L. M. Montgomery's books featuring Anne Shirley (especially the first installment, "Anne of Green Gables") are without question the most famous and beloved series by this gifted author. But many of her fans consider the "New Moon" trilogy starring Emily Byrd Starr Montgomery's best work, partly because of its autobiographical nature. Like Emily, Montgomery herself struggled for recognition in the literary world.
When the sequels to "Anne of Green Gables" were written (after the popularity of the first book made publishers urge Montgomery to write sequels) they were done without any `master-plan' in place to chronicle Anne's life experiences. As such, they read more as an ongoing serial in which the role of Anne gradually peters out as her she is replaced by her daughter Rilla as the protagonist of the series. Although the books are beautifully written, there is a sense that (with a few obvious exceptions, such as Anne's romance and subsequent marriage to Gilbert Blythe) Montgomery simply made them up as she went along.
That is clearly not the case with the "New Moon" trilogy, in which each book is built on the previous installment, and several plot points such as Emily's familial ties, romances, friendships, education, physic gifts, and - most importantly - her ambitions as a writer are developed throughout the three books into a coherent whole. Anne's story trails along, Emily's has a structured arc.
This leads to the next big difference between the two heroines: like Emily, Anne had the desire and skills to follow a literary career, one she eventually gives up in order to become a wife and mother. There is none of this for Emily Starr - she was born to be a writer, and every other subplot of the book (even her romantic entanglements) are secondary in the story to her desire to become an author. Anne's goodness and cheerfulness make her a great role model, but Emily's ambitions in what was still predominantly a man's world are truly inspirational.
Emily lives an idyllic existence with her beloved father in the country, when she is cruelly told by the family housekeeper that her father has only a few more weeks to live. By chapter three she is an orphan, and to be adopted out to her mother's people, the stern and powerful Murray clan. After an awkward family reunion, Emily is taken in by her Aunt Elizabeth, a strict and somewhat unkind woman who has no idea how to deal with the young girl now in her care. The two quickly form a distrust and dislike of each other, despite Emily's repore with Aunt Laura and Cousin Jimmy who also live with Elizabeth at New Moon. At her new home there is plenty to keep her occupied: new friends to make, new countryside to explore and thousands of stories to hear and tell. Emily soon realises that her calling in life is to be a writer, and here we see her take the first steps (and missteps) toward her lofty goal.
Furthermore, she soon makes three dear friends: the quiet and artistic Teddy, the mischievous Perry and the tomboy Ilse. These three friends are Emily's companions throughout the three books, though even here there is trouble brewing; romantic entanglements will inevitably arise in later books. Emily is also accorded unique physic abilities that manifest themselves once in every book; and I won't say anymore about that considering discovery the secret to the terrible mystery at the heart of Ilse's story is one of the best parts of the book. There is a spirituality and mysticism present in the "Emily" books that is somewhat missing from the domesticity of the Anne books: discussions on the nature of God, the legitimacy of other belief structures, and a palpable sense of the other-world. And - as is Montgomery's way - the story is littered with family anecdotes and letters/diary entries by Emily herself.
Even those who do consider the Emily books Montgomery's greater achievement (including myself) will often still look upon the Anne books as more *enjoyable*. Compared to Anne, Emily's ongoing story is darker, grimmer, and at times even downright creepy. Unlike Anne who is orphaned as a baby, Emily must bear the full brunt of the grief that comes from a beloved parent dying and the abandonment issues that follow. Furthermore, Emily is surrounded by cast of characters who are considerably darker than Anne's extended family and friends. The stern but loving Marilla is replaced by the severe and strict Elizabeth and Emily has a much more difficult time at school, what with a sadistic schoolteacher and a betrayal from a false friend. Other associates also have darker sides to them; the otherworldly Cousin Jimmy who is hinted as having a mental disorder (due to the fact Elizabeth accidentally pushed him down the well in a fit of temper - yikes!), the intelligent but secretive Dean Priest whose hold over Emily will become more pronounced as the series continues, and Emily's proud and autocratic Murray family. There is only one truly "safe" character, and that is Aunt Laura. But despite her kindness and gentleness, she and Emily are not kindred spirits, for as Emily herself says at one point: "You can love someone without understanding them." (And toward the end of the book there is a lovely moment in which Elizabeth comes through for Emily in a way that Laura does not).
You can never get quite comfortable in the Emily books, especially not in the way you do with Anne. The Anne stories are too rich to be passed off as escapist flights of fancy - but when compared to Emily, they come rather close. Anne had a temper, but was otherwise the picture of perfection: generous, warm, golden-hearted. Emily on the other hand is a much more rounded character, with plenty of flaws to balance out her virtues. She is much more standoffish than Anne, and makes friends less easily (though once made she is the most devoted companion one could wish for). Where Anne was hot-tempered, Emily is haughty, where Anne was talkative, Emily is thoughtful, where Anne was easy-going, Emily is somewhat prideful. Some have complained it is easier to like Anne than it is to like Emily. To them I say: "Duh!" Montgomery is not looking to create another Anne, but a character that is completely different from her most famous orphan.
I come to the end of this review and find that it is simply a comparison between "New Moon" and "Green Gables". I didn't set out to do that, but I think that in doing so one might be better prepared to approach Emily and her story. Anne Shirley came from L. M. Montgomery's heart, Emily Byrd Starr came from her soul.
on September 19, 2000
First, I would like to state that Emily of New Moon is one of my all time favorite books (and series). However, this particular edition has been abridged -- great stuff has been edited to make it shorter for younger readers. While this edition will give you an idea of Emily, please read the full unshortened version! I read the original when I was about 11, and I certainly would have enjoyed it read aloud to me years earlier. If you want to introduce your child to to L.M. Montgomery, go for the real thing, not the shortened version!
on August 3, 2000
One day, while skimming the shelves of the Young Adult section of the Library, I ran across 3 books. I noticed that they were from the same Author of "Anne of GreenGables" and I had truly loved those books, so I decided to get these new, mysterious books that I had never heard of. "Emily of NewMoon" "Emily Climbs" and "Emily's Quest". I got home, jumped on my bed, and began reading. Looking up, I noticed I had finished 1/2 the book, and that a couple of hours had passed. I bought all 3 of them here, and I am SO happy that I did. I really don't know what more I can say, I just LOVE these books more than ANY possesion that I have. And that isn't a joke! They inspired me, and I have read EVERY other book of LLM's, but still, my favorites are the "Emily" series. I really hope that you buy this book, it's SO worth it. I read them over and over and over. and when I open the book, I know exactly where I am, and then I can't put it down! I LOVE LOVE LOVE THEM!
on February 8, 2015
This review is based on a hardcover edition of this novel which I believe to be unabridged. I came to the book due to the recent Canadian Television Series, and though I've enjoyed that series very much, I find the book is altogether quite different from the series. It held my interest from the first page, and I was deeply moved by the entire achievement. Little Emily in this novel is a writer, a child with the heart and soul of a poet/prose writer who is immensely sensitive to the beauty around her on Prince Edward Island where she is growing up. Her closest friends, Teddy and Ilse, are also highly creative; and the soul of the novel has to do with the passion and courage of Emily in a world where vulnerable creative personalities meet with general bias as well as specific obstacles to their development every day. For me, the strongest and most arresting passages in the book have to do with nature as Emily sees it and moves through it.... trees, woodlands, coastal areas, gardens both natural and created, and the neverending panorama of changing skies. It is worth noting that Emily sees as much beauty in winter around her as she sees in spring or summer; and when she feels deeply, her joy is mingled with pain. Her soul opens when she is given opportunities to write down her thoughts; and the act of writing is therapeutic for her; and over the course of the novel she grows in insight and strength. ----- ------- There is much more to be said about this book. It is part of group of novels of the period that dealt with appealing orphans placed in homes where they had to win over the unsympathetic guardians who burdened with their care. And much can be said about the metaphor of the orphan, and why these books attained such popularity. ---- Another key aspect of the novel is that it takes the mind and soul of a child completely seriously, and does not shrink from strong condemnations of those who are rude and abusive to children. It is not written per se for children; but it is written by some one for whom the child is a full human being. ----------- I do want to explore those aspects of the book (and others) as I continue to read Lucy Maud Montgomery but the primary value of this novel for me is that Emily is a writer; and I think there is much here to comfort, encourage and inspire writers of all ages. The novel rings true. The novel is not just for children. The novel transcends time. I recommend this to anyone interested in the dilemma or the adventure of the creative child, the child who is a dreamer, the child who sees miracles in the physical world all around her, the child whose soul longs to write or paint or make art in any form. This is lovely novel, and it is a strong one and reading it was a rare pleasure. ------ One last note. When I finished it I thought at once of "Martin Eden" by Jack London. That is a book about an adult, and a much darker book. It is wholly different book, and it provides a deeply disturbing ending that many might find disappointing. But "Martin Eden" also about a writer, about the anguishing struggles of a sensitive soul who longs to be surrounded by beauty and to make beauty. ----- I recommend both books very much.
on December 29, 2003
The Emily of New Moon series is hands down, my favourite piece of children's literature. I first read them at age 9 or 10 when my brother gave them to me as a Christmas present and I've read them dozens of times since.
It's unfortunate that so many times when we talk about Emily, it's to compare her to Anne. She can certainly stand on her own. But lots of the plot elements are the same: strong-willed orphan girl finds her way into the heart of confirmed bachelor and old maid(s). However, Emily is a more sophisticated character (and as an avid Anne addict, it pains me to say that.) She's is not the delightful Pollyanna that Anne was - she has some character flaws. Sometimes she's overly stubborn or overly proud. She has a lot of the characteristics I had as an eleven year old; perhaps that's why she's become such a favourite of mine.
There are some darker aspects in this book too that readers of Montgomery's short stories will recognize: a near-death experience and an element of the supernatural.
I found Emily's relationships more realistic too. She is taunted at school on the first day; she wonders if her Aunt Elizabeth loves her. Most children have the relationships that Emily had, ones that are passionate and loving, but often frustrating as well.
The second and third books are even better prove as Emily's complicated love life evolves and her dreams of being a writer continue to elude her.
If you're a parent I urge you to give these books to your children. I feel so glad I read them when I was young because Emily had a bit of a harder time of life, but still managed to be incredibly happy. For children who haven't yet met their real-life Diana Barrys or Gilbert Blythes, I highly recommend that they meet the fictional Emily Starr of New Moon.
If you're an adult, you might find these books highly comforting too. I know I still like to read them on rainy days when the world is feeling a little harder than usual. The familiar style and the picturesque atmosphere are sure to comfort.
on June 14, 1999
This is the best book ever written by LM in my opinion. It is, in many ways, very different from her other books. It contains elements of horror and deep emotion not introduced in her other novels. Emily herself is the most unique, thoroughly developed character and is by far the most inspirational character I can think of. This book makes you want to get up and do wonderful things, but you can't because you won't put the book down! My own copy is yellowed and dog-eared from years of reading and re-reading it, and each time I do I discover something else new and wonderful about the plot, the many sub-plots, and the characters. This book has incredible depth, and is clean of any filth or meaningless words. It is a treasure in paper and ink, and I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys beautiful, captivating, suspence-filled literature. I'm 15 now and have read it about twice a year since I got it, and twice a year have been overwhelmed with the power and joy that fills it's pages. I also recommend the other sequels to this book. They are just as great as the first! P.S. I sure would have loved to see that TV series!
on September 29, 2012
When I was a child, I found the story of Emily after reading most of the Anne of Green Gables series. I remember LOVING Emily for the brave heroine she seemed to be. I recently bought the books again and just finished the first book. I didn't realize how much Emily has declined in my admiration over the years.
After her father dies of consumption, Emily's mother's siblings gather to decide who she will live with. When her sour Aunt Elizabeth wins responsibility, Emily is taken to the family farm, New Moon, where tradition and pride are the hallmarks (or hindrances). Aunt Elizabeth's sternness is tempered by Aunt Laura's kindness; Cousin Jimmy, the lone male on the place, provides a sympathetic ear to Emily's spirit, much like Matthew did in the Anne books. When Emily starts school, she makes friends with Teddy, Ilse, and Perry, three neighborhood children. As a group, they negotiate the next two years with most of the action centering around Emily getting into trouble; not only does she have to be rescued when she falls over a cliff, she cuts a bang after being forbidden to do that, and then cuts off the rest of her hair to try to hide what she had done. Emily charms most of the people she meets and wins their heart, but can she win over the heart of Aunt Elizabeth?
This was an OK book, but it wasn't as good as I remember. Aunt Elizabeth is far too un-relenting; we only get momentary glimpses of her real concern for her niece til the end, when she gets mad at Emily for writing the truth about her. What does the woman expect after how she has treated her and they spend the whole book arguing? I found Emily's psychic episode a little unbelievable, coming out of the blue; their explanation is a little too pat, that the great-granmdother had the second sight. And, it may just be my adult nature, but what human being gets into this many "scrapes"? I was klutzy, but the child falls over a cliff picking flowers!
And that brings me to a slightly troubling topic. It's fairly obvious Dean Priest is romantically interested in Emily. This would be fine, except he's old enough to be her father, he knew her father in college, and she's 12! He tells her he will be the one to teach her the romantic talk, he visits her when she is sick there are several other things he does that set off my creepy meter. I couldn't understand how her family didn't question his intentions. Even setting aside the fact that young girls married older men in those days and it was more acceptable, there is a 20-something year age difference that is unappealing.
I am going to read the other two books in the series, but I'm not sure if I want to share these books with my child. Til I decide, I'll stick with Anne of Green Gables.
on August 13, 2002
I adore Anne, but Emily is a Kindred Spirit. I've read all of L.M. Montgomery's books, and this one is, without doubt, the very best. And yes - it IS better than Anne of Green Gables.
Emily of New Moon has all the elements of a well-written novel. It has tragic scenes that aren't overly dramatic: the quiet death of her father makes me cry no matter how many times I've read it. It's inspiring: even as a young girl, she struggles with ambition. It's endearing: who could forget the happy, childish adventures of Emily and Ilse? Most of all, it has a sense of humor! (Though, I must point out, LMM's funniest scene ever is in Emily's Quest, where she reads the reviews of her first novel.)
People love Anne because of her sweetness. Emily isn't sweet--she's real. As the narrator writes (I'm paraphrasing) "Many people liked her, many disliked her; no one was ever wholly indifferent to her." My very favorite book.
on June 14, 2006
I fell in love with the Emily books as a child, and have read them many times over the past fifteen years. Along with the Anne series and The Story Girl, they represent the best of LM Montgomery's fiction. Emily is similar in many ways to Anne (and to many of Montgomery's characters) - highly imaginative, sensitive, smart, a little different, an orphan, ambitious. She also has a darker side that Anne never displays; where Anne is impulsive and quick to forgive, Emily is intense and proud and holds grudges, sometimes for years. In some ways, her story is more developed than Anne's, and certainly at least as engaging.
As a child, I identified strongly with Emily; now, as an adult, I still find her one of the most interesting and complex characters Montgomery has written. (Although the poetry makes one cringe at times.) I highly recommend this book to girls of all ages, but especially to those in the 10-14-year-old set who may think about "deeper" things than the silly crushes and dramas that enthrall their peers.
"Emily of New Moon" is the beginning of Lucy Maud Montgomery's moving trilogy about a young writer who may bear an astonishing resemblance to the author herself. The dark-haired, gray-eyed Emily Byrd Starr is stubborn and imaginative, and has a gift for writing. The death of her beloved father leaves her dependent on the charity of her proud Murray relatives at the family farm of New Moon on Prince Edward Island, Canada. Her maiden Aunt Elizabeth takes up the duty of raising Emily by the strictest of rules; she and Emily will do repeated battle over Emily's need to express herself.
"Emily of New Moon" is an absolutely engaging story. Author Lucy Maud Montgomery adroitly introduces Emily to new relatives, playmates, life lessons, and adult mentors who provide varying degrees of encouragement (or discouragement) for her writing talents. Along the way, Montgomery prepares the ground for the follow-on books. She cleverly sets up future romantic dynamics among Emily and her playmates, and a problematic mentorship relationship with an older man whose motivatation might be suspect. The most significant plot resolution of "Emily of New Moon" is an incident which appears to demonstrate that Emily is "fey", that she has the ability to see "beyond the curtain" of everyday reality.
Lucy Maud Montgomery's "Emily" trilogy is thought to reflect the famed author's emotionally starved childhood and difficult apprenticeship as a writer in a way the happier "Anne of Green Gables" series never did. "Emily of New Moon" has a darker tone than the "Anne" series, but is every bit as entertaining, and is highly recommended to Montgomery's fans.