Emily of Deep Valley by Maud Hart Lovelace. William Morrow Paperbacks, 2010 (Reprint, orig. 1950). 336 pages.
Reading Level: Young Adult, ages 12-15
Recommended for: Ages 12 and up
Bottom Line: Coming-of-age, romance, and historical fiction is combined in a little-known novel by a classic American author.
While all her classmates are going off to college, Emily Webster is resolved to stay in Deep Valley, Minnesota. An orphan, she lives with her grandfather in an old house at the edge of the marsh.
Bright and intelligent, Emily would love to go to college, but she refuses the idea since it would mean leaving her grandfather. Instead, she settles down to life in Deep Valley.
At first Emily spends much of her time vicariously living through the letters and experiences of her college friends. Quiet among boys, Emily admires one former classmate but remains unnoticed by him.
Slowly however, Emily begins to find her own way, and resolves: “I’m going to fill my winter and I’m going to fill it with something worth while.” Emily sets out to improve herself. In the midst of dancing, cooking, music, and reading, Emily becomes interested in the local Syrian community. She forms new friendships and endeavors to bridge the gap between Deep Valley residents and Syrians. With new friends and a growing social life —both of which increasingly include one young man— Emily flourishes.
Though a knowledge of the Betsy-Tacy series is not required, its readers will enjoy this stand-alone novel. Lovelace returns to Deep Valley two years after the graduation of Betsy Ray, and Emily features cameo appearances from some of the series’ characters.
Occurring in 1912, Emily of Deep Valley is both novel and historical fiction for contemporary readers. Emily is interested in politics, and characters talk about elections, Theodore Roosevelt, and Jane Adams –whom Emily especially admires. Though church attendance and prayers are mentioned, Emily’s efforts are largely her own. (In a way, a reflection of the period and the influence of progressivism.)
Readers who love an old-fashioned story in the vein of Laura Ingalls Wilder’s These Happy Golden Years, must meet Emily Webster of Deep Valley.
Overall Rating: 4.75 out of 5
Worldview Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Artistic Rating: 5 out of 5
Categories: Young Adult, Girls, Fiction, Historical Fiction, History, United States, Romance, Retro Reads