How precious are Your thoughts to me, O LORD ... how vast is the sum of them!

Friday, October 19, 2012

Book Review: Emily of New Moon

I posted a pretty thorough review on Goodreads. But I still had more to say and discuss about random things in this wonderful book that wouldn’t exactly fit in a regular review. So that’s what a blog is for!

I’ve often sensed that Montgomery’s books are part fantasy - the breathtaking descriptions are other-worldly, the children usually have some belief in fairies, a few character traits are enlarged (usually due to the children’s perspectives), and conversations about lofty subjects frequently pop up. This was true in Emily of New Moon. But, in other aspects of the books, Montgomery has strictly reality-tied themes. The children grow up and things aren’t so fairy-like or menacing as they once were. Very real personal conflicts are a major feature. In Emily of New Moon, for example, Emily’s friends are the gifted set, those who are usually misunderstood by other schoolchildren and relegated to the outside - I was struck with the realness of that situation.

Then there is “the flash” - surely something fantastical, but then again, maybe not. “It had always seemed to Emily … that she was very, very near to a world of wonderful beauty. Between it and herself hung only a thin curtain; she could never draw the curtain aside - but sometimes, just for a moment, a wind fluttered it and then it was as if she had caught a glimpse of the enchanting realm beyond - only a glimpse - and heard a note of unearthly music. … And always, when the flash came to her Emily felt that life was a wonderful, mysterious thing of persistent beauty.” It always inspires her to write something. Later authors have testified said that this type of thing happened to them as well. As a writer, I have experienced something similar, though not so powerful. I see an object or hear a word, and a whole beautiful scene or story bubbles up around it; I love getting to commit to writing what comes to me, but it seldom satisfies me, and those sensations surrounding the thing stay in midair, always to be returned to and longed after but never fully captured.

L. M. Montgomery has the ability to weave together spiritual or ethereal things and physical, everyday things and to show how they all make up a true picture of life. That’s what I love about her.

Here are a couple of quotations that stood out to me:

“‘I hope I’ll have a history,’ cried Emily. ‘I want a thrilling career.’

[Dean Priest said,] “‘We all do, foolish one. Do you know what makes history? Pain - and shame - and rebellion - and bloodshed and heartache. Star, ask yourself how many hearts ached - and broke - to make those crimson and purple pages in history that you find so enthralling. I told you the story of Leonidas and his Spartans the other day. They all had mothers, sisters, and sweethearts. If they could have fought a bloodless battle at the polls wouldn’t it have been - if not so dramatic.’

“‘I - can’t - feel - that way,’ said Emily confusedly. She was not old enough to think or say, as she would ten years later, ‘The heroes of Thermopylae have been an inspiration to humanity for centuries. What squabble around a ballot-box will ever be that?’”

I love it when an author can explain exactly how I feel about a given subject! I know the dramatic, even sad or terrible events of history have immeasurable significance, but I had a hard time pinpointing exactly why until I read this.

“And that fat, black jar of pot-pourri on the mantel - her mother must have compounded it. When Emily lifted the lid a faint spicy odour floated out. The souls of all the roses that had bloomed through many olden summers at New Moon seemed to be prisoned there in a sort of flower purgatory. Something in the haunting, mystical, elusive odour gave Emily the flash - and her room had received its consecration.”

Only L. M. Montgomery!

Now, tell me - what do you think of Emily of New Moon or L. M. Montgomery’s writings in general? If you write, have you ever experienced anything like “the flash”? What are some of your favorite scenes, characters, descriptions, etc., in the Montgomery books?


  1. Interesting review. Montgomery is one of my favorite authors . . . haven't read this book, though.

    I think all writers get "the flash." It's kind of the light-bulb going on in your head idea. My favorite quote from her is pretty prosaic, though. It's when Anne says in frustration "Mrs. Barry is a good woman, but I am not sure God himself would entirely meet with her approval." :P

  2. I love how Montgomery describes "the flash" as something mystical ... it makes me realize how truly profound the gift of writing is. Perhaps all creativity originates in something like a flash. Have you ever read "The Mind of the Maker" by Dorothy L. Sayers? Abigail J. Hartman (The Soldier's Cross) highly recommended it and it sounds like it addresses the sources of creativity. (Among many, many other things!)
    I'd forgotten that quote - a funny, single line that tells us exactly what Mrs. Barry is like.
    Thanks for commenting!

  3. No, I've never read that book! I'm not much into non-fiction--if you read it and give it a very good review, I might consider it. :)