Saturday, August 19, 2006

My Girl Emily

Emily of New Moon
Emily Climbs
Emily's Quest - L.M. Montgomery

I just reread the Emily of New Moon trilogy by L.M. Montgomery, the author best known for the Anne of Green Gables series. As much as I've always loved the Anne books, I really remember identifying with Emily as a teenager. I can still remember bawling all the way through Emily's Quest the first time I read it at age 14 because I thought the romantic misunderstandings between Emily and Teddy were so true to life. With apologies to Emily's teacher, Mr. Carpenter, I had to use italics: the book spoke to me.

Now I find myself wondering what would have happened if she'd married Dean. He was one of the most interesting characters in the series. I had a much different impression of Emily and her younger friends this time around. She seemed much saucier than I remembered her. Anne was a dreamer who found herself in trouble with the adult world often enough, but Emily often gets into her trouble by making snarky comments and defying her relations. Her bohemian best friend, Ilse, is a far cry from sweet, Diana Barry.

Emily's childhood sweetheart (there always seems to be a childhood sweetheart in L.M. Montgomery books) was not exactly the true-hearted Gilbert Blythe either. (Gilbert may have escorted Christine Stuart around Redmond College events for a while, but he wasn't the biggest flirt on Prince Edward Island.)

Supposedly, the Emily books are the most autobiographical of all Montgomery's novels. I believe it. I've read her childhood journals and some of Emily's experiences are taken almost word-for-word from her own.

Perhaps you have to be going through teenage angst to fully appreciate this story, but I still enjoyed my reread. I'd recommend Emily to any young, aspiring writer. Emily's Quest has one of the best writer's encouragements I still have ever read. I have the last words of that wise educator, Mr. Carpenter hanging on my wall, within sight of my computer:
"No use trying to please everybody. No use trying to please critics. Live under your own hat. Don't be led away by those howls about realism. Remember - pine woods are just as real as pigsties and a darn sight pleasanter to be in. You'll get there sometime - you have the root of the matter in you. And don't tell the world everything. That's what's the matter with our literature. Lost the charm of mystery and reserve."

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