I Love You, Lucy Maud: ‘Emily of New Moon’ by L.M. Montgomery

Most bookish girls have a special relationship with L.M. Montgomery. If you were the type to spend your summer days indoors reading (like, ahem, some of us), then you probably got to know Anne Shirley and her life at Green Gables pretty well. Although we may talk about our girl Anne on Young Adult Education at some point in the future, today’s all about a slightly lesser-known but just as awesome L.M. Montgomery heroine, Emily of New Moon.

Emily Starr happily lives with her father, and they have a sort of idyllic, chaotic lifestyle. She doesn’t go to school, she hangs out outside all the time, she writes poems and she loves cats. Everything is perfect until her father dies and Emily’s sent to live with her mother’s family, the uppity Murrays of New Moon. Emily’s Aunt Elizabeth doesn’t exactly take kindly to Emily’s poetic nature. Also, she only lets Emily bring one of her two cats to New Moon, and just thinking about that decision gives me so much anxiety that I can barely keep writing.

Lonely and missing her father, Emily takes to writing in secret (or sometimes just in her head), because Emily is a true writer. She can’t stop composing sentences, letters and poems, even if there’s a crotchety old lady telling her to knock it off.

Eventually, Emily grows to enjoy her life at New Moon, and the book follows her friendships (and incredibly painful friend breakups) and family problems. Although she definitely has her share of problems (in case I didn’t make myself clear before, SHE COULD ONLY BRING ONE OF HER CATS WITH HER!), writing is her constant companion.

According to my super in-depth research (I read her Wikipedia page), Lucy Maud Montgomery was essentially an orphan herself. Although life on Prince Edward Island sounded perfect to many of us growing up, her own life was anything but perfect. After turning down multiple proposals from men who just weren’t right (how Jo March of her), Lucy Maud ended up marrying a man who suffered from mental illness. Her life was, for the most part, unhappy, and her beautiful writing wasn’t a reflection of her life so much as an escape from it. Learning all this stuff truly made me sad for L.M.M.–sad that she had to live in a time where marriage was a necessity, sad that she had to endure so much hardship, sad that not even her death was peaceful. What her life is a testament to, though, is the power of writing to save us from terrible situations. Just as Emily Starr was able to look at something plain and transform it into something beautiful, L.M. Montgomery created worlds of encouragement, wisdom, comfort, and inspiration for girls then and now. Lucy Maud may have had a heartbreakingly sad life, but just like Emily, she was able to write her way to someplace happier (even if that someplace was just in her mind).

Some Highlights:

-This book is full of amazing quotes and dialogue. Seriously, I can’t possibly repeat everything here because we don’t have all day/an endless column, but one of my favorites was something Emily’s dad said to her shortly before he died: “I want you to be brave. You mustn’t be afraid of anything, Emily. Death isn’t terrible. The universe is full of love–and spring comes everywhere–and in death you open and shut a door.” Guys, would it be weird if I got an Emily of New Moon tattoo? Just don’t be surprised if you see me around with “The universe is full of love and spring comes everywhere” tattooed on the inside of my wrist, because damn, Lucy Maud. That’s lovely.

-Emily’s friend Ilse is the biggest badass around and I love her. When some girls at school are making fun of Emily, Ilse tells them, “If I hear of any more meddling and sneaking I’ll slit your throats, and rip out your hearts and tear your eyes out. Yes, and I’ll cut off your ears and wear them pinned on my dress!” Don’t mess with Ilse, and also maybe don’t let her design jewelry because she has some unconventional ideas. Anyway, Ilse ends up being a good (if temperamental) friend to Emily.

-There’s also an Emily of New Moon TV series. I fell down the Emily of New Moon rabbit hole and discovered that the girl who played Emily also played Michael Cera’s love interest in Superbad. Useless trivia!

Emily of New Moon is only the first book in the Emily trilogy, which also includes Emily Climbs and Emily’s Quest. I only read New Moon because, you know, I have a job and stuff, but it should go without saying that we all need to read all three Emily books immediately.

What about you guys? Have you read Emily of New Moon? And in the ultimate battle of L.M. Montgomery heroines, who would win–Anne Shirley or Emily Starr? Let me know in the comments! And, as always, I love to hear your suggestions for books to feature in Young Adult Education. Leave a comment, email me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter @KerryAnn.

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