Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace was a book I had wanted to read since it popped up on numerous Christian fiction book blogs in the fall. I had first heard of the Besty-Tacy series ( surprisingly) in You’ve Got Mail: thanks to Meg Ryan’s gorgeous little Shop Around the Corner bookshop!
With the re-issue of many of Lovelace’s books, I really wanted to see what it was all about.
I was not disappointed. In fact, I can’t wait to read more. It is the prime sort of Americana that recalls soda shops and dime stores, parasols and bandstands, fourth of July fireworks and ice skating with your friends. It recalls a time of innocence so grandly painted in Pollyanna and the Music Man. In fact, the years preluding the First World War are a cocoon of splendid innocence and a wonderful setting for a great coming-of-age story.
Emily of Deep Valley made me nostalgic for a time I never lived in and made me steal into a cozy, snow-globed world of sparkle and sunshine and laissez-faire.
Emily is saddened at high school graduation. She feels like she has shut the door on a wonderfully potent part of her life and, due to her ailing grandfather and her inability to go to college as she so desires, she has little in her future to look forward to.
The sacrifice Emily makes to live with her sweet-tempered
( and awfully funny ) Civil war Veteran grandfather is at the heart of the novel and Emily’s core. So many of her flighty high school chums ( to whom a post-secondary education seems wasted amongst the debris of socializing and sororities) have fabulous stories to tell and places to go, Emily must reconcile herself to Deep Valley life.
What Emily lacks for in tangible opportunity, she makes up for in will and resourcefulness. While bound to Deep Valley, she will make the most of a life’s education that those at college could scarcely dream of. Whether it’s volunteering to plow through Browning with a favourite teacher one night a week in literary debate or helping the burgeoning immigrant Syrian community, Emily expands her circle and breaks the boundaries of her high school persona.
Moreover, she meets ( and eventually falls in love ) with a warm-heartedly delightful high school teacher whose interest in Emily stems from her social conviction.
There is a strong sense of social consciousness at the heart of the book: from Emily’s debate subjects to Emily and Jed’s recognizing of the world at the edge of Deep Valley and the immigrant community that expands their horizons.
From the moment Emily wears her hair up for the first time to a fateful New Year’s Dance, Emily establishes herself as a strong-willed, resilient, charitable and delightful heroine. Indeed, Jo March ( of Little Women) would probably have given an approving nod of Emily’s decidedly Pilgrim’s Progress spirit.
I highly recommend this to the Louisa May Alcott, Frances Hodgson Burnett and L M Montgomery sort. The Harper P.S. edition had interesting facts about Maud Hart Lovelace and her illustrator.
My sincere thanks to Harper Collins Canada for an engaging Christmas read!
Thank you for the review, this book sounds WONDERFUL. As a long-time fan of L.M. Montgomery, I'm going to have to get to this book asap...and apparently I'm also going to have to rewatch You've Got Mail 'cause I have NO recollection of the Betsy-Tacy books being mentioned!
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