Wednesday, October 21, 2015

The Brontë Plot

Title:  The Brontë Plot
Author:  Katherine Reay
Publication Information:  Thomas Nelson. 2015. 336 pages.
ISBN:  1401689752 / 978-1401689759

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Wednesday was Book Day."

Favorite Quote:  "... 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."

It has "Brontë" in the title, books on the cover, and a bookseller in the description. I instantly want to read The Brontë Plot. Some of my favorite things all together in one book.

Lucy Alling, the main character works for an interior designer and sells rare books, but her methods are not always ethical. Her dishonesty is discovered by her special someone, James. Discord begins.

Then, she is employed by James' grandmother as a consultant to travel to England on a buying trip.  Lucy has just broken up with James, but his grandmother Helen has her own reasons for wanting Lucy on this trip. Awkwardness begins.

The buying trip is more a literary tour of England - Dickens, the Bronte sisters, Beatrix Potter and all the places that come to life in books of these and other classic authors. Fun begins.

All throughout, each character has their own hidden agendas. Lucy has the possible search for her father and all the issues she thinks reconnecting with him will resolve. Her boyfriend James bears the burden of family expectations and career choices. His grandmother Helen harbors secrets about her illness now and a secret from her faraway past. Lies, deceptions, and a search for a true identity begins.

This search means that the book at times sounds like a self-help guide set in a fictional story. Lessons about making choices, accepting people, understanding different viewpoints, and discovering who you are abound throughout the book. The refrain of going back to the past to move forward repeats throughout and holds true for more than one character in the book. The lessons are captured also through references to English literature.

The lessons are mostly valid; the book just never develops the depth to truly give life to the lessons and the characters in the book. A decades-old secret is put to rest in the meeting of a few minutes. The emotional effects of an abandonment seem to have no ramifications. The truth that dispels an illusion about a parent seems to have little emotional effect. Many of the connections between the characters seem stretched, and the self-reflection and growth seems to stay at the surface. The quick resolutions to the issues facing the characters fail to develop the emotions these events may trigger and as such, fail to draw me into their lives. As a result, the  story and the lessons don't ring true.

The book also poses the question, "Are we destined to repeat the mistakes of our fathers or is change possible?" In this case, the mistake is building a life on lies - little ones and big ones. The story does answer the question but a little too late and after many iterations of lies.  By then, annoyance with the Lucy for her lies has set in. Again, when change does come, it seems to happen completely and instantly, too much so to feel real.

My favorite part of the book is the literary references and descriptions. The Poet's Corner of Westminster Abbey, the Brontë parsonage, the Lake District of Beatrix Potter, and the moor home to Wuthering Heights are some of the places described in this book. It saves the book for me and makes for lovely armchair traveling. For me, the trip, not the story, is by far the most appealing aspect of the book.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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