7 Jan 2015

A Series A Month Challenge: Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery

 I read Emily of New Moon as part of Danielle's A Series a Month challenge.
First Published: 1923
Page Count: 448
Format: Hardcover | Purchased

Summary (from GoodReads): 

Emily Starr never knew what it was to be lonely--until her beloved father died. Now Emily's an orphan, and her snobbish relatives are taking her to live with them at New Moon Farm. Although she's sure she'll never be happy there, Emily deals with her stern aunt Elizabeth and her malicious classmates by using her quick wit and holding her head high.  Things slowly begin to change for the better when Emily makes some new friends. There's Teddy Kent, who does marvelous drawings; Perry Miller, the hired boy, who's sailed the world with his father yet has never been to school; and above all, Ilse Burnley, a tomboy with a blazing temper. With these wonderful companions at her side and adventures around every corner, Emily begins to find her new home beautiful and fascinating--so much so that she comes to think of herself as Emily of New Moon. In this first volume of the celebrated Emily trilogy, Lucy Maud Montgomery draws a more realistic portrait of a young orphan girl's life on early twentieth-century Prince Edward Island.

My Thoughts:

I've been sitting at my computer for a while, trying to articulate my thoughts of Emily of New Moon. I did enjoy it - I enjoyed Emily, she reminds me so much of myself but I'm still not sure how I feel about it. Maybe it's because I know Anne of Green Gables so well, and that it's inevitable that comparisons are going to be drawn between the stories of Emily Byrd Starr and the infamous Anne Shirley (this will be less of a review and more of a comparison between the two, I'm sorry). If L.M. Montgomery has a trademark, it is tales about orphan girls. However, where Anne of Green Gables is comedic, bright and sparkling, Emily of New Moon is dark and gritty (well, as dark and gritty as early 20th century children's literature can get) and realistic.

If I'm being completely honest, Anne and Emily are two sides of the same coin. However, where Anne is starved for love throughout her childhood, Emily has an abundance of it - until her father dies. When she is sent to New Moon, she so desperately craves love from her Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura and Cousin Jimmy. Emily's story is very familiar: an orphan is sent to live with strangers, and her kindness and vivacity winning the love and devotion of many, and developing an innate writing talent and dreaming of fame and fortune while extolling the virtues of religion.

However ambitious, realistic and relatable I found Emily, she still lacked the charm of Anne Shirley, but Ilse Burnley is everything that I wanted Diana Barry to be in later books. Whereas Diana went along with whatever schemes Anne cooked up, Ilse wasn't content to play second fiddle to Emily. Their relationship is fiery and tempestuous and their fights flare up quickly and are forgotten just as fast. Regardless, Ilse is every bit as loyal to Emily as Diana was to Anne, and she loves Emily just as fiercely (at one stage she promises to go to school regularly, provided she gets to sit next to Emily). I found their relationship fascinating. Teddy Kent is quite obviously being set up as Emily's love interest (although I suspect a love triangle between Emily, Teddy and Ilse OR Emily, Teddy and - UGH- Dean Priest), however he lacks the boyish charm of Gilbert Blythe. It's not just Teddy - the rest of the supporting cast is not as strong as Anne's. Aunt Elizabeth is no Marilla Cuthbert, there is no fine balance between her stern exterior and soft heart. While Aunt Elizabeth has these soft moments and she certainly thaws towards the end, I found her to be too hard. It was far too easy to believe that she saw raising Emily solely as a familial duty and did not care for her. Cousin Jimmy comes a very close second to Matthew Cuthbert. Jimmy seems to understand Emily - they are both artists, poets and are on the same wavelength. They are staunch defenders of one another, and their relationship is so wonderful to read. Aunt Laura loves Emily, and goes behind Aunt Elizabeth's back to do little nice things for her (I suppose in this sense she, too, is like Matthew).

I think my favourite part of this novel is that Emily had some wonderful character growth over the course of it, and this was reflected in her writing. Or rather, what she chose to write. By the end of the novel, she is able to see that what she has written previously is juvenile and inappropriate. However, she doesn't see this as a failing on her part, she see it for what it is: a chapter in her writing career, and an opportunity for her to grow as a writer. HOWEVER, I did find all of Emily's spelling errors grating - you would think a girl who spends so much time reading wouldn't still be spelling phonetically so often - but I always find it irritating when authors choose to demonstrate a character's age or socio-economic status via spelling errors.

I'm excited to get started on the next volume of Emily's adventures! Emily seems to be a lot more ambitious than a certain redhead whom I love dearly, and I am hoping that she gets that magnificent career that she dreams of.


  1. I have had the Emily series on my shelf for so many years. I started reading them when I was about 10 and set them aside precisely because Emily is no Anne. I'm tempted to giver her another go now. (I'm here from Goodreads. I really enjoyed your Emma review - spot on).

    1. Hello! I think Emily of New Moon is a more autobiographical novel than the Anne series. Now that I've finished the trilogy, I think it's safe for me to say that the series is about Emily's dreams of becoming a published author, and how she goes about achieving it. I definitely say give it another go - it's an enjoyable series (although the last book is INCREDIBLY depressing), although in a different way to the Anne books. I was more invested in Emily's growth as a character and a writer, whereas the Anne books are just enjoyable because Anne's so charming and the books are lighter in tone. I'm definitely going to read other Montgomery books after this!

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