100 Years of Emily of New Moon

Agatha Krzewinski

2023 marked the 100th birthday of the Emily of New Moon book series written by L.M.Montgomery. While the books are one of Montgomery’s lesser-known works, and have remained mostly in the shadow of Anne of Green Gables, it has long been noted by Montgomery and others as her favorite book to write.

In a journal entry dated Feb. 15, 1922, Montgomery notes she finished writing Emily of New Moon in 6 months and wrote,

“the best book I have ever written – and I have had more intense pleasure in writing it than any of the others — not even excepting Green Gables. I have lived it, and I hated to pen the last line and write finis.”

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Kate Macdonald Butler, president of Heirs of L.M. Montgomery Inc., said, “‘Emily of New Moon’ was my grandmother’s favorite book because its autobiographical…there’s a lot of her in that story.”

Montgomery began writing about Emily in 1921, in a time during the aftermath of World War I and the influenza pandemic having just swept through the nation. Montgomery, who had become ill and lost her first cousin and close friend, Frederica Campbell MacFarlane, had just finished writing Rilla of Ingleside.

“I am done with Anne forever — I swear it as a dark and deadly vow. I want to create a new heroine now… Her name is Emily.”

Emily of New Moon follows Emily Byrd Starr, an orphan growing up in Prince Edward Island after her father dies of tuberculosis. Emily is sent to live at New Moon Farm with her two aunts from her deceased mother’s family, kind Aunt Laura Murray, and strict Aunt Elizabeth Murray who does not understand Emily’s need to read and write.

While Emily and Anne are both imaginative orphans sent to a new town and who encounter obstacles in their community, Emily of New Moon deals with darker themes. Emily forms a strong friendship with Ilse Burnley, just like Anne and Diana, but IIse has ablazing temper and is neglected by her father. Emily’s love interest, Teddy Kent, has a controlling mother that is jealous of her son's talents and friends, hating Emily and even poisoning Teddy’s pets.

“Anne has a certain shine we’d all like to bask in,” said Elizabeth Rollins Epperly, founder of the L.M.Montgomery Institute, to the New York Times. “With Emily, we have to swallow some of the bitterness that she does as well… We identify with her, but we also identify that life is not going to be accommodating, rosy and kind.”

Emily of New Moon was published by McClelland and Stewart in 1923 and received a positive reception, but a lukewarm review from The New York Times. While the reporter said Montgomery created a charming character, they also said, “There is little originality in either her plot or her characters.”

Montgomery ended up writing the sequel books Emily Climbs (1925) and Emily’s Quest (1927) adding Emily’s successful writing career and introducing an intriguing love triangle.

"Of course, I’ll have to write several sequels, but they will be more or less hackwork I fear,” Montgomery wrote in her journal.

However, Emily could not keep up with Anne. Driven by popular demand, Montgomery would return to write about Anne with Anne of Windy Poplars (1936) and Anne of Ingleside (1939), following the first film adaptation, Anne of Green Gables (1934).

Emily of New Moon became a longform TV series that aired on the CBC between 1998 – 1999 and 2002-2003. It was developed by longtime Road To Avonlea writer and story editor Marlene Matthews. The series garnered several Canadian Screen Awards and filled in the same time slot previously taken by Road To Avonlea, but several viewers objected to the inclusion of such mature subject matter in Road To Avonlea’s old “Family Hour” slot.


Despite being overlooked for the sunny pastures of Anne of Green Gables, Emily of New Moon still resonates with audiences today, and is perhaps more relevant and timelier than ever.


On November 5, 2019, the BBC News listed Emily of New Moon on its list of the 100 most influential novels.  In 2021, a new audio adaptation of the Emily of New Moon book series was released, narrated by Anne of Green Gables Megan Follows.

And Netflix’s buzzy show, Russian Doll (2019-2022), has been highly noted for making references to Emily of New Moon. The dramedy series centers on Nadia Vulvokov, a fast-talking foul-mouthed New Yorker, who is stuck in a time loop of dying and coming back each time to her 36th birthday party. Just like Emily, Nadia had an unstable mother, and grew up with her adoptive Aunt, Ruth.

"We knew that we wanted a book that meant a lot to the character Nadia, who has seen a lot of tough things and had a tough childhood," producer and writer Allison Silverman told the CBC.

In the fifth episode, Nadia attempts to correct her past by giving a copy of the book Emily of New Moon to her ex-boyfriend’s daughter. She ends up finding the book in her Aunt Ruth’s apartment.

"Bingo," says Nadia and picks up the paperback copy. 
"You know that was written by the same woman who wrote Anne of Green Gables?" Aunt Ruth says.
"Yeah of course. Everybody loves Anne. But I like Emily. She's dark."


Emily of New Moon(1998–1999, 2002–2003 television series)  | L.M. Montgomery Online (lmmonline.org)


Emily of New Moon Read Along: Chapter I: The House in the Hollow | L. M. Montgomery Institute (lmmontgomery.ca)
Emily of New Moon by L.M. Montgomery | Bag Full Of Books


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