Judging from the comments on my Emily-related posts, it seems that I'm the only person on the planet who hasn't already read this book at least forty-seven times. Just in case there's some quiet person out there who's in the same boat:
Miss Emily Byrd Starr, age ten, has lived with her ailing father in "the house in the hollow" for as long as she can remember. People in the nearest town pity her for being motherless and for living in such a lonesome place, but:
Emily didn't know she was being pitied and didn't know what lonesomeness meant. She had plenty of company. There was Father--and Mike--and Saucy Sal. The Wind Woman was always around; and there were the trees--Adam-and-Eve, and the Rooster Pine, and all the friendly lady-birches.
But consumption is consumption and eventually, her father dies. And so Emily is sent to live with her Aunt Elizabeth, her Aunt Laura and her Cousin Jimmy at New Moon Farm. Despite her troubles relating to her strict Aunt Elizabeth and her difficult first experiences with formal schooling, Emily grows to love New Moon and the people who live in and around it: especially her friends Ilse, Teddy and Perry.
Of course, I couldn't help thinking of the similarities between Emily Byrd Starr and Anne Shirley -- they're both orphans, both writers, both extremely precocious and both tend towards fancy and fantasy. But Anne was an orphan for as long as she could remember, whereas Emily had a good ten years with her father -- so for me, well, you'll all be happy and smug to know that the first fifty pages of this book made me sob. Sob. And Emily has a passion for writing that I never felt from Anne -- Emily needs to write, while I felt that Anne just liked to write. And this is the big one for me -- while I will always love reading about Anne Shirley, I've always thought that in real life I would want to strangle her. Emily, on the other hand, I'd like to be friends with.
She's angrier than Anne, she's more prickly, and I think she has more spark. Part of the reason, I think, is more than just simply personality, but the differences in their childhoods. But now I'm starting to muse about the psychology of fictional characters and nobody needs that from me. Anyway. The scene right at the beginning where she hides under the table to listen to her relatives debate her flaws, merits and ultimately, her fate? Brilliant. And her time with Aunt Nancy, the time she goes to see the priest, her letters to her father, and the mystery of Ilse's mother? All wonderful. I don't know if I've ever despised a teacher quite as much as I despised Miss Brownell. Or a little girl quite as much as Rhoda Stuart.
As for the other characters, I liked Dean Priest but I couldn't help but think that he's a pretty sketchy character for falling in love with an eleven-year-old. (Or was she twelve at that point? I can tell this is a book I'll need to read a few times) I liked Teddy well enough, though I thought he was a bit boring -- but I'm definitely scared of his mother. I loved Perry, of course -- the scene during Emily's bout with the measles where he sat guard on the stairs all night, "fists clenched, as if keeping guard against an unseen foe" just wrecked me. And Isle's insults were AMAZING, and I loved her father. I preferred Aunt Elizabeth to Aunt Laura because Aunt Elizabeth was more interesting, and of course I thought that Cousin Jimmy was a doll.
I dog-eared so many pages with bits I liked that it would make more sense for me to go back and re-read the whole book instead of looking at the specific passages. Yes, I loved Emily. And I can see why so many people prefer her to Anne -- not just Emily vs. Anne, but the world of New Moon and Blair Water vs. the world of Green Gables and Avonlea. We'll see. I may end up being one of them.