Netflix's 'Russian Doll': Why the 'Emily of New Moon' book is so important to Nadia

4 February 2019, 13:27

Nicky Idika

By Nicky Idika

L.M. Montgomery's 'Emily of New Moon' gets name checked more than once in Netflix's 'Russian Doll'. It's clear that the book means a lot to Nadia in 'Russian Doll' so what else does the story about a young orphan tell us about Nadia's childhood?

Netflix's Russian Doll has audiences hooked with its twists, turns, and incredible performance from Orange Is The New Black actress Natasha Lyonne as Nadia. The show's satisfying ending also has fans buzzing about the new Netflix series. Throughout Russian Doll, Nadia makes reference to a book called Emily of New Moon. More than once, Nadia and Ruth discuss the book and Ruth quips that the woman who wrote Emily of New Moon also wrote Anne of Green Gables.

So, what is Emily of New Moon all about and why is it so important to Nadia?

Emily of New Moon Nadia 'Russian Doll'
Nadia holds a copy of 'Emily of New Moon' in Russian Doll. Picture: Netflix/Screenshot

What is Emily of New Moon about?

Published in 1923, Emily of New Moon is the first in a trilogy of books by Anne of Green Gables author L.M. Montgomery. Emily of New Moon chronicles the life of a young orphan girl named Emily Byrd Starr who is sent to live with her extended family after becoming orphaned.

After her father dies of Tuberculosis, wilful and sharp-tongued Emily has to adjust to life with her mother's relatives, who she does not immediately get along with. Emily is sharp and an aspiring writer, much to the chagrin of her aunt Elizabeth.

Emily and L.M. Montgomery's other well known character, Anne, are often compared because they are both orphans who must adjust to their new and, often difficult, surroundings. Emily is somewhat different to Anne, though, with even L.M. Montgomery noting that her own personality is far more like Emily's than Anne's.

Emily faces hardships and difficulties but is witty and ambitious, enabling her to win people over.

Emily of New Moon
Nadia gives Lucy a copy of 'Emily of New Moon' in Russian Doll. Picture: Netflix/Screenshot

Why does Nadia love Emily of New Moon?

A huge theme in Russian Doll is Nadia's upbringing. Nadia's mother (played by Chloë Sevigny) battles with mental illness, something which impacts Nadia well into her adult life.

"Everybody loves Anne. But I like Emily. She's dark," remarks Nadia in Ruth's kitchen one morning. Like Emily, Nadia is an orphan who faces strife and familial trauma during her formative years.

In one scene, we hear Nadia's mother screaming at Ruth and breaking mirrors. We immediately see Nadia retreat to her Emily of New Moon book–perhaps as a way to cope with the instability of her life at the time.

Emily of New Moon in Netflix's Russian Doll
Young Nadia reads 'Emily of New Moon' in Russian Doll. Picture: Emily of New Moon

Emily uses her wit and intellect to adapt to difficult changes in her life, which must have resonated with young Nadia. Nadia may see herself in the rebellious young character.

We later see Nadia give a copy of Emily of New Moon to Lucy, John's daughter. "Emily is the hero," Nadia explains before literally coughing up a lung and dying (yet again). Nadia does this because she can see that Lucy might also need a character like this to help her get through her parents' difficult divorce.

As a plot device, the references to Emily of New Moon anchor us to Nadia's childhood and act as a prompt for Nadia to revisit difficult memories of her mother.