Emily's Quest: A Virago Modern Classic (Emily Trilogy) by L M Montgomery

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Emily's Quest: A Virago Modern Classic (Emily Trilogy) by L M Montgomery

Category: Teens
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Ruth Ng
Reviewed by Ruth Ng
Summary: The final part of the Emily trilogy is rather dark at times, but it captures Emily's character perfectly, driving you to read on and on to discover how things will turn out for her.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 272 Date: November 2013
Publisher: Virago
ISBN: 978-1844089871

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When I read this book as a teenager (many times over!) I loved Emily's passion for writing, I loved the excitement of all the different events through the story and I loved the happy ending. Coming to the story now, twenty-plus years later, I found the book had a rather different flavour to it. It is, at times, terribly, desperately sad. I was surprised, by a book that is widely regarded as a children's story, at just how bleak Emily's life appears to be, and how traumatic the events in her life are. It is very well written, and I still experienced the same compulsion to read it as I used to find when I was younger, yet even with the final, desperate happy ending that Montgomery manages to squeeze in I was left feeling rather contemplative.

Emily is lonely for much of the story. Whilst she has decided to stay at New Moon and write her friends, Ilse, Perry and Teddy, have all gone away, travelling the world and developing their careers. She begins to feel increasingly distant from all of them and, as a defence, puts on her proud Murray airs which, in turn, alienate her friends from her. She locks herself away in her room, writing and writing, trying not to think about Teddy or how much she loves him. She barely admits this to herself, but she certainly doesn't admit it to anyone else and, as a result, she pushes Teddy away and goes through a large number of unsuitable suitors.

In this book Dean finally makes his bid to win Emily's heart. I already didn't like Dean since he's had an unhealthy interest in a girl much, much younger than him since he first saved her life in Emily of New Moon, but now he declares his feelings for her. But the way in which he wins Emily, by lying to her about how good the novel she's written is, means that he wins her by a lie. Emily, devastated by what she believes to be Dean's honest opinion, burns her book, the first novel she's written, and blinded by emotion she trips and falls on the stairs in a terrible accident which leaves her housebound and unable to walk for many months. Dean is her constant companion after her fall, and as Emily believes that Teddy doesn't love her she finally resolves to marry Dean. She knows she doesn't love him, not in that way, but he is such a good, dear friend that she decides she cannot live without him. I was almost shouting at Emily through this part of the book. She becomes a shadow of herself, giving up her writing, lying to herself and to everyone else about how she feels. I wanted to shake her, to tell her to wake up to herself, and yet I had to just sit back and allow the story play out as it is written.

I see the trilogy as, primarily, a chronicle of Emily's developing career as a writer. She knows, from a young age, what she wants to do and I feel that Montgomery put a lot of herself, of her own writing experiences, into the story which help to make Emily a believable character and the books to be an interesting insight into the compunction writers feel, what it's like to get rejection after rejection, and equally the high of having a piece of writing accepted. I know more about Montgomery's own life now than I did when I first used to read these stories. I know that when she was writing Emily's Quest she stopped writing for a while to move onto a different, lighter story as an escape. I know that she was having emotional and health problems, as was her husband, and that perhaps some of this hardship from her own life seeped into the pages of this story. It certainly isn't light and fluffy. There are moments of humour still, but Montgomery also seems to be conflicted about what she thinks and feels. At times emotions and expressions are dismissed for being 'Victorian', yet at other times this same 'Victorian' attitude is lauded. It feels, too, as if having created Emily as a confident, independent young woman Montgomery wasn't quite sure what to do with her and how and when to marry her off! Dean is unsuitable thanks to how he wins Emily, yet Teddy seems unsatisfactory somehow too. Although he has been set-up throughout the books as Emily's soul-mate his character is rather empty, and at the end there is only a sense of relief when they get together rather than the sweet happiness I felt when Anne and Gilbert finally got together in the Anne series.

Even with my Teddy issues, and with the darker moments of the novel, this is still one of Montgomery's best books I think. It can't be read in isolation - you need to read the trilogy in full otherwise the nuances of Emily's character will be lost. Reading it now it feels less like a children's story and more like an adult novel, but of course there will be other teenage girls who, like me, read it and love Emily the writer, love her moody nature, and enjoy the story on a different level. I think of Montgomery as my comfort-read author, but coming back to Emily now I see that this isn't true of all her novels. I have never come away from reading one of the Anne of Green Gables series of stories without feeling better, but I think Emily is best saved for moments when I'm already feeling pretty chirpy! Montgomery's writing is as good as ever, but it's quite an emotional roller-coaster in this final book.

I'd recommend reading this trilogy in order, so as not to lose anything from the story. Start with Emily of New Moon and then move onto Emily Climbs

Buy Emily's Quest: A Virago Modern Classic (Emily Trilogy) by L M Montgomery at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Emily's Quest: A Virago Modern Classic (Emily Trilogy) by L M Montgomery at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Emily's Quest: A Virago Modern Classic (Emily Trilogy) by L M Montgomery at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Emily's Quest: A Virago Modern Classic (Emily Trilogy) by L M Montgomery at Amazon.com.


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