L.M. Montgomery is one of my favorite writers. I wrote this post back when I first started blogging about my admiration for her that came from reading the Anne of Green Gables books when I was young. The Anne books bring me a feeling of nostalgia for when I was a girl, walking on my family’s farm and writing little stories in my spare time. My pap used to pay me for the stories that I would write when I walked over to his house.
Anyway, when I saw that several bloggers are reading L.M. Montgomery’s Emily series, I decided to join in with them. I just finished last weekend, so I’m a little behind others who might be participating (hey, it’s never too late to read a good book, right?).
Emily could be described as the dark-haired, more introspective counterpart of Anne. She is a budding poet with pointed ears that remind whimsical thinkers of a forest elf. When her father, a former journalist, passes away, Emily is sent to live with her mother’s extended family, which had been estranged from her because they thought they were too good for Emily’s father.
The first book, Emily of New Moon, is about a young girl discovering new parts of her identity — finding out about the life of her mother who died when she was young, and also finding herself as a writer despite the negative opinions of those around her. Writing poetry and reading novels is frowned upon by Emily’s aunt, who wants to raise her “properly,” and her first school teacher uses Emily’s poetry as a means of mocking her. The teacher purposefully reads the poems in a sing-song voice and critiques them harshly to show her control of the students.
Considering the times that Emily lived in and her status as an orphan and a female, she must continually hide her writing and her thoughts. She finds freedom in going to the attic to write or in playing with her few close friends that she meets at New Moon. She manages to stay an independent and creative thinker despite the efforts to control her. By today’s standards, it seems silly to consider reading novels and writing poetry out-of-bounds for a young woman, but that was the reality in those times. Emily’s father never tried to oppress her gift because he recognized it and understood it.
Throughout the book, Emily gets “the flash” when she sees something of beauty or has a moment that goes beyond the ordinary. I think “the flash” is something beyond creative inspiration. It is probably what some writers have described as the sublime or transcendence; since L.M. Montgomery was familiar with Thoreau’s writings, that’s my theory. One of my favorite parts of the book is when something supernatural happens; Emily sees something in an illness-induced dream that ends up redeeming the tainted memory of her best friend’s mother, who had been accused of running off to sea and abandoning her young baby and husband. In life, so much is beyond explanation. L.M. Montgomery captures that idea so well with Emily’s dream.
So far, I am enjoying the Emily series. L.M. Montgomery identified with Emily the most out of all her heroines. As a dark-haired, creative, introspective type, I identify with her more than Anne too. Stay tuned next month for my thoughts on the second book in the series, Emily Climbs.
Have you read the Emily books?