Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Travel the World: Canada: Emily's Quest (YA, Adult)

Montgomery, L.M. 1927. Emily's Quest. Bantam Books. 228 pages.

"No more cambric tea" had Emily Byrd Starr written in her diary when she had come to New Moon from Shrewsbury, with her high school days behind her and immortality before her.

Emily's Quest is the third and final book in the Emily series by L.M. Montgomery. (My review of Emily of New Moon and Emily Climbs.) And as perhaps fitting, Emily's Quest has a different feel than the first two books. Through the course of Emily's Quest, we see her grow-up completely--from recent high school graduate to mid-twenty-something. It's more sorrowful, more serious, more grown-up. From the bittersweetness of her opening a letter from her 14-year-old self on her twenty-fourth birthday, to her on-again-off-again depression and melancholy. Emily isn't as happy-go-lucky as Anne. One doesn't get the sense that every day is a good day. While Anne may have had her Jonah-days, it seems Emily has months of them. It makes Emily easy to relate to in more than a few ways. Here's someone who is thoroughly human.

Emily's Quest isn't so much about anything in particular as it is about relationships: comings and goings, gains and losses. At the start, we have Emily wishing and hoping that Teddy will tell her he loves her, show her he loves her. When he doesn't, at least not in so many words, then she's disappointed. But her Murray pride keeps her going. If Teddy isn't the one, perhaps then her special someone is still out there somewhere. There are men that come and go in her life certainly. And then there's Dean. The one guy that I hate-to-love and love-to-hate. A middle-aged man who has had his eye on her since she was a young thing--early teens maybe? He's always known that he can't have her. That she's too young for him. That their friendship would be something she'd likely grow out of as she grew up and fell in love. But when Teddy disappoints and an traumatic accident (or two) occurs leading to a very quiet, very still winter where it's just the two of them getting all cozy, then Emily tells him that though she doesn't love him, love him, she'd like to marry him. So they start making plans for the "Disappointed House" which is the house of her dreams.

There are many reasons why her marriage to Dean would be wrong. Many. But one of them is how her relationship to him prohibits her from being herself. Dean has never liked her writing. Always discouraged her. Always told her she couldn't or shouldn't write. But can Emily be Emily without it? If Dean really loves her, shouldn't he love all of her? And then there's the little, incidental fact that Emily still loves Teddy with all her heart and soul.

Emily's Quest is about disappointments and heartaches and wrong turns. It's a novel about second chances and reconciliations as well.

My thoughts on this one: It was hard to know Teddy. Maybe that was just me. Maybe I'm expecting Teddy to be like Gilbert and sweep me off my feet. Maybe Teddy's more reserved and shy than most-romantic-heroes. But I didn't ever get that swooney feeling. I know Emily loves him. But he always seemed too distant for me to love. And that hasn't changed with this reading. Emily is easy to love. Her love of writing, her love of words, the way she can capture the world around her. The way she can describe the people she loves and hates. Even her struggles with depression and melancholy. The way she isolates herself. The way that making-friends isn't all that natural for her. Teddy was an absent hero in this one. The novel follows (roughly speaking) a decade and we only see glimpses of him here and there. He might come home for a few weeks to visit every other year or every two years. But he's not a constant in Emily's life. He doesn't even write letters. And with the fact that he never told her he loves her, it's hard for me to think of him as a great romantic hero. True, he begins to redeem himself in the last few chapters. But still. He's no Gilbert. So don't expect that.

Emily is very introspective. And perhaps I'm just now realizing this. Or maybe I'm misreading the novels. But it seems to be mainly introspection in these later books. It's rare for the books to capture dialogue between characters. In Emily Climbs when Emily is off to school, we rarely see her interacting with her friends and classmates. We're not really a witness to her conversations with Ilse and Perry and Teddy. We get a few with Perry. Especially the late-night-window scene that leads to some trouble. And we get the confrontation with Ilse about the mustache drawing accusation. But we don't see her interact with her peers on a daily basis. We see more of her interacting with her family: Aunt Elizabeth, Aunt Laura, Aunt Ruth, Cousin Jimmy. We see a lot of her interacting with Dean Priest. And then there's that touching scene between her and Mr. Carpenter. But where is Teddy in all of this? He's always off painting or drawing. Or else he's off consoling and reassuring his mother that he loves her best.

© Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews


Zibilee said...

I have been interested in books by L.M. Montgomery for quite some time, but haven't taken the plunge and read one as of yet. Maybe this is the series that I should try. Thanks!

Janssen said...

Teddy's mom is such a loony.

I love these quiet, sweet books.

Toronto Realtor said...

Sounds like a very interesting piece. I'll have to buy the first one and see what's what. Thank you for the tip :)

Take care, Elli

Lindsey said...

Can you believe I have these books and haven't read them? I'm horrible. And I'm the one who is crazy about Anne, too. lol

You've encouraged me to get back to these!