't understand her need to write. Ilse's father, Dr. Burnley, ignores Ilse most of the time because of a dreadful secret concerning Ilse's mother. Teddy's mother is jealous of her son's talents and friends, fearing that his love for them will eclipse his love for her . . . Perry's Aunt Tom once tries to make Emily promise to marry Perry when they grow up, threatening that unless Emily does so, she won't pay for Perry's schooling. Other unforgettable characters are Dean "Jarback" Priest, a quiet, mysterious cynic who wants something he fears is ever unattainable; and fiery Mr Carpenter, the crusty old schoolteacher who is Emily's mentor and honest critic when it comes to evaluating her stories and poems.

My thoughts: I'm still an Anne girl. I may read the other two Emily books someday, but my heart belongs first to Anne and then to Jane of Lantern Hill. I think part of the problem is that, while Emily is different in some ways from Anne, so much of her situation is much the same - bright, spirited orphan girl sent to live with a family that doesn't really want her. And it definitely has lots of that part of Montgomery's style that I like the least - pages of flowery descriptions and raptures over the beauty of a single tree.

And while I've heard Emily's writerliness is the reason some people prefer her to Anne and that it makes Emily more similar to Montgomery herself, it wasn't really for me. I guess at the time it was a curiosity to have a girl wanting to be a writer and maybe that gave it extra charm and interest, but while I admire Emily's spirit, having to read her poetry and her constant misspellings got a bit annoying. It also split the book up in an odd way for me - some of it is told by the narrator and some through Emily's letters to her deceased father.

Least favourite parts: The inklings that Emily has psychic powers - it seemed really jarring given the age and style of the story. Dean Priest - maybe I'm just too 21st century in my outlook, but it really seemed to me as though this 30-something man had some much-too-strong feelings for 12-year-old Emily.

Favourite part: There's definitely still Montgomery charm, though. I really enjoyed the chapter where Protestant-raised Emily visits a Catholic priest to try and get him to convince New Moon neighbour Lofty John not to cut down a grove of trees between the two properties. The priest is enchanted by Emily and is convinced she's a fairy, which was cute. He also helps her with advice on how to get the heroine of her epic poem out of a convent, which was a hoot.

Verdict: I definitely prefer Green Gables, but New Moon was worth a visit.


Janssen said...

I have to say, I love love love the Emily books, maybe even more than the Green Gables ones. I just find Emily completely enchanting.

Excellent review.

raidergirl3 said...

I'm with you on this one. Anne for the win!

But that's the strength of LM, she has written two credible heroines who appeal to different people.

There was a musical of Emily, of course, on PEI. It just didn't connect to me the way Anne did. The raves are that Emily is edgier, darker, more like LM, but it still doesn't work for me like Anne.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Hee hee - I had a feeling you'd be on the same Anne page. :) But yes, you're right, it's definitely impressive that she created the two girls. Huh, a musical. I love the Anne musical, but I can't really see Emily as one.

tinylittlelibrarian said...

Janssen - Thanks! And that's the beauty of books, there's something for everyone, even from the same author. It could be partly that my love of Anne is deeply cemented from childhood and Emily just couldn't compare with that history. Anne and I go way back! :)

Anonymous said...

I think I read a book with the same title as that, I mean it's Emily. I have it on top of the bookshelf beside the medical magazine concerning Tadalafil.