The Emily Books

I read the L.M. Montgomery’s Anne books in college (having missed out on a lot of children’s classics as a kid). I enjoyed the first few books in the series, but Anne’s personality was a lot once she became an adults, so I eventually gave up on the series and L.M. Montgomery. But all the talk about the Emily books on the Netflix series Russian Doll — and especially about how dark Emily is — caught my attention.

I don’t know that Emily is a dark person, but she most definitely doesn’t have a sunny disposition. Throughout the series she moves between periods of ambitious determination and resigned fatalism. In the first book, Emily of New Moon, her father has just died, and she feels ready to die herself. Only gradually does she find a new reason to live as she discovers her gift of writing. The second book, Emily Climbs, is perhaps the most hopeful of the trio, as Emily starts to take her first steps into a career. In the final book, Emily’s Quest, she experiences serious setbacks in both her career and her personal life and is, for a time, unwilling to do much of anything about it. This is, I think, the darkest and most interesting book of the series.

One thing I found interesting about the series was how skillfully Montgomery showed Emily’s development as a writer. All three books includes excerpts of her letters and diaries, and the writing gets better and better as the books go on. I have to confess, I found Emily’s writing in the first book so over the top that I often ended up skimming. But Montgomery knew what she was doing, and in each book, her writing gets better and better, more confident and less full of unnecessary fluff.

Throughout the series, Emily’s relationships with friends, family, and potential beaus are important, but her relationship with her writing is just as important. It’s not that she’s single-mindedly devoted to her career, as many assume. She cares about people, but with caution. That caution, paradoxically, makes her vulnerable to people who figure out precisely how to approach her (I could go on and on about one person in particular), and it creates barriers separating her from others. She is a sharp observer who thinks a lot about everything and everyone, but she doesn’t always understand what she’s seeing. This makes the third book in particular a sometimes frustrating experience, but I kind of enjoyed the angst of it.

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12 Responses to The Emily Books

  1. realbooks4everstephanie says:

    I’ve never heard of these books. Then again, I’ve never read Anne Of Green Gables either.

  2. writerrea says:

    A few years ago, I read the collection of L.M. Montgomery’s diaries. I expected them to be jolly and full of Prince Edward Island cheer. Alas, it was not to be. While I was reading them, the story broke that her descendants said she had committed suicide. Reading her diaries, that seemed entirely likely.

  3. Jeane says:

    I always liked the Emily books much better than Anne of Green Gables- in fact I don’t think I ever finished reading all the Anne books, but I’ve read the Emily series at least twice. I could relate much better to Emily (and her cat). I did find the ending of the last book troubling, but admit it’s been decades since I read them, so must revisit and see what I think now.

    • Teresa says:

      I didn’t mind the ending of the last book as far as Emilyshe ended up with, but it did seem too swift, and I think they both have a lot of growing up to do! I wouldn’t have minded if she’d not ended up with anyone or if they’d decided to take things slowly and see what happens.
      I was really rattled early on, though, when it appeared Dean, who’d been grooming her for years, was finally going to get his way. He troubled me almost from the first moment he appeared.

  4. I’m so glad you read these and liked them! I have always loved LM Montgomery’s less-well-known books more than the Anne series, and the Emily books have been comfort reads of mine since I was a little kid. I will say that as I have gotten older, Dean Priest reads a whole lot fucking creepier than I realized at age, like, eight. :P

    • Lory says:

      Dean creeps me out too…

      • Teresa says:

        He’s soooo creepy! I can see why a younger reader may not see it, but ugh.

        I kept thinking about Bhaer from Little Women, who I know lots of readers hate (for reasons I understand, even though I mostly don’t mind him). Bhaer at least seems to want Jo to do well for Jo’s own sake, whereas Dean seems mostly about turning Emily into the woman he wants, building her up into a perfect prize for himself until she seems too good and then tearing her down. The Worst!

  5. Ruthiella says:

    I know I read some of the Anne books – but probably not all. I really want to (a) find my box set which is probably in my garage and do a complete re-read of them. Then I might move on to the Emily books which you make very interesting with their dark undertones.

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