I’ve been rereading my way through the Betsy-Tacy series by Maud Hart Lovelace lately, starting with Betsy-Tacy when they’re five years old and on up to Betsy’s Wedding. I might write about the whole series some other time, but right now I want to write about one of the companion books. Ten of the books focus on Betsy (and friend Tacy), two focus on close friends of Betsy, and just one focuses on an entirely separate character who happens to live in the same small town and share a few acquaintances. And that one, oddly enough, may be my favorite.
Emily of Deep Valley starts when Emily graduates from high school (a few years behind Betsy, for those who are keeping track at home). She has always been a bit separate from her peers, an orphan living out near the slough with her grandfather. Now all her acquaintances are setting off for college while she has to remain in Deep Valley, feeling adrift with no purpose or future.
Deep Valley is the most charming of small towns. The series is set in the early 1900s, with a distinctly nostalgic and idyllic view of the time. Other books can explore class and gender and social issues of the time, but the Betsy-Tacy books are just an innocent delight. And fairly progressive in their way, as Betsy dreams of a career as a writer, and Emily feels that she needs a purpose beyond caring for her grandfather.
Of course the book ends up being about Emily finding her purpose, her confidence and a belief in herself. She’s not like Emily of New Moon (or Betsy) with her sure flame of belief in what she’s meant to do in life. This Emily has to find her way, an ordinary girl who sets out simply to help some people in her community, and to explore a few interests
That’s what I love about this book. It’s a coming of age story without trauma, a quest for meaning without traveling anywhere, a story about finding oneself without needing to find out that one is anything unusually gifted or extraordinary. And it’s just lovely.
There is a romantic element in this book, but it felt very secondary to Emily’s personal growth. Her love interest doesn’t come in until very late in the book, and her romance is an effect of her growth more than it is a cause. Which feels perfect, although it is a quite sweet romance too.
It’s actually a very sweet series overall. But this particular installment has a little more depth to it, a little more character exploration…while being a lovely delight of a book too.
Author’s Site: http://www.maudhartlovelace.org/
Buy it here: Emily of Deep Valley