Monday, October 5, 2009

Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace

290 pages
Published 1950, reprinted 2000
Harper Trophy of HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
New York, NY

Emily of Deep Valley is the middle of three books in the Deep Valley series by Maud Hart Lovelace. As was the case with Carney's House Party for some reason I never got around to reading this book when I was reading and later re-reading the Betsy-Tacy series. I was thrilled to find my local library owned a copy as this book has been out of print for several years.

The Plot:
Emily Webster, an orphan living with her grandfather, is not like the other girls her age in Deep Valley, Minnesota. The gulf between Emily and her classmates widens even more when they graduate from Deep Valley High School in 1912. Emily longs to go off to college with everyone else, but she can't leave her grandfather.

Emily resigns herself to facing a "lost winter," but soon decides to stop feeling sorry for herself. And with a new program of study, a growing interest in the Syrian community, and a handsome new teacher at the high school to fill her days, Emily gains more than she ever dreamed... (Summary Courtesy of the Publisher)

My Thoughts:
Although set in the same town as nearly all of the Betsy-Tacy books and the first two Deep Valley books, Emily of Deep Valley is a different type of story. That is to say, it has the basics that readers find typical in the Betsty-Tacy and Deep Valley books (i.e parities and dances, interesting historic details, and of course a host of familiar faces), but it also takes on a deeper, more serious tone. Emily of Deep Valley is a coming-of-age story that is particularly rich in detail, character development, and girl power.

As the reader I really felt for Emily as she struggled through loneliness and broken dreams. And I couldn't help but cheer for Emily as she "musters her wits" and takes on new challenges, reaches out to those around her in love and friendship, and stands for what is right.

Which brings me to the historical detail in this book. There are many cultural and social references, but what really stood out to me was the role that the nearby Syrian community plays in this story. It is a much larger role than was seen in Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill. In Emily of Deep Valley several members of Deep Valley befriend the families from Little Syria and Emily herself sets out a plan to help the women through language and civics classes in her home. While the story doesn't delve into detail about immigration laws and statistics during the early 1900s, it is very clear that Americans were just as much divided in their views of immigration as they are today.

What surprised me was how applicable this story is to readers today. I had no idea when I picked up Emily of Deep Valley that I would be pondering immigration laws, racial and social discrimination, and the like. Who knew that a book written nearly sixty years ago could address and connect the same concerns Americans have today as they had one hundred years ago! I found this fascinating.

My Summary:
Emily of Deep Valley is a gem of a story and a wonderful way to round out the Deep Valley/Betsy-Tacy series. I still have to re-read Betsy and the Great World and Betsy's Wedding, but as this was the last first-time read for me I was rather saddened when I reached the end. I loved the Deep Valley stories. I loved reading about Betsy's, Tacy's, Tib's, Winona's, Carney's, and Emily's worlds. They aren't just fun reads they are books that can stir imagination and self-reflection. There's no hope, I am a life-long fan of Maud Hart Lovelace.

On a scale of 1-5, 1being horrible and 5 being excellent I would rate Emily of Deep Valley a 4.5 to a 5. Although this book is out of print your library may still have a copy from when it was reprinted in 2000. I hope that with the successful reprint of the Betsy-Tacy series, HarperCollins Publishers will reprint the Deep Valley series.

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Click on the links for reviews of related reads:
Betsy-Tacy (Betsy-Tacy series, 1897-1898)
Betsy, Tacy and Tib (BT, 1900-1901)
Winnona's Pony Cart (Deep Valley series, around 1900)
Betsy and Tacy Go Over the Big Hill (BT, 1902)
Betsy and Tacy Go Downtown (BT, 1904-1905)
Heavens to Betsy (BT, 1906-1907)
Betsy in Spite of Herself (BT, 1907-1908)
Betsy Was a Junior (BT, 1908-1909)
Betsy and Joe (BT, 1909-1910)
Carney's House Party (DV, 1911)
Emily of Deep Valley (DV, 1912-1913)
Betsy and the Great World (BT, 1914) -- Review coming soon!
Betsy's Wedding (BT, 1914-1917) -- Review coming soon!

4 comments:

Liz said...

Love, love, LOVE the BTT books. For some reason, though I've read this one, it just does not resonate with me the way the BTT books do. I felt the same way about "Carney's House Party," though at least that book answered the question I'd always had about "whatever happened to Larry Humphreys!"

These are among my all-time favorite books, hands down. Enjoy re-reading the others!

S. Mehrens said...

Liz, I know what you mean. I really enjoyed it, but forever and always the BT series will be my favorite.

Framed said...

I'd never even heard of this author until I came across the challenge. I'll have to check one out at the library.

Magda said...

you can actually buy copies of emily from the betsy tacy society's website... also, they're re-printing Carney and Emily this summer :)