Hi everyone! I hope your week is going well. I’m having one of those “the days are long but the week is fast” sort of weeks. But I’m glad because everyday we get closer to meeting baby girl!
Today I am back with a review of my second Katherine Reay novel, The Bronte Plot. I was again easily caught up in Reay’s storytelling and loved feeling totally nerdy with all her literature references. My favorite part of this novel was the literary tour that Helen and Lucy go on. I would love to spend my life going on literary tours around the world.
- I need to read more Bronte so I can fully appreciate the Parsonage when I one day make my own pilgrimage there.
- I love the Lake District. I want to live there one day.
- I was surprised that the romance in this book is secondary to the journeys of Lucy and Helen (more on those later). I actually appreciated this surprise by the end of the novel. Although, I love a good romance as well 🙂
The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay follows the story of both Lucy–a rare books dealer and aspiring interior designer who has somewhat questionable methods of both buying and selling–and Helen–the grandmother of Lucy’s boyfriend, James. When James discovers Lucy’s secrets of business, it ruins their relationship. But it also prompts his grandmother, Helen, to hire Lucy to accompany her to England where Helen has various kinds of business to attend to. Both women harbor secrets about their pasts and both will learn to accept themselves as they journey through London. The story climaxes in Haworth, home of the Bronte sisters, who inspire Lucy to let go of the past and endure towards the future that she wants to build.
Lucy was an interesting protagonist because I didn’t always like her. I enjoyed her nerdy love of books. However, her overall character and her questionable choices were difficult for me to connect with. I was as shocked as James or her boss to hear about some of her shady business tactics and was surprised to read the description of her apartment–with almost nothing in it. But I think the journey Lucy goes on with Helen to rediscover herself and come to terms with her past is beautiful and inspiring. As Lucy willing changed, I found myself rooting for her and connecting with her more than I anticipated. She has made mistakes, some rather large, but she seeks to change and make things right. I can respect that.
Helen’s journey to find peace and let go of her past is equally compelling. Her ability to understand and motivate Lucy to change was subtle but powerful. I appreciated her candor and her bravery in undertaking a trip across the ocean and across time. What’s more, she is a literature lover as nerdy as Lucy. I hope to be as nerdy when I am old. I felt some regret for her though. Yes, Helen is able to make things right late in her life, but how much more full her life could have been if she made changes earlier. Perhaps, that’s the strength of her example to Lucy. She gives Lucy the push she needs to change now instead of in 50 years.
The plot of this novel was not what I expected. Of course, I don’t want to give away too many details (just a few). But I will say that I had mixed feelings about some plot twists. Sometimes I liked the surprising turns of events like when James shows up in England or when Lucy discovers her love of interior design on a new level in Haworth. But sometimes I was disappointed. Like when Lucy confronts her past and some things have not changed. Can I just say that her father is a loser? I thought the first part of the novel could have been more concise to allow more development during later parts. Some parts of the novel dragged for me while others kept me turning the pages quickly.
What surprised me about the plot is the deep lessons on life that can be learned from Helen and Lucy’s experiences. They don’t just love books; they are learning to navigate their lives and move forward into the future and let go of the past. Overall, I was satisfied with the ending. Although, I wouldn’t mind hearing more about some of the characters after the main plot was wrapped up.
My favorite parts of the novel were the literary sites and the references to the novels. I love literary locations and continue to have a long list of places I want to visit (or revisit) someday. The literary tour in this novel reminded me of my first experiences in England on study abroad in college. We went to so many amazing places like Wordsworth’s homes in the Lake District, Poet’s Corner in Westminster Abbey, and many more. I felt much like Lucy did in Haworth–closer to my favorite heroes and inspired by the beauty and grandeur of these places. I continue to love especially the Lake District. It was so fun to read about Helen and Lucy exploring them too. Plus, all the Bronte references gave me some added motivation to read more of the Bronte sisters’ novels.
So many fantastic quotes in this book!
A few favorites about the power of reading:
“Reading forms your opinions, your worldview, especially childhood reading, and anything that does that has an impact. So call them friends, call some stories enemies if you want, but don’t deny their influence. . . . You learn drama from the Brontes: sense from Austen: social justice from Dickens: beauty from Wordsworth, Keats and Byron: patience and perseverance from Gaskell: and don’t even get me started on exercising your imagination with Carroll, Doyle, Well, Wilde, Stoker.”
“Writers wouldn’t write about change and true love unless they were real, and if they did, we wouldn’t read the stories because we’d know they were writing lies.”
The Bronte Plot, pages 38 and 242
A few favorites about life and learning:
“Aloneness can creep up on you. Some is good and creative . . . but too much isn’t a good thing. To have someone know you, really know you, that’s a nice thing, I think.”
“All real lives hold controversy, trials, mistakes, and regrets. What matters is what you do next. . . . Don’t hang on to the past so tightly that you taint the future.”
The Bronte Plot, pages 125 and 152
Overall, another fun novel from Reay. I sure enjoy her novels and the ways she incorporates classic literature into modern stories. Waiting on Lizzie and Jane until potentially after pregnancy–a novel about food would be hard now. I also hear good things about A Portrait of Emily Price. Always more to read, right? 🙂
What are some of your favorite nerdy literary books?