Questing with Emily of New Moon

Emily's QuestFinishing out my reviews of the Emily of New Moon trilogy by L. M. Montgomery, today is Emily’s Quest!

Book Three sees Emily back home at New Moon, continuing to pursue her writing.  Love-interest Teddy becomes a much more driving force in this volume, not so much in his presence as in his absence.  Emily and Teddy are driven apart through a series of circumstances and misunderstandings, and even though it’s sometimes far-fetched or conveniently coincidental, Montgomery grounds everything in such genuine emotion and human nature that I’m willing to go along with her.  Example: Teddy’s mother plays a convenient role in derailing their romance, but it’s so based in who she is as a character that I completely believe it.

Another strand of the plot is Dean Priest, Teddy’s only serious romantic rival.  He’s an odd one, as he’s likable and sympathetic in some ways, but I keep running up against the problem that he’s far too old for Emily.  This might be workable, except that it gets squickier because he harbors romantic feelings for Emily starting when she’s eleven, and is waiting for her to grow up.  On the other hand–Dean seems to realize this is all a little weird, and that he’s too old for her–which possibly should make matters worse but actually seems to help.  The realization comes with a strong overtone that he’s never, ever, ever going to do anything inappropriate, which makes it all a little less uncomfortable.

Although just as the Dean/Emily romance seems like a maybe, then he does some absolutely reprehensible things in the area of her writing, and I know some people have some very strong Dean-hatred as a consequence…  Personally, I think he’s a little like Mad Mr. Morrison from the previous book, in that Montgomery gives us just enough of how Dean sees the situation, and himself, that I end up feeling more sorry for him than angry.  Though it was reprehensible, and directly responsible for a lot of the sadder parts of the book.

Emily’s Quest was written directly after The Blue Castle, and it’s fascinating to look at Valancy’s blossoming from empty stagnation into a vibrant confidence and enthusiasm for life, compared with Emily’s vibrant youth and apparent path towards an emptier adulthood.

Emily is anguished at some points, and there are long stretches where she faces a very bleak future–and somehow that bleakness seemed even more affecting than the sharper pains.  As far as I can remember, the last time I read this I saw it as a pretty standard true-love-never-runs-smooth story where the point was to get through the travails to the happy ending.  This time I was really struck by all that’s being explored by those sections of darkness.  Maybe it’s just the effect of being older–maybe it’s because I read Montgomery’s journals and know exactly what she was drawing from to write these sections.  Either way, I found the book deeply moving on this read.

And for those who are worried…it’s worth noting that Emily believes in always giving her stories happy endings, and she’s a very autobiographical character. 😉

I feel like I’m making something of a litany of dark dark dark in these reviews!  But it’s so different from how Montgomery is usually viewed that I think it’s worth emphasizing.  And there is still soul-stirring beauty and occasional humor too.  If you really just want sunshine, then by all means, read Anne of Green Gables.  But if you want a few shadows to contrast with the light, then I highly recommend the Emily trilogy.

Other reviews:
Becky’s Book Reviews
Bookshelves of Doom
Jade Sanctum
Anyone else?

Buy it here: Emily’s Quest

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