Summary: The second book in the Emily novels, Emily Climbs follows Emily Byrd Starr through her high school years in Shrewsbury living with her Aunt Ruth. Forced by her Aunt Elizabeth to give up writing fiction while she attends school, Emily focuses on climbing the Alpine path by trying to get her poetry and non-fiction works published. Emily feels the sting from Ruth Dutton’s constant barbs and the stream of rejection letters, but her self-confidence remains strong and ultimately buoys her dampened spirit. Some success in the publishing department gains her respect from her family, and Emily is faced with a decision related to her writing that will change her life.
Number of Pages: 325
Age Range: 15-17
Review: I picked the middle novel of the Emily books by Lucy Maud Montgomery because Emily begins at age 13 and grows to age 17 by the end. But if you’ve never read the Emily books, you should start with Emily of New Moon so you can properly fall in love with Emily Byrd Starr, her friends Ilse, Perry and Teddy, and her family, the Murrays.
It has been written that of all her characters, Emily comes the closest to representing Lucy Maud Montgomery. I haven’t read Montgomery’s journals so I’m not sure how close Emily’s and Montgomery’s experiences are, but I feel like Montgomery’s voice is the voice of the narrator, looking over Emily’s life like it is her own and being critical where needed.
Emily, herself, is a character for writers. She inspires and motivates through her fictional trials and triumphs. Writing is so much a part of her that she knows she must give up her opportunity to go to high school when her Aunt Elizabeth tells her she has to stop writing if she wants to go. When Emily needs to make a decision about staying in Canada or going to the United States in pursuit of writing opportunities, Mr. Carpenter gives her a moving speech about maintaining her Canadian tang and flavour even though the money is horrible. I wonder if Montgomery found herself in a similar situation and whether she was happy with her choices.
I love that Montgomery proves to her readers that real people live everywhere. She brings life to small town Prince Edward Island, and I loved reading about how a last name defines your character and scandal can be found in the most innocent situations just from people talking.
Emily is a kindred spirit for female teen writers aspiring to greatness of their own, but I would recommend the Emily novels to anyone looking for a passionate character who continues to believe in herself when the odds and opinions are against her.
“‘But now that I have written it out in my diary I don’t feel so badly over it. Nothing ever seems as big or as terrible – oh, nor as beautiful and grand, either, alas! – when it is written out, as it does when you are thinking or feeling about it. It seems to shrink directly when you put it into words.'” – Emily from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, page 9
“‘The trouble is, Aunt Elizabeth and I have different Gods, that is all. Everybody has a different God, I think. Aunt Ruth’s, for instance, is one that punishes her enemies – sends ‘judgements’ on them. That seems to me to be about all the use He really is to her. Jim Cosgrain uses his to swear by. But Aunt Janey Milburn walks in the light of her God’s countenance, every day, and shines with it.'” – Emily from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, page 13
“‘Emily,’ whispered Teddy, ‘you’re the sweetest girl in the world.’
The words have been said so often by so many millions of lads to so many millions of lasses, that they ought to be worn to tatters. But when you hear them for the first time, in some magic hour of your teens, they are as new and fresh and wondrous as if they had just drifted over the hedges of Eden. Madam, whoever you are, and however old you are, be honest, and admit that the first time you heard those words on the lips of some shy sweetheart, was the great moment of your life.” – from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, page 54
“‘Not that I won’t – it’s just that I can’t,’ said Emily despairingly. She knew Aunt Elizabeth could not understand – Aunt Elizabeth never had understood this. ‘I can’t help writing, Aunt Elizabeth. It’s in my blood. There’s no use in asking me. I do want an education – it isn’t pretending – but I can’t give up my writing to get it. I couldn’t keep such a promise – so what use would there be in making it?'” – Emily from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, page 82
“This time Emily took the doughnut. She might as well have some comfort. Now, you can’t eat doughnuts and remain dramatic. Try it.” – from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, page 145
“She was sufficient unto herself. needing not love nor comradeship nor any human emotion to round out her felicity. Such moments come rarely in any life, but when they do come they are inexpressibly wonderful – as if the finite were for a second infinity – as if humanity were a space uplifted into divinity – as if all ugliness had vanished, leaving only flawless beauty.” – from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, page 177
“‘…she isn’t a Canadian any longer – and that’s what I wanted you to be – pure Canadian through and through, doing something as far as in you lay for literature of your own country, keeping your Canadian tang and flavour. But of course there’s not many dollars in that sort of thing yet.'” – Mr. Carpenter talking to Emily from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, pages 105-106
“‘I’ll create my own atmosphere,’ said Emily, with a trifle of spirit. . . ‘And as for material – people live here just the same as anywhere else – suffer and enjoy and sin and aspire just as they do in New York.'” – Emily from Emily Climbs by Lucy Maud Montgomery, page 310