The Emily Series

Emily of New Moon, Emily Climbs, and Emily’s Quest are a three part series covering the life of Emily Byrd Starr for over a span of 15 years. When Emily is orphaned, she comes to live with her mother’s family – a family from whom her parents had been estranged after they married each other against their wishes. Now, she has nowhere else to go and must live at New Moon with her mother’s two unmarried sisters, Aunt Elizabeth and Aunt Laura, and Cousin Jimmy, a distant cousin.

Enigmatic, mysterious, charming, intense, and sensitive to love and beauty, Emily changes the lives of those who live at New Moon forever. She comes to them with her heart ready to give love and receive it. But life at New Moon isn’t easy. She has to go to school and make new acquaintances, suffer many heartbreaks and learn not a few rules. In short, she must adapt to the changing conditions around her.

Along the way Emily makes some unique friends: Ilse Burnley, a hot-headed, impulsive and wild young girl. She is a distant cousin of Emily’s (all people in Blair Water are remotely related to eachother), and gives her the companionship she craves; Frederick “Teddy” Kent, a young boy who is a newcomer in Blair Water. He befriends the two girls during his recovery from an illness. Emily and Teddy, both artistic and dreamers, find happiness in each other’s company; Perry Miller, a young boy from Stovepipe Town who comes as a helper to New Moon after he meets Emily. Charming, but careless and crude, he and Ilse get into a lot of energetic fights; Dean Priest, an old acquaintance of her father and a distant relation, whom she meets one day under precarious circumstances. He motivates and brings out another side to Emily and she finds his friendship invigorating. With him, her imagination opens up and she explores a different world.

Emily Climbs follow Emily to her life at High School, away from New Moon, her developing relationship with the “Murrays”, her mother’s family, and her own artistic development as a writer. She finds she herself has many of the qualities of the proud Murrays and at many points must make a decision that will shape the future of her writing career.

In Emily’s Quest, Montgomery focuses more on Emily’s writing and how it shapes her personal life causing her some heartbreak. Like all of Montgomery’s heroines, love comes late into Emily’s life and she must force herself to grasp it before it goes out of her reach.

The Emily Series is a lot like the other novels Montgomery wrote: the story of a young girl. But the writing is more enjoyable. Published in 1923 the book has a more mature writing which she hadn’t achieved while writing the Anne series. Although Anne is more famous, both as a heroine and the Anne series as a whole, many critics and Montgomery herself preferred the Emily books. I have read the book many times and still every time I open it I can’t put it down! As I’ve said before, Montgomery writes not only for children, but for people of ALL ages. Her novels are a MUST read.

For my previous discussion on Montgomery, go HERE

The Blue Castle

The Blue Castle is one of my all time favorite books. Valancy, the protagonist, is someone we can all relate to. At 29, she is still unmarried. Even in this day and age, going past the ‘marriageable age’ is a huge issue; especially in a culture like Pakistan’s. Valancy’s idealism and dreams are ones which we all have. Though the novel is presented as a fantasy, we all, at some point or another, want to do what Valancy does, to break free from the rules of culture and society and do something outrageous! I know I have.

As always, L. M. Montgomery’s heroines have a unique quality about them; something, which strictly speaking, isn’t beauty but charm. Valancy, after she breaks free from her restraints, is almost beautiful – but not in the conventional way that her cousin Olive is. She has a personality of her own and the blue castle which she dreams of is the place where her true potential comes to the surface. As Barney, her……..  (I’ll let you find out for yourself!) says, ‘you belong to the woods’. That is where her special charm finds it’s proper domain.

Who among us doesn’t have annoying relatives? Relatives who intrude, boss and try to control our very existence? It may be an old aunt or some far off older cousin, but we’ve all felt the helplessness – especially during family reunions. Valancy lives eternally in a family reunion. The family has found an easy target in Valancy and boss the very life out of her. To break free is a harder step than it seems, even for Valancy. But nevertheless, she finds the necessary push to live her life the way her heart desires…………where does it all end? Do her dreams come true? Most importantly of all, does she find true love? Or is the stigma of age one that she can’t get around?……Read it and tell me all about your views!

The Pat Series

Phil, in Anne of the Island says, speaking of Pickwick Papers, ‘That’s a book that always makes me hungry. There’s so much good eating in it.’ I feel the same way when I read the Pat series. The food Judy cooks in that book! The dinners with fried chicken, jelly-roll cake, apple cake, cinnamon buns! Yum! Even the food I’ve never tried sounds so good. Pat, the perfect housekeeper is perfect in every other way except in relation to her love life (just like all her heroines!). Her cooking is superb… they’re always having some party or dinner and planning exquisite menus – the best part. I especially love the menu they prepare for the visit of their cousin Countess of Medchester: Fried chicken with sparrow grass, coconut cake, iced melon balls and ice-cream; and I actually tried ‘ribbon sandwiches’ just because they were mentioned in the book!

Besides the wonderful food (I already feel hungry), Pat herself is different from Montgomery’s other heroines. She is a born housewife. She actually loves her home (sometimes to obsession; poor Hilary!) and takes care of it. I have actually taken some tips from her books: putting lavender between the sheets, hanging Chinese Lanterns for effect and many, many more great ideas. It’s like the two books are a guide for the perfect housewife.

The books were written much later – Pat of Silver Bush in 1933, and Mistress Pat in 1935 – than the Anne Series. Her skill is certainly more than when she wrote her first book. She shows a greater range of emotions. The first Anne book, though having its share of grief, was mostly light and sparkling, but the Pat books show more sadness and sometimes even despair: the scenes where Pat is in the attic and feels old and when Sid marries May, her longtime enemy. We see her portray much more sadness then in any of her earlier novels. This is also due to the fact that it takes many years for Pat to realize her love for Hilary and to end her loneliness.

Judy’s death was the saddest part of the novel for me. The relationship between Pat and Judy had been beautiful to see and I actually cried when she died. But Montgomery never allows her readers to remain grief-stricken for long; something always happens to take the edge away. It is apparent why she does so, in a dialogue from Emily Climbs,

            ‘I read a story to-night. It ended unhappily. I was wretched until I had invented a happy ending for it. I shall always end my stories happily. I don’t care whether it’s ‘true to life’ or not. It’s true to life as it should be and that’s a better truth then the other.’

I am inclined to agree with her point of view. It is better to portray a better way of life in novels then all the social evils of the world; something to aspire to; an ideal. Whenever I want to escape the realities of the world, I grab one of Montgomery’s novels and forget all my problems. It is apparent that L. M. Montgomery was a well-read woman. She refers to Dickens’ novels many times and even Rudyard Kipling. She saw the evil in the world and yet was still able to write of its beauty.

L.M. Montgomery’s works

Some books can only be read by older, more mature people; others can be read only by a younger audience; some are specifically written for children; but the books by L. M. Montgomery are universal. They can be read by any age group. She is unique in being able to enchant all sorts of people.

Of course the first book that comes to mind when mentioning L. M. Montgomery is Anne of Green Gables. The book is exquisite in its portrayal of Anne: an orphan girl, worked like a drudge in her childhood, but still managing to see the beauty of life. In Anne, we see the true optimist, who despite all odds manages to bring joy to herself and others in her life as well. I’ve never read about a heroine like her. As Mark Twain says Anne of Green Gables is the ‘sweetest creation of child life yet written.’ The book brings with it a freshness that is lacking in other novels. We have love, friendship, heartache and extreme happiness in the book. Laughter is common and the thing about L. M. Montgomery is that we can actually relate to everything in the book. Anne is a unique child and it’s obvious that we all want to be like her. We all want to have that same joyous nature, to be able to love intensely and see only the beauty even through the sorrow. L. M. Montgomery portrays a young girl living in an imperfect world able to see its perfections.

Anne is by no means an angel. She has a quick temper. As Mrs. Rachel Lynde says, ‘Her temper matches her hair’, which is red. Throughout the Anne series we see Anne’s obsession with her hair, at one point even dyeing it green! She makes her fair share of blunders and mistakes but always learns her lesson. In her love life she, like most of L. M. Montgomery’s heroines, realizes much later than the hero that she is in love. With Anne, Gilbert actually almost has to die to get her to notice!

I love L. M. Montgomery’s descriptions of people. It’s always so perfect and exactly the thing you want to know about; the aspect that interests you most of all. In one of her short stories this is how she describes the heroine, ‘a sweet, little, brown thing, rather tired looking, with a flute-like voice. Her face was as brown as a nut, her hair and eyes were brown, her lips scarlet.’

Most of the time I hate reading descriptions of scenery in novels, but with L. M. Montgomery, I savor each and every word. Her words seem to bring out the best parts in everything. The snow, the flowers, sunsets and moonrises all have a different flavor when she describes them. And her genius at coining names for places! ‘Glimmer-glass’, ‘Idlewild’, ‘The White Way of Delight’, ‘The Fairies’ Mirror’. I just don’t know how she comes up with them.

What else can I say about L. M. Montgomery? She was a great artist. Each and every one of her novels is a piece of art. Anne of Green Gables is of course her masterpiece; the novel that led to her fame. But she didn’t just leave with one great book. She has written many great novels and my personal favorite is the Emily Series. The series is also said to be autobiographical. Other good books by Montgomery are the Pat series and Jane of Lantern Hill. She’s also written many short stories and poetry.

This is my favorite topic: discussing Anne and Emily and Pat:). All her heroines are distinct from each other. Anne is the sweet one who has ambitions, but puts her loved ones first. Emily is also ambitious but has a LOT of pride and, at least in the beginning, would sacrifice anything for her work. Pat is the most different; she has no ambitions except living in Silver Bush and keeping house. But they also have many things in common: they are all great lovers of beauty, they aren’t typically beautiful but have ‘personality’. Emily, unlike Pat and Anne, is not blind to her love for Teddy. I can go on comparing the heroines forever, but I’ll leave off. Till next time:).