Emily of New Moon - questions
June 25, 2020 4:35 PM   Subscribe

I am reading L. M. Montgomery's Emily of New Moon series for the first time and I have a couple questions - one plot-related and one where I'm curious what the characters are doing.

1) I didn't look this up myself because I didn't want to spoil other things that happen, but I'm about a third of the way into book 2 and I have to ask - does she marry Dean Priest?? I know they were written in another time with different standards but ugghhh if she does I may get so annoyed that I just quit right now.

2) What is Uncle Jimmy doing when he's boiling the pig's potatoes? Is he literally just cooking a ton of potatoes from the harvest as food for the pigs? Then it says something about putting them in bran - from wheat? Is this a method of storing them?

The Anne of Green Gables books are some of my absolute favorites (watch this space for an Anne-related tattoo question soon!) and I don't know how I haven't read these before. Thanks!
posted by skycrashesdown to Media & Arts (16 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
1) Not ... quite. Definitely the most problematic aspect of the books for me. But no, they do not get married.

No idea on the second question, I’ll have to re-read.
posted by arha at 4:46 PM on June 25, 2020

1) NO. However, there is more Dean Priest creepiness to come.

2) Apparently pigs can't digest raw potatoes, so they would cook them first.
posted by betweenthebars at 4:56 PM on June 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

That same thing creeped me out so much that I stopped reading halfway through the first volume. I did look at the ending though and as far as I remember it ends with a hint at an expectation of some kind of future with her, on his part. Ugh. I honestly think the book should come with a giant warning on the cover.
posted by M. at 5:05 PM on June 25, 2020

1. She doesn't marry him; and his creepiness is somewhat, although not-to-modern-standards, acknowledged.

2. I don't know

Chiming in here although your questions are already asked and answered to say that the Emily books are really not like the Anne series at all in their vibe. They're kind of a dark mirror image of the Anne series. Which is not to say don't read them; but don't go in thinking they're going to soothe the soul like Anne. They don't.
posted by fingersandtoes at 5:14 PM on June 25, 2020 [5 favorites]

I forgot about Dean Priest! Ahhh! You might want to throw your book across the room but keep going.

A quick google on the potatoes thing says they are best cooked for swine. According to the 1929 Potatoes for Livestock bulletin from the Colorado Agricultural College (mountainscholar.org pdf) you should discard the water and add in some salt. Who knew!!

But mostly just wanted to say that I loved Anne when I was younger and I only read the Emily books last year after watching Russian Doll, and I loved her so much more than Anne. Maybe it's an age thing? I'm 38 and probably read Anne for the first time in my early teens. Don't quit on her!
posted by hetobeto at 5:50 PM on June 25, 2020

Lots of animals like a hot bran mash, it probably went well with potatoes.
posted by clew at 6:42 PM on June 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The potatoes you feed to pigs are the little ones that are too small to be worth peeling. They are also fed to chickens and other livestock. Pigs can digest raw potatoes - they can digest grass at a pinch - but they get more nutrition out of cooked ones.

If you store potatoes or apples or other winter keepers just in a heap or in a barrel, when one goes rotten the rot easily spreads to the others that are touching them. If you store them in bran the bran insulates them and keeps the one bad apple from spoiling the rest of the barrel. And then the bran is still good for feeding to those pigs. Bran is a by product of bread flour, so it is nice and cheap, yet still only eaten by those vegetarians who are into colonics and similar fads, or people with certain sorts of digestive complaints. Most people would have no use for bran, but it is an excellent nutritious animal fodder.

Emily was written at a time when wheat would have been grown locally rather than shipped to PE Island from the prairies. Economies of scale in that period meant that transportation costs ensured that flour produced locally was less expensive. Don't forget that this was before containers, so every bit of wheat being shipped to the province would very likely have been transported to a depot in a wagon, shoveled into an open train car, covered with cover and make the journey through the various provinces, unloaded by shovel into another wagon, then the that wagon have to be transported to the island on the ferry. Handling of goods was a significant expense in those days and almost all of it done manually. Shrinkage was a major issue, what with grain being stolen by the workers or when at a siding, eaten or spoiled by vermin, or simply spilled and lost that way.

If you didn't have bran to store your potatoes you used straw. If you were a housewife who had to store a winter's worth of potatoes in the cellar, you might very well use newspaper. Wood shavings or sawdust was another good choice and then you could use it for tinder.
posted by Jane the Brown at 6:44 PM on June 25, 2020 [25 favorites]

Emily of New Moon is the book I use to show how the Suck Fairy’s work is generally only for works that deserve it. Unlike books where you reread them as an adult and are horrified at your own taste, thus the touch of the Suck Fairy, I would argue that in the Emily books you are gradually horrified by the verisimilitude of the way Canadian women in small towns might, with a few flights of fancy, actually have experienced being trapped into various infuriating relationships and situations. So it’s uncomfortable but doesn’t suck. Montgomery doesn’t exactly challenge the Dean Priests of the world but she allows the truth of that relationship in its ambiguity and, ah, pain to come through. You can imagine Emily at 55 saying what was I thinking?.

The Wikipedia entry on Maud Montgomery’s marriageis kind of similar. I’m struck by the Spanish Flu-contemplate divorce bit.

Anyways. Creepy but no Disneyfied ending.
posted by warriorqueen at 7:13 PM on June 25, 2020 [3 favorites]

The scene of Uncle Jimmy cooking the pig potatoes in the giant black cauldron is more lurid and disturbing than the sword forgings in Siegfried.

There's a lot more going on in those books than ever breaks the surface, and I'm convinced that scene is an allusion to something Classical, Biblical, or legendary in some tradition, but I don't know what. It gave me a nightmare after my partner read it to me in bed before we went to sleep, though.
posted by jamjam at 7:25 PM on June 25, 2020 [1 favorite]

It also reminded me of the "bubble, bubble, toil and trouble" witches' brew scene in MacBeth.
posted by jamjam at 7:30 PM on June 25, 2020

Dean is definitely creepy but I am satisfied with where Emily ends up.
posted by TwoStride at 7:35 PM on June 25, 2020

Best answer: Re: Dean Priest: she doesn’t marry him, but if he is making you super frustrated with the second book, you’d better steel yourself for Book 3.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 7:37 PM on June 25, 2020 [2 favorites]

Concur that the Emily books are not nearly as soothing as the Anne books, although there is definitely something compelling about them: Emily's journey is far more fraught than Anne's in a lot of ways.

That said, Teddy is a drip and I will go to my grave with that.

(There is a small but thriving femslash fandom for the Emily books...)
posted by suelac at 11:50 AM on June 26, 2020

I seem to recall LM Montgomery saying she put more of herself into the Emily books than the Anne books. I think she found Anne to be frustrating once she married her off.

Dean is awful, but the resolution of his storyline is very satisfying.

Emily also has a lot more engagement around her professional/working life than Anne did.
posted by dancing_angel at 12:21 PM on June 26, 2020

I read Emily of New Moon for the first time when I was about 10, and was so caught up in the story, I think the Dean Priest creepiness sort of went over my head. (Aunt Nancy and Old Kelly both warn Emily never to marry a Priest, and I wonder in retrospect if that’s LMM’s way of letting readers know everything will turn out in the end?)

I read Anne before Emily and love her, but Emily is my kindred spirit, and the first book in the series remains my all-time favorite book, so definitely give her a chance.
posted by elphaba at 6:02 PM on June 26, 2020

Response by poster: I finished them after seeing the answers here, and while they will never replace Anne, they will definitely go into the periodic-reread category. I am SO GLAD she doesn't marry Dean Priest aaarrgghhhhh so creepster

Thanks, all!
posted by skycrashesdown at 9:18 PM on July 3, 2020 [1 favorite]

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