The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean



The Unexpected Education of Emily Dean by Mira Robertson.
Published by Black Inc. Books
Date: 2 April 2018
R.R.P. $29.99


As I got closer to the end of the book I began question what big thing was going to happen in this story. As I continued to read I realised that this book wasn’t about a big thing but rather a compilation of changes, acceptance, growth, and an unexpected education about life that saw Emily Dean learn about herself and the world around her.

I think there is something quite wonderful reading about a different time within your own country and this book certainly hit the mark with their descriptions of Australian life in 1944.  There were elements of surprise throughout the book, including the fearless Lydia whose courage saw her do something that I certainly didn’t foresee, and the power of literature that brings together uncle and niece and mends the angriest, war torn heart.

The book begins by giving us a glimpse of Emily Dean’s father with whisperings about her mother, while she reluctantly travels to her Grandmother’s farm.  The reluctant Emily has little choice but to go because of her mothers illness, and try as she might to fit in Emily struggles to find her place until she finds a sanctuary where she is surrounded by books and a room where she can express herself freely.

I thought all the characters had their place in the story, but I didn’t feel like I knew them fully until the end of the book.  This whole book, including each individual character is about growth.  Everyone initially seemed lost in time and routine, their days filled with sameness, personality’s stagnant.  Regardless of this everyone was fascinating in their own way, except Eunice.  Eunice does not appealing to me at all and at times I felt irritated by her, but when we see a small glimpse of understanding from her towards a need of Emily’s, I felt a momentary respect for her and pleased that she was looking out for Emily even if it wasn’t obvious.

While the blurb makes it sound like Claudio the Italian prisoner of war has the biggest impact on Emily Dean, I believe that it is William who helps her become stronger and helps her find her voice.  The challenges that he needed to learn to accept not only pushed him to the brink but was confronting for Emily.  This shaped her, and so did the need of acceptance and friendship with her aunt Lydia.  I felt that it made Emily seem like she required that relationship to be the person she wanted to be,  however, by the end of the book I felt that it was Lydia that needed Emily, who had found her voice without being what she thought her aunt would expect her to be, and to be accepted.

Overall, I think we have a lot to learn from Emily dean and this is why I recommend it.  I feel the book encourages young women to be themselves, to find their voices, that it is ok to be influenced by others, but ultimately be true to yourself first and not what you think others want you to be.

Thank you Black Inc. books for the opportunity to read and honestly review this book.