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.