The Egg and I

The Egg and II adored Betty MacDonald s four Mrs Piggle Wiggle books when I was a child so much so that I tracked them down to read to my own children when they came along So I was ready to laugh uproariously with MacDonald s famous memoir The Egg and I.And don t get me wrong Parts of the book are hilarious her paternal grandmother Gammy, the travails of the chicken ranch, and the plight of being the intellectual but plain younger sister But modern day readers will be taken aback by the antiquated expectations for wives and the acceptable level of racism toward Native Americans in the 1920s It s easy to forget how widespread the beliefs were that wives should kowtow to their husbands every whim no matter how imprudent or disastrous and that a proud people that whites had slaughtered and conquered were shifty and lazy So in a way, The Egg and I serves as a time capsule that reveals how far we ve come And it provides a glimmer of hope that, in 90 years, Americans will have evolved sufficiently that they will be dumbstruck that mass school shootings or gunning down a black young man in the back with impunity or poisoning the water supply of an entire city or sending Auschwitz themed tweets to Jewish journalists or threatening to rape and murder female journalists could ever have been possible. As far as I m concerned, this is the best book ever written By anybody And, go figure, it s non fiction, a rarity for me anyway MacDonald, as a bride in the 1920s, fell prey to her new husband s long cherished dream of owning a chicken ranch, so off they went to the wilderness of Washington to raise chickens in a remote mountain location, where the nearest neighbors were a two mile walk away Frankly, living in the wilderness without electricity or indoor plumbing she carried water from a spring not far from their property would be about my idea of hell, even without the chickens, but the author manages to make it all hilarious, touching, and deeply evocative of the seasons, the environment, the neighbors and the era It s a good, rich read that ll have just about anyone laughing out loud, and I couldn t begin to tell you how many times I ve read it, or how many copies I ve given away over the years Other reviewers have commented on MacDonald s racist views, but I don t think that s altogether fair She didn t much care for most of the Native Americans that lived around her in Washington, and compared them unfavorably with the Blackfoot tribes she d known in Montana, of whom she did think highly, so it can t truly be called racism One must also remember that this was written decades before anyone had even heard of political correctness At the time, Native Americans were invariably depicted in literature and film as bloodthirsty savages or as dimwitted sidekicks of Caucasian cowboys, so MacDonald s depictions of them as ordinary individuals, as subject to criticism and personal opinion as anyone else, was actually rather ahead of her time. When Betty MacDonald Married A Marine And Moved To A Small Chicken Farm On The Olympic Peninsula In Washington State, She Was Largely Unprepared For The Rigors Of Life In The Wild With No Running Water, No Electricity, A House In Need Of Constant Repair, And Days That Ran From Four In The Morning To Nine At Night, The MacDonalds Had Barely A Moment To Put Their Feet Up And Relax And Then Came The Children Yet Through Every Trial And Pitfall Through Chaos And Catastrophe This Indomitable Family Somehow, Mercifully, Never Lost Its Sense Of HumorAn Immortal, Hilarious And Heartwarming Classic About Working A Chicken Farm In The Northwest, A Part Of Which First Appeared In A Condensed Serialization In The Atlantic Monthly Oh, this book.I would give 90% of it 5 stars, but the other 10% gets negative stars So whatever that evens out to is anyone s guessThe author is so talented and her prose so sprightly in parts and poetic in others that there can be no doubt as to the quality of the writing Much if not most of it is fantastic.My biggest problem with this book is the author s deeply ingrained snobbery and worse, racism She s dismissive of all her neighbors, drawing blood with her pen as she eviscerates their housekeeping skills, personal appearance and lack of education She s unbearable when discussing the Native American population of the rural Washington community she moves to, writing such hateful things that even when you take into account the times in which she grew up, there can be no mitigation of her small mindedness, which is ironic, given her near manic attempts to sprinkle her prose with French phrases, literary name checks and other nuggets of erudition.Another irony the one area of her life that falls outside the reach of her sharp pen is the power structure of her marriage Her husband, often described as devastatingly handsome comes across a petty tyrant not to mention borderline child molester, given that when they met and fell in love, she was 17 and he 30.Fantastic peek into the rural Pacific Northwest of the mid early 1900 s, check Cringeworthy manifestation of the ugliest parts of the WASP psyche, check One to read again and again No And I can see why this book seems to be out of print Perhaps one of MacDonald s heirs would undertake excising the racism from the book and re publishing Then, perhaps, I would make room for it on my permanent bookshelf As it is, back to the library it goes. There are books that stay with you all your life My mother read this to my sisters and brother and I when we were sick with the flu in England in the early 50 s I believe I have read this book about 30 times Betty Macdonald s early biography, she wasn t someone really famous, but she had a way with words the book is no where near as shallow and trivial as the movie of the same name with Claudette Colbert as a ridiculous woman dressed up at a county fair Her description of how she ended up on a remote egg farm in Puget Sound, Washington area is priceless Her childhood with a father who was a mining engineer and traveled a lot with a large family is definitely not the normal nostalgia Her mother came from main line, and loved throwing it away to follow her husband to the remote ends of the US in turn of the 20th century Her family was large and noisy, her paternal grandmother Gammy waged a constant battle with normality, all of it described in language that just makes you laugh out loud Her marriage to an insurance man with a yen to be a chicken farmer is just another set of experiences that just leave you gasping for air as you snigger along with her.Ms MacDonald s book is the genesis of Ma and Pa Kettle no where near as cartoonish as they came out in the movies, but evenlayers to them and their lives Of course most of the layers are covered in grime and chicken manure but you should read about the real characters I love this book A bit old fashioned, humorous in parts, and I totally understand why it was a best seller in 1945 It s been on my list for years and years, and I finally got around to it I ll hunt up the old movie, with Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert as the MacDonalds, and also the first appearance of Pa and Ma Kettle. I should have adored this I have loved all of Betty Macdonald s other books and I ve been saving this one up as a treat But it just didn t do it for me There seemed muchmean spiritness than in her other books Of course her spikey, pointed observations are what make her writing so delightful, but barbed humour only works well when one delights in the shafts because they re aimed at a shared and justified target And here I found myself completely out of harmony with her There s the obvious atrocious racism I ll pass over that because it s been said many times before that it s a serious flaw, possibly an unforgiveable flaw in the book though I found interesting the idea that what she was really objecting to was the sexism What I disliked as much as the racism, though, was the harping on about the filthiness and unappealing qualities of almost every local person she encountered This woman has serious dirt issues, in that the whole subject terrifies her and that means we part company I have an active dislike of obsessing over cleanliness and think a tidy house is often the sign of a bored mind If someone has the courtesy to bring me a whole side of perfectly cooked smoked salmon, and cuts me a slice, the last thing I m going to be writing about is how the sight of his hands revolted me I will be enthusing about the qualities of sharing and community BM can t stop mentioning everyone s filthy appearance, grubby, messy yards and unattractive children She meets a woman on the shore who says it was such a nice day, she had to leave the housework and bring her children out to clam dig Instead of being pleased to find a kindred spirit, BM immediately sets in to comment on the woman s dusty braids, holey trousers, filthy children who are all drooling idiots really offensive I just found it so unpleasant this is a farming community for heaven s sake of course people have dirty clothes I suppose in the end all I m saying is her schtick isn t mine and I found the book sneery I also get irritated by people who don t raise objections or negotiate with their partners when things seem unfair but then do that passive aggressive thing of letting everyone around know what a tough time they re having I don t blame her for moaning about the farming anyone would but she makes sure we know every time her husband fails her in some way or forces her to do something she doesn t want Either support him or ship out, I d say and I gather she shipped out, which seemed a very good idea to me I wonder if part of the success of this book is that it taps into the American pioneer dream in a way that brings it closer for your average city type ie sassy, snappy city girl used to all mod cons takes on Ma Ingalls role and gives us her sharp eyed take on it It clearly is a long time favourite of many readers Well, I m not American, I don t obsess over hygiene and I live in a rural community where acceptance and warmth is an important part of getting along, and clearly none of those things helped I wonder if I like the Plague and I so much because, being set in the sterile conditions of a hospital, it was not possible for BM to get bitchy over dirt But I also think in that, and in Onions in the Stew she finds a happier balance of enjoying the eccentric types around her and finding common ground with some, while also mercilessly skewering pretension and meanness Here, too many of her targets seemed deserving of a littleunderstanding I did like the mountains, I must say, and the descriptions of the food but oh, how she rubbed in it that SHE was a gourmet and everyone else ate atrociously. It took me a few pages to get into this book, but once I did I couldn t stop It s semi autobiographical and written in stream of consciousness, as Betty tells you the story of her childhood and how she ended up married to a man who dreamed of being a chicken farmer She thought she was marrying someone whose passion was insurance sales She was wrong Betty is hilarious and clever with an extremely dry wit as well as a keen curiosity Everything about her adventures in chicken farming fascinates her, and then becomes yet another burden she must bear with tart humor Four am wake up calls, bears, strange neighbors, bleak weather, the endless farm and housework, and the general horribleness of chickens are all narrated in her rapid fire style As she points out, and then is seconded by her brother in law who quickly becomes her favorite family member , the problem with chickens is that you feed them and care for them and they don t even acknowledge you Even cats showaffection But Betty s husband, Bob, is completely enad of every part of chicken ranching, from the early hours to the back breaking labor to the drunken neighbors letting their cows loose on the countryside So Betty is the straight man in their marriage, and in the book, the only one seeing the strangeness and humor in it all.I grew up as the hugest fan of the Mrs Piggle Wiggle books, which were also written by MacDonald, and as a teen I saw the movie, The Egg I which is a gem , but didn t realize until a couple of years ago that a it was originally a book, and b it was the Mrs Piggle Wiggle lady s story What a delight to finally read this book, and find it to be just as fabulous as her children s books PS My edition doesn t seem to be here on Goodreads It s the 100th anniversary of Betty MacDonald s birth edition, with a photograph of an enormous egg on the cover I really loved it, because it has a forward by her two daughters about the sudden, shocking fame their family encountered, and was very charmingly written, in the exact same style as the book. This is one of the most funniest and fascinating memoirs I have ever read I want to add some quotes later on This book is a must read.THEN LATER ON We had a power cut yesterday and since my iPad was low on battery power as well, I did not want to spend it writing reviews So I waited until today to add some memorable quotes from the book to my thoughts There was so much in the book to relate to, living in the mountains myself and having to deal with similar adventures yes, even many decades after this book was published , that I just had the laughs of my life reading this book.Her outright honesty, just being herself, was really so refreshing Sooooo, some quotes lots o em view spoiler I was too fat and I wanted desperately not to eat and be willowy and romantic but there seemed nothing else to do Bob ate almost nothing and looked furtive like a trapped animal I guess it is quite a wrench for a bachelor to give up his freedom, particularly when, every time he looks at his wife, he realizes that he is facing a future teeming with large grocery billsThe moonshine in a gallon jug was a dark amber color and had a hot explosive smell We had a drink before dinner that night and it went down with lights flashing like marbles in a pinball game And then winter settled down and I realized that defeat, like morale, is a lot of little thingsWHEN you make a complete change in your mode of living, as I did, you learn that, along with the strange aspects of the new life which seep in and become part of you, will come others to which you never become accustomed Some of the things I never got used to were The hen The gasoline lantern.The outhouse at night where I had a horrible choice of either sitting in the dark and not knowing what was crawling on me or bringing a lantern and attracting moths, mosquitoes, night hawks and bats No radio No telephone.Bats hanging upside down in the cellar, flying in the open bedroom windows on summer nights, swooping low over the bed, almost touching my face and making my skin undulate in horror Dropping boards and chicken lice.The inconsistency of a Mother Nature who made winter so wetly, coldly, soggily miserable that I wanted to get back under my stone, and spring so warm, so lush and fragrant that I wanted to roll on my back and whinny Cinnamon roles were so tender and delicate I had to bring myself up with a jerk to keep from eating a dozen The coffee was so strong it snarled as it lurched out of the pot and I girded up my loins for the first swallow and was amazed to find that when mixed with plenty of thick cream it was palatable True it bore only the faintest resemblance to coffee as I made it but still it had a flavor that was good when I got my throat muscles loosened up againMary MacGregor had fiery red, dyed hair, a large dairy ranch and a taste for liquor Drunker than an owl, she would climb on to her mowing machine, Tie me on tight, Bill she would yell at her hired man So Bill would tie her on with clothes lines, baling wire and straps, give her the reins and away she d go, singing at the top of her voice, cutting her oats in semi circles and happy as a clam She plowed, disked, harrowed, planted, cultivated and mowed, tied to the seat of the machine and hilariously drunk A smashing witticism of the farmers was, You should take a run down the valley and watch Mary sowin her wild oats Mary sold cream to the cheese factory One morning she found a skunk drowned in a ten gallon can of cream She lifted the skunk out by the tail and with her other hand she carefully squeezed the cream from his fur Just between us skunks, cream is cream, she said as she threw the carcass into the barnyard She sold the cream and vowed she d never tell a soul but Bill the hired man told everyone, especially people he saw coming out of the cheese factory with a five pound round of cheeseThe good layers looked motherly, their combs were full and bright red, their eyes large, beaks broad and short, and their bodies were well rounded, broad hipped and built close to the ground They were also the diligent scratchers and eaters and their voices seemed a little lower with overtones of lullaby The non producers, the childless parasites, were just as typical Their combs were small and pale, eyes small, beaks sharp and pointed, legs long, hips narrow, and they spent all of their time gossiping, starting fights, and going into screaming hysterics over nothing The non producers also seemed subject to many forms of female trouble enlarged liver, wire worms, and blowouts prolapse of the oviduct What a bitter thing for them that, unlike their human counterparts, their only operation was one performed with an axe on the neck I got out iodine, bandages, sleeping tablets and my self control, because, though Bob was being brave and careless in front of Elwin, alone with me, he would act as if the bear had laid open both his lungs and his large intestine, and would spend many happy hours looking for the first signs of blood poisoning It occurred to me then, that no mention had been made of our dog s part in the fray hide spoiler I have read Betty MacDonald s The Egg and I at least three times The firsttime I was about twelve, the second, maybe twenty oneand the last time in the virtual dotage of sixty two.My ten year old self took this as a fabulous adventurestory and I wanted nothingthan to meet Gams andthe hyperactive grandma and eat a geoduck clam withthe MacDonalds.At twenty one, I laughed my head off Being of an impracticalnature myself, I got anxious and then giggling at whatI took to be a hippies in the woods story.Last month, I nodded my head a lot as I read through mymother s copy that was passed on through a few inheritances.MacDonald looks to me now like an a woman who was sharpbefore her time a person who whose sense of adventureand sense of humor allowed her to transcend the limitedchoices she was offered in the 1950 s and turn the egg shewas offered into a puffy, generous and thoroughly nutrisiousomellette Lynn Hoffman, author of The New Short Course in Wine and a novelabout another original woman bang BANG

MacDonald was born Anne Elizabeth Campbell Bard in Boulder, Colorado Her official birth date is given as March 26, 1908, although federal census returns seem to indicate 1907.Her family moved to the north slope of Seattle s Capitol Hill neighborhood in 1918, moving to the Laurelhurst neighborhood a year later and finally settling in the Roosevelt neighborhood in 1922, where she graduated from Roo

✭ The Egg and I Books ✯ Author Betty MacDonald –
  • Paperback
  • 288 pages
  • The Egg and I
  • Betty MacDonald
  • English
  • 01 September 2017
  • 9780704102477

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