How not to translate Dante, Part II

Since Black Friday and Cyber Monday are coming up, I’m looking forward to adding some more Divine Comedy translations to my collection. The ones I want most are by Allen Mandlebaum, John Ciardi, and Thomas Bergin (the lattermost unfortunately appearing to be out of print). There are also a few others I’m interested in, like Robin Kirkpatrick, Robert and Jean Hollander, and, until recently, Clive James.

I pulled up the Amazon preview of the James translation for a recent vlog which included a compare and contrast of thirteen versions of the famous opening twelve lines, and didn’t think it was that bad. But when I later read further in the preview, I discovered many shocking divergences from the original Italian, among them large chunks of entirely invented lines.

Knowing Canto I of Inferno by heart in the original Medieval Florentine Tuscan really comes in handy when deciding if I’d like to buy a translation. It makes it so easy to tell when the translator is staying true to the original, indulging in some gently creative liberties within reason (to stick to iambic pentameter or a rhyme scheme, or to enhance the emotional, dramatic, or visual impact), or just outright inventing things to look hip, modern, creative.

Mr. James falls into the lattermost category. He also employs the annoying habit I thought was consigned to the rubbish bin—using old-fashioned words like yonder, whereat, and aught else. Dante wrote in the vernacular, the language of the common people, not a flowery, pretentious, archaic, musty style. At least Mr. James didn’t use Elizabethan English like Longfellow and Laurence Binyon.

Ironically, he also peppers the text with contemporary phrases and slang, like “enough said” and “chilled with the shakes.”

Mr. James uses no footnotes, which are kind of really important in any translation worth its salt. While you certainly can read the Commedia without any outside study or explanatory notes, that makes it much harder to fully understand many important things. You can use your own judgment as to whether you want to interrupt your reading by constantly looking down at footnotes or flipping to the notes section, read each canto without footnotes and then reread it with footnotes, read the footnotes first and then read the canto, or any approach you feel most comfortable with.

However, Mr. James does manage to convey information normally found in footnotes in another way—directly inserting it into the text. E.g., he point-blank tells us the believed symbolism of the three beasts in Canto I of Inferno, when Dante never explicitly stated anything to that effect. That’s as annoying as an English teacher overanalyzing every last word!

All these extra lines serve to make the poem thrice as long.

This is one of the reasons I dislike the Gutnick Chumash, a Torah translation and commentary found in some Orthodox synagogues. They insert stories and interpretations from the Midrash right into the text, never mind that’s nowhere in the Torah. The Midrash is a collection of rabbinic interpretations, reimaginings, and explanations of the Torah, including fantasy, folklore, and politically-motivated claims like slander of Yishmael and Esau.  Sorry, nothing will ever make me believe, e.g., Rebecca married Isaac when she was three and he was forty, nor that Esau was practically Hitler.

This translation feels in some ways like a Divine Comedy for reluctant readers, since a lot of sentences are so short and staccato. Take, for example, Virgil’s first lines:

“No, not a man. Not now.
I was once, though. A Lombard. Parents born
In Mantua. Both born there.” That was how
His words emerged: as if with slow care torn,
Like pages of a book soaked shut by time,
From his clogged throat. “Caesar was getting on
When I was young. That’s Julius. A crime,
His death. Then, after he was gone,
I lived in Rome. The good Augustus reigned.
The gods were cheats and liars. As for me,
I was a poet.” He grew less constrained
In speech, as if trade talk brought fluency.
“I sang about Anchises’ son, the just
Aeneas, proud, peerless. When proud Troy
Was burnt to ashes, ashes turned to dust
Which he shook off his feet, that marvellous boy.
He did what any decent hero must:
Set sail.”

A speech that occupies nine lines in the Italian is bloated to eighteen, twice the original length!

Mr. James was a poet, literary critic, novelist, TV personality, and songwriter, NOT a scholar of Dante studies, Medieval history, or Italian literature. I most trust translations by people who’ve been passionately immersed in a subject for years, for the same reason I go to professional body piercers instead of tattoo artists offering piercings on the side or sketchy characters working out of a van down by the river.

A sobering, provocative look at antisemitism

I was alerted to this book by Jewish Twitter soon after its release, and read many positive reviews and impressions. It was also mentioned by one of the rabbis at the synagogue I livestream services from (seeing as how I’ve been unable to go to shul in person since lockdown began in March 2020). Many of these people brought up Ms. Horn’s sobering statement that more people can name three death camps than three Yiddish writers.

The twelve essays in this volume make painfully clear how many Gentiles, often without doing this on purpose or being consciously aware of it, only know about us through the Shoah and visiting heritage sites in places whose Jewish community has long since vanished. In other words, they know a lot about dead Jews, but not living Jews (either past or present).

We also have to contend with Gentiles goysplaining antisemitism to us, lying about Jewish history (particularly our indigenous connection to Eretz Yisrael and the Hebrew language), happily believing any false information they hear because it’s wrapped up in the guise of wokeness, only listening to fringe tokens instead of proud, committed Jews, and trying to gaslight us.

I’m still angry at the fellow writer and former virtual friend who soft-blocked me on Instagram in May because I shared so many stories calling out antisemitism and supporting Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish homeland and to defend itself against terrorism. She was sharing stories with the exact opposite message. The end of our virtual friendship isn’t much of a loss, though, since she’s gone full woke over the last few years, and is the kind of clown who gets off on virtue-signalling by putting freaking pronouns in her screen name.

The new woke antisemitism comes straight from the Soviet Union’s playbook.

Ms. Horn’s first chapter, “Everyone’s (Second) Favorite Dead Jew,” opens by talking about how an employee of the Anne Frank House was told not to wear a kipah to work in 2018. The previous year, visitors noticed Hebrew was the only language in the audio-guide displays without a national flag next to it.

The rest of the chapter discusses how Anne’s diary has been so popular and palatable to the masses largely because it’s not about the Shoah at all. Had Anne lived and written about her experience in the camps, it’s doubtful she would’ve found such a receptive audience. She also wrote the famous line about everyone being good at heart before she met people who weren’t good.

The next-best-known Shoah memoir, Elie Wiesel’s Night, is full of rage in the original Yiddish. Only after it was published in French and transformed into a story of theological angst did it gain notice. In other  words, many Gentiles look to Shoah memoirs for feel-good inspiration, and are deeply uncomfortable when they don’t follow that socially-acceptable mold.

Chapter Two, “Frozen Jews,” concerns the history of Harbin, China, which had a large, flourishing Jewish community from 1898 till the 1950s. The last Jewish family left in 1962, and Harbin’s last Jew died in 1985. Though many Harbintsy fondly recall their lives in the city, there were also many pogroms, particularly after White Russian refugees arrived in 1919 and brought their violent antisemitism with them. Among their vile acts was burning a synagogue. The city’s golden age lasted less than one generation. Then came the Japanese occupation, and the situation became even worse. Many people viewed immigration as inevitable because of how difficult life was.

Now Harbin’s remaining synagogue is a typical heritage site paying homage to the former Jewish community, with no mention of just why everyone left. The displays also only have photos of and captions about the minority of rich and bourgeois residents, not the poor and proletarian majority who could only dream of servants and grand society events.

Chapter Four, “Executed Jews,” talks about the Soviet Union’s persecution and eventual purging of Jewish writers, artists, actors, and playwrights. They were allowed to remain at liberty after Stalin’s crackdown on Yiddish only because they served as useful tokens. Basically, classic Chanukah antisemitism as opposed to Purim antisemitism. Chanukah antisemitism purports to like and respect us, but demands we dutifully assimilate and abandon our faith and culture. Purim antisemitism openly declares its belief that we’re inferior and intent to murder us.

Chapter Five, “Fictional Dead Jews,” discusses the differences between Jewish and Gentile literature. Traditionally, many Jewish novels end without an uplifting, redemptive happy ending, but instead are morally ambiguous or even depressing. Given Jewish history, it’s easy to see why. I got a lot of great authors and books to add to my TBR list from this chapter.

Chapter Six, “Legends of Dead Jews,” discusses the urban myth about surnames being changed at Ellis Island. A lot of people react with anger and disbelief when they’re presented with undeniable historical and documentary proof that this never happened. They cherish their family stories about stupid clerks changing the spelling or inventing an entirely new name.

What really happened was that many immigrants felt compelled to change their obviously Jewish names due to systemic, institutionalized antisemitism. Other groups of immigrants, like Italians, Greeks, Germans, and Ukrainians, typically kept their names, or at most changed the spelling to make the pronunciation more obvious or look a bit less foreign. Jewish name-changers routinely cited difficulties in finding jobs, being accepted at schools, being allowed to stay at hotels, and housing.

They also claimed their names were unpatriotic, too foreign, uneuphonius, cumbersome, annoying, uncomfortable, hard to spell and pronounce, embarrassing, and a hindrance to employment, education, social acceptance, and housing. Rarely did they cite the clear culprit, antisemitism. The only name-changers who mentioned this were Christians with Jewish-sounding names. Instead of challenging this unfair system, they submitted to it.

Chapter Eight, “On Rescuing Jews and Others,” is by far the longest. I was surprised Ms. Horn believes barely anyone has heard of Varian Fry, one of only five Americans to date honored by Yad Vashem as Righteous Among the Nations. I’ve known about him for years, even if I didn’t know so many details until now. Mr. Fry rescued several thousand people from his base of operations in France, including many famous artists, writers, and intellectuals such as Marc Chagall and Franz Werfel.

Chapter Nine, “Dead Jews of the Desert,” discusses Diarna, a virtual museum documenting vanished Jewish communities primarily in the Middle East and Southwest Asia. Diarna is a Judeo-Arabic word meaning “our homes.” Some of the synagogues and other places documented have now been destroyed by wars, like the gorgeous 500-year-old synagogue of Damascus. Due to Ashkenazocentrism, many people don’t know what a huge, vibrant Jewish presence there was in this part of the world until the ethnic cleansing following WWII. Jews living in Muslim lands were also subject to dhimmitude, a legal, humiliating second-class status.

Chapter Ten, “Blockbuster Dead Jews,” is about Shoah museums and the travelling exhibit Auschwitz: Not Long Ago, Not Far Away. Ms. Horn was very uncomfortable with this exhibit because it once again ultimately used the Shoah as a lesson about love and feel-good inspiration. All these museums, which do wonderful work, also tend to reduce Jewish history and our people to the Shoah, and leave out testimonies soaked with rage at all the bystanders and collaborators.

Chapter Eleven, “Commuting with Shylock,” is obviously about The Merchant of Venice, and explores the cruel reality of Venetian Jewish history. Ms. Horn found that people who critique the play as irredeemably antisemitic are called whiny, vulgar, censors, and too PC, and of course have antisemitism goysplained to them, while Jewish scholars who declare it nuanced or not at all offensive are lovingly praised.

Chapters Three, Seven, and Twelve discuss the shooting attacks on U.S. synagogues in recent years. The final of these “Dead American Jews” chapters reveals the shocking fact that many news stories about the attack on the Jersey City kosher grocery defended the shooters’ motives. They were just angry and frustrated about gentrification, school zoning, and Chasidic Jews moving in. Yet these news outlets never justify hate crime attacks on Black churches, gay nightclubs, and stores with a big Latino customer base, nor do they show sympathy for the murderers.

Ms. Horn concludes by talking about Daf Yomi, the worldwide Talmud study group that studies one page (back and front) of Talmud every day. When this study cycle ends after seven years, there are huge celebrations, and then it starts all over again. I would love to start participating when the next cycle starts in 2027.

I highly recommend this book to everyone. Many of the insights might make Gentiles uncomfortable, but these are important conversations we need to have for the sake of healthy, positive interfaith relations. Oh, and read more Yiddish and Hebrew literature!

A shallow soap opera in the late 1940s

Not Our Kind by Kitty Zeldis

This book was recommended to me by a library computer while I was searching for Dara Horn’s recent essay collection, the provocatively-titled People Love Dead Jews, as a similar book. Since it was in that very library, and the blurb made it sound right up my alley, I went to look for it and assumed I’d love it.

In 1947, while running late to a job interview, 25-year-old Eleanor Moskowitz’s taxi is rear-ended by another taxi in bottleneck traffic, caused by Pres. Truman’s visit to the city. Because Eleanor suffers an injury to her face, and because cops get involved after the cabbies start arguing, she’s unable to go to the interview.

However, the woman in the other taxi, Patricia Bellamy, invites Eleanor to her glamourous Park Avenue apartment to calm down. Patricia does have some belated misgivings after she hears Eleanor’s obviously Jewish surname, but feels it would be poor manners to rescind the invitation.

When Eleanor arrives at the apartment, she meets Patricia’s only child, 13-year-old Margaux, a polio survivor. Margaux is very understandably bitter, angry, and surly on account of her long illness and being left with a withered leg. But for some reason, she’s instantly drawn to Eleanor, and begs for Eleanor to become her tutor. Eleanor previously worked as a teacher, but resigned when the principal refused to punish a girl for plagiarism. She was also romantically involved with another teacher, and found it awkward to be around him after he started going out with the school’s third Jewish teacher.

Eleanor isn’t too sure about the prospect of being Margaux’s tutor, but ultimately agrees to do it. Prior to accepting the offer, she went to an unemployment agency and was advised by the woman who saw her, Rita Burns, to change her surname to something less obviously Jewish, like Moss or Morse, so her résumé wouldn’t be automatically thrown away. Miss Burns says she knows what she’s talking about, since her real name is Rachel Bernstein.

Because the Bellamys’ building is restricted, Eleanor indeed ends up pretending to have the surname Moss when she announces herself to the doorman. This charade continues when she joins the Bellamys at their summer home in Argyle, Connecticut.

And it’s in Argyle where all the trouble begins.

Patricia’s Bohemian playboy brother Tom arrives for a visit, and he and Eleanor feel an immediate attraction. For many compelling reasons, Patricia is quite alarmed to discover their romantic feelings, and even more upset when she discovers Eleanor was in Tom’s bed. Not only is Eleanor her employee and expected to set a good example for Margaux, but she’s also a good thirteen years younger than Tom and of a different religion and social class. Tom is also notorious for his string of broken hearts and endless affairs, one of which ended with the woman having an abortion.

Also angry is Patricia’s husband Wynn, whose many terrible qualities include antisemitism, sexual predation, drunkenness, classism, poor anger management, lack of success in his law firm, and hatred of modern art. He blames Eleanor for the increasing strain in his marriage, and will stop at nothing to let her know who’s boss and what he really thinks of her.

And when Wynn crosses that line, everyone’s lives are sent into even more of a tailspin.

Overall, I was really disappointed in this book. While Ms. Zeldis does a superb job of describing things like interior decoration, architecture, clothes, and Manhattan streetscapes of the era, the characters all seemed kind of flat and shallow. I never truly felt in anyone’s head, and the narration is rather telly instead of trusting readers to discern things for themselves.

This book also follows the annoying trend of alternating POV characters every other chapter, except for one time where two chapters in a row are in Patricia’s POV. Thus, many times the revelation or cliffhanger than ends a chapter isn’t followed up at all, or the resulting reactions and events are relayed later instead of shown as they actually happen. God forbid you use third-person omniscient in a book with more than one main character!

I also wished there’d been more development of Eleanor’s relationship with Margaux and their lessons. And without giving anything away, there’s a really convenient deus ex machina plot development for one of the storylines. I agree with reviewers who feel this is a YA book that just happens to have adult characters.

I was hoping for a more thorough, engrossing exploration of the institutionalized, systemic antisemitism which continued even after the Shoah, not just alternatingly heavy-handed and minor mentions every so often. Eleanor is very secular and assimilated, with almost no connection to either religious or cultural aspects of Judaism. It feels so out of character when she visits a mikvah, not to mention contrary to norms of halacha (Jewish law).

Obviously, antisemites don’t care how religious or secular someone is, but Eleanor never demonstrates a strong or believable Jewish identity. The distinction between her and the Bellamys feels more believably based on class instead of religion.

Also, her relationship with Tom and their supposed chemistry never felt believable to me, coupled with how rare and scandalous interdating and intermarriage were in that era. Eleanor only thinks about how she’ll be excluded from Tom’s Gentile world, not about things like how they’d raise potential kids.

The treatment of premarital sex also felt a bit unrealistic and ahistorical. Outside of really Bohemian types, which Eleanor isn’t depicted as, it was generally only done by couples planning to marry anyway in this era. Not couples only thinking of a good time and unsure of their relationship’s future.

And did I mention the book just kind of ends in media res?

Artwork of The Divine Comedy

In July, I spotlighted seven artists who illustrated The Divine Comedy, either in full or for one canticle. Now let’s look at some standalone art. Many of these pieces have been used in my Dantean posts.

Joseph Anton Koch, an Austrian-born painter of the Neoclassical and German Romantic schools, did four frescoes in Rome’s Casino di Villa Massimo, in what is now called the Dante Room, from 1827–29. The first fresco is entitled Dante nella Selva con le Fiere e Virgilio (Dante in the Forest with the Beasts and Virgil). Though the word fiere means “fairs” in Modern Italian, Dante used it to mean “beasts.”

The next fresco depicts Inferno as a whole, with illustrations of a few major episodes (e.g., the neutrals in Ante-Inferno, Charon with his ferry across Acheron, Minòs, Dante and Virgil on Geryon, Agnèl being turned into a snake, Francesca and Paolo, Cerberus, Count Ugolino).

All frescoes of Inferno copyright Sailko.

Koch’s third fresco, La Nave del Purgatorio, depicts Canto IX, one of my all-time favouritest in the book, at the top. There’s so much power, beauty, emotion, and tension jam-packed into its 145 lines. At the bottom is a boat of souls arriving in Purgatory. The right tells the story of Buonconte da Montefeltro, who died in battle and was fought over by the Devil and an angel. On the left are two angels vanquishing sin in the form of a snake.

Copyright Sailko.

Koch’s final fresco depicts souls from all seven terraces of Purgatory. The poem’s dramatic midway point, Canto XVI, is also shown, as Dante clings to Virgil in a thick, blinding cloud of smoke. Among the historical figures are Pope Adrian V and King Hugh Capet of France (my 34-greats-grandpap).

The ceiling, I Cieli dei Beati e l’Empireo (The Heavens of the Blessed and the Empyrean), was done by German Romantic painter Philipp Veit, and depicts Paradiso as a whole. People who appear here include Piccarda Donati, Empress Constance of Altavilla, Byzantine Emperor Justinian, Rahab of the Bible, St. Thomas Aquinas, Dante’s great-great-grandpap Cacciaguida, Roman Emperor Trajan, King David, St. Benedict of Nursia, St. Peter, St. John the Evangelist, Adam, St. Bernard of Clairvaux, and Mary.

All closeups copyright Sailko.

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Jumping back to Canto I of Inferno, here we have French landscape and portrait painter Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot’s 1859 work Dante et Virgile. Monsieur Corot (who was creepily, unhealthily co-dependent on and joined at the hip with his parents until his fifties) presented this shortly after he did it, but then forgot about it for years. When he ran across it in his studio, he told a friend, “Why, it’s superb; I can hardly imagine that I myself did that!” Today it’s in the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, which means I probably saw it at least once.

Dutch–French Romantic painter Ary Scheffer did at least six versions of this artwork, Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta Appraised by Dante and Virgil, from 1822–55. The oil painting is known by various titles—Les ombres de Francesca da Rimini et de Paolo Malatesta apparaissent à Dante et à Virgile (The Louvre); De gedaantes van Paolo en Francesca aanschouwd door Dante en VergiliusThe Ghosts/Shades/Shadows of Francesca de Rimini and Paolo Malatesta Appear to Dante and VirgilDante and Virgil Encountering the Shades of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo Malatesta in the Underworld (Pittsburgh); Dante and Virgil Meeting the Shades of Francesca da Rimini and Paolo (Cleveland).

Here’s one I haven’t shown yet, La Barque de Dante, aka Dante et Virgile aux enfers (1855), the first major work by French artist Eugène Delacroix. It depicts Canto VIII of Inferno, as Phlegyas ferries Dante and Virgil across the River Styx, the City of Dis in the background. Today it hangs in the Louvre.

Between 1853–58, Édoard Manet did two copies of this painting, now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in NYC.

Italian painter Domenico Morelli (1823–1901) did this artwork, Dante e Virgilio nel Purgatorio, possibly around 1855. It depicts Canto II, as a light-enshrouded boat of newly-deceased souls draws close to the Mount of Purgatory, guided by an angel. In 1845, he did another piece drawn from the Commedia, L’angelo che Porta le Anime al Purgatorio Dantesco, which won an award. For the life of me, I’ve been unable to locate this other painting!

Here we see French painter Jean-Hippolyte Flandrin’s Le Dante, conduit par Virgile, offre des consolations aux âmes des envieux (Dante, led by Virgil, offers consolations to the souls of the envious) (1835). It depicts the Second Terrace of Purgatory in Canto XIII. I particularly like the look of compassion on Virgil’s face.

This painting is now in the Museum of Fine Arts in Lyon.

Pre-Raphaelite Greek–British painter Marie Spartali Stillman did many Dantean subjects, such as this 1887 work, Dante’s Vision of Leah and Rachel, depicting Dante’s third and final dream in Purgatorio. In the Earthly Paradise (i.e., the Garden of Eden) on top of the mountain, in Canto XXVII, he dreams of Leah gathering flowers by the river while Rachel gazes into the water.

And finally we have German painter Carl Wilhelm Friedrich Oesterley’s 1845 work Dante and Beatrice, depicting their contentious reunion in Canto XXX of Purgatorio. Dante is so overcome with shame and remorse, he’s unable to look her in the face.

And what do you know! By hashgacha pratit (Divine Providence), nine artists were featured, representing Dante’s lucky number!

When the parade goes by without you

While I’d still have to say my favourite of Maud Hart Lovelace’s books is Carney’s House Party, I have to give the nod to Emily Webster as my favourite of her characters. As a fellow introvert who wasn’t part of the popular crowd and didn’t come from a cushy bourgeois family, I can really relate to Emily. I also deeply relate to her as someone whose life hasn’t unfolded on the same timetable as that of most of my peers.

Emily Webster (based on Marguerite Marsh, a year older than Mrs. Lovelace but two years younger than her Doppelgänger Betsy) lost her mother in infancy and her father at two years old. Her grandparents stepped up to raise her, but her grandma died when Emily was ten years old. Now Emily lives alone on the edge of town with her grandpa Cyrus Webster, an 81-year-old Civil War vet.

Emily of Deep Valley (Deep Valley, #2) by Maud Hart Lovelace

When Emily graduates high school in 1912, all her peers head off to college—the University of Minnesota, Carleton College, Vassar, a few local schools. But because Grandpa Cyrus has no one else to take care of him, Emily is unable to pursue higher education. It’s not even something she weighs the pros and cons of. Staying with Grandpa is just something she must do without question.

Because Emily lives so far on the outskirts of town, and because she has so many heavy responsibilities, she hasn’t had the cliché kind of high school experience Betsy did. Though she is frequently invited to come along to get-togethers and events, and does take up some of these offers throughout the book, it seems obvious she’s invited more out of sympathy and obligation, and that she’s always on the periphery of this crowd.

Emily is very intelligent and serious, though, and was the only girl on the acclaimed debate team. She loves reading, history, and politics, and her dream is to become a social worker like her shero Jane Addams. Emily’s graduation speech (which she has to memorize instead of reading from a paper!) is about Ms. Addams.

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Emily does have extended family, though—her beautiful, sophisticated, glamourous second-cousin Annette, and Annette’s parents, whom Emily calls Aunt Sophie and Uncle Chester, despite not being related to them in that way. Aunt Sophie regularly has new clothes made for Emily by town dressmaker Miss Mix, and has Emily and Grandpa over for holidays.

There’s also love interest Don Walker, who was on the debate team with Emily. Over the summer, he regularly visits and discusses books. One time, he brings Emily a book of Robert Browning poetry. But it’s obvious to everyone but Emily from the jump that Don isn’t very sincere or nice.

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Emily sinks into despondency when her erstwhile friends leave for college. They’re all going places in their lives and having fun, while she’s stuck in Deep Valley as Grandpa’s full-time caretaker. At first, Emily tries to lift her spirits by attending a high school pep rally for a football game, but a comment from the new coach is like a lightning bolt that wakes her up and makes her realise she’s unhealthily clinging to the past and not moving forward into a new adult life.

Instead of going to the game, she hurries home to put her hair up in a Psyche knot. Prior, she wore her hair in a braid with a huge ribbon like an overgrown schoolgirl. Emily also gets some new hats to accommodate this change in hairstyle, and a few new clothes.

After this, it’s like a magic wand has been waved. Because she finally looks her age, Emily begins getting attention from a slightly older crowd who’s still in town. For the first time, Emily feels like she’s found her tribe, people with serious interests that match her own. One of her new friends, Cab Edwards, takes her out to several dances. (I found Cab much better-developed in this book than in the Betsy-Tacy series!)

And slowly but surely, Emily starts coming into her own and making lemonade out of the lemons life handed her. She might not be a college girl, but there are so many other rewarding things she can do, like start a Browning discussion group, help the people in Little Syria, and resume music lessons.

I really enjoyed watching Emily’s gradual growth into a strong, confident woman who knows her own mind and how to find fulfillment and happiness. I can also relate to her more than Betsy (who makes a brief appearance that really feels shoehorned in). Emily faces a lot of real challenges that aren’t easily, quickly resolved; she’s not Miss Popularity; boys aren’t beating a path to her door; and she doesn’t have class privilege.

Emily is truly Mrs. Lovelace’s most mature, complex character, with a storyline to match.