I like this one:
This can be a quick one. Don’t take too long to think about it. Fifteen books you’ve read that will always stick with you. First fifteen you can recall in no more than 15 minutes.
So here are my fifteen books that will always stick with me, more or less in the order in which they entered my life:
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
Emily Climbs, L.M .Montgomery
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
Macbeth, William Shakespeare
The Chosen, Chaim Potok
The Color Purple, Alice Walker
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, J.K. Rowling
Greensleeves, Eloise Jarvis McGraw
American Gods, Neil Gaiman
The Invention of Love, Tom Stoppard
I Capture the Castle, Dodie Smith
Showings, Julian of Norwich
The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver
The Ground Beneath Her Feet, Salman Rushdie
These are all books that left me breathless. Is that what we were after?
A really sad story: One time when I was in England I developed this mad craving to read all the Emily of New Moon books, so I went to great trouble to obtain them. As things ended up, I had the first two on loan, and the third one I bought at a charity shop, so I read the first two lickety-split and returned them, at which point my yearning to read Emily’s Quest surpassed all imagining. At this point it was late May, I think. I was into exams and all. And I had the bright idea – being a hardcore delayed gratification girl – of delaying gratification with Emily’s Quest, taking the book with me on the airplane home and reading it then, at which point it would be incredibly satisfying because I would have been craving it all the while in the interim. But by the time the flight home rolled around, my primary emotions were excitement about seeing my family and soul-deep joy at the existence of my hat (oh, my lovely Ascot hat), and I was sort of no longer in the mood to read Emily’s Quest.
Well, never mind. Here we are a year on, and I really enjoyed it a lot this go-round. Teddy’s still boring, bless him. I don’t know why L.M. Montgomery can’t write any interesting romantic leads. All Teddy has going for him is that he draws pretty pictures. Lame. Not that she should have married Dean, but she maybe should have married that author guy who came and proposed to her and hurled a goblet at her.
The other thing I noticed this time – I was saying this to my mum – is that it’s funny how the main plotline throughout the series is Emily’s writing, and that’s the thing that drives everything else really, but she publishes her novel well before the end of the book. The book only ends when she gets together with Teddy (at last). Her man. And I was saying it like those girls in The Ten Commandments. And it’s sooooorta antifeminist, and you’d be hearing me complain about it with much greater anger if not for the fact that I remembered this: If the book had ended after Emily published her book (I don’t approve of the title The Moral of the Rose, by the way), we would never have had all those reviews, and that’s one of my favorite bits in all three books.
And you know what? DEAN PRIEST JUST SUCKS SHIT. The end.
One of my favorite lines in all of literature happens in Emily Climbs:
“Of course,” said Mrs. Ann Cyrilla, “I think a great many of Emily’s faults come from her intimacy with Ilse Burnley. She shouldn’t be allowed to run about with Ilse as she does. Why, they say Ilse is as much an infidel as her father….She swears like a trooper, I’m told. Mrs. Mark Burns was in [her father’s] office one day and heard Ilse in the parlor say distinctly ‘out, damned Spot!’ probably to the dog.”
Oh God. That’s as good as anything Valancy says in that dinner with her family in The Blue Castle. I never read Macbeth without thinking of Ilse Burnley.
You wouldn’t say that Emily Climbs was long on plot. She does things that shock people even though she is perfectly innocent and reasonable in the matter, and she tries to get things published, and her family is frustrating and supportive by turns, and she has a lovable cast of friends plus boring Teddy, and she likes pretty things. I can’t say what it is about this book that appeals to me so much. It’s just charming and friendly and amusing. It’s episodic but the episodes are interesting.
And, ugh, I don’t like it when Dean teases her about her writing. What a jerk! How mean he is! How could anyone do such a mean thing? That enormous prat! He may be more interesting than Teddy, but what a humongous selfish jerk telling her bad things about her stories when they are indeed very good! Whatever. I want to like Dean because he gives Emily new books to read, and I try to shut down those parts of my mind that are screaming “Humbert Humbert” and “that surely untrue but still creepy story about Alfred Douglas going to visit Oscar Wilde with Andre Gide and telling Gide that Oscar Wilde’s kid Cyril ‘will be for me’ (ew! ew! I know it’s apocryphal but ew, ew, ew, ew!)”; anyway I try to shut down those parts of my mind and focus on Tom Lynn and Polly or Jane and Mr. Rochester, who undoubtedly lived happily ever afterwards to the end of their days, but it’s impossible to be friends with Dean given his unconscionable behavior as regards Emily’s writing. And I shouldn’t even be getting all het up yet because he hasn’t done the really super duper unconscionable thing that he does in Emily’s Quest.
That bastard. I never forgave him for that.
I wish I had that old copy like I have of Emily of New Moon. The one with the cover where she is smelling a flower and it’s all greeny. That’s a better cover than the one I’ve got. On the one I’ve got Emily just looks really blah. But still, if you are ever near Emily Climbs, in any edition, read it. It’s friendly.
When my life gets stressful, I don’t read new books. Hence I am rereading a bunch of old things. The Color Purple and now all of L.M. Montgomery’s Emily books.
I have to confess that I don’t understand the undying allure of Anne of Green Gables. I don’t dislike those books or anything, but I can totally live without them – and God, how boring is Gilbert? Is it just me? Isn’t Gilbert dull? Don’t we all sort of want to chuck Gilbert off a cliff? When I was a little girl I read Anne of Green Gables and stopped and I nearly went off LM Montgomery for life. Happily my mother said I should try reading Emily of New Moon, and I did, and it was brilliant.
It’s still brilliant. I totally love it. I like all the bits where people tell Emily she’s a good writer. I know it’s silly, but I always read those bits several times when I’m reading these books, and they always make me smile. I actually only just made that connection: I knew there were bits I reread a lot, but I just realized this minute that they were all the bits with people telling Emily she’s a good writer. In my mind they were just the Father Cassidy bit and the Mr. Carpenter bit, but of course, that’s what’s going on there. Huh.
Well, anyway, Emily of New Moon is one of my favorite books ever. I will soon post happy posts about the two sequels and how much joy they give me.
While I’m on the subject, though, I have to say this: There are a whole bunch of books by L.M. Montgomery that are way better than those Anne Shirley books. The three books about Emily Starr are better, and Jane of Lantern Hill is substantially better, and The Blue Castle is ten thousand bazillion times better and contains a scene that is one of the best scenes of all time and always makes me laugh no matter how often I read it. So if you have only read the Anne books, you are missing out like whoa. And even if you don’t think the other books are better, they are definitely worth reading – the aforementioned ones are all good, and A Tangled Web is very delightful and I have it in hardback.