About the Book:
Author: Katherine Reay
Publisher: Thomas Nelson (HarperCollins)
Source: Publisher Provided ARC
Publication Date: 2015
Find the Review elsewhere:
Amazon ǀ Blogger ǀ Goodreads ǀ Silver Petticoat
Find the Book Elsewhere:
Amazon ǀ Barnes & Noble ǀ Goodreads
Genre: Fiction; Contemporary/General
Rating: 5 out of 5
Review: It takes a talented pen to consistently turn out novels that speak to an avid book lover’s heart! It takes talent and genuine passion for an author to progressively grow stronger and better with each new story. Katherine Reay easily falls into the latter category with The Brontë Plot. Each of her novels (three, counting this release) is driven by literary influences and each is suffused in old-fashioned values. Basically, every book this author has penned has been a kind of ode to the novels that are perhaps left to the dust and forgotten among the contemporary impacts of modern fandoms.
In The Brontë Plot, we journey to London with our heroine, Lucy Alling. When her methods of procuring antique items (she works in a shop owned by a sought-after interior designer) are called into question, Lucy loses the one really good and honest thing in her life: her boyfriend, James. This doesn’t stop, Helen, James grandmother, from hiring Lucy to accompany her on a trip to England. You see, Helen has secrets of her own that she’s been longing to put right for decades. After a life well-lived, Helen is dying and until she can see her past set to rights, she feels stifled. Two women undertake one journey. Both are looking for a new kind freedom that seems just beyond their grasp.
What this author does so very well is integrate classic literature into each of her stories without turning them into a contemporary re-telling. Where her first two books were heavy on Austen influences, The Brontë Plot takes cues from the Brontë sisters and still works in multiple references to beloved works of literature – everything from Molly Gibson and Roger Hamley (Wives & Daughters) to the very first vampire and classic, Dracula. Introduced in-between these familiar pieces of nostalgia, there are multiple other delicacies primed to whet any avid history lovers appetite. Instead of overwhelming the contemporary story this novel has to tell (and it’s one worth sharing, which I’ll talk about later on), the literary flourishes seek only to enrich the journey.
Not to be diminished or lost among the decades of past nostalgia, but the contemporary (primary) story within these pages is beautiful. Lucy is the kind of character whose questionable values will make us pause. Only because she constantly teeters on the edge of deciding what’s right vs. what’s wrong. She’s likely to become a character we might not have the warmest feelings towards, but that’s okay. Lucy, to me, is an authentic character. If for no other reason (though there are many) then she makes us think and she made me wholeheartedly cheer for her change of mind and heart. The book is about her finding herself and in some sense, growing up. James, as a love interest is a fabulous man. He’s missing for too much of the story, though, ambiguous or not, I adored how the story eventually wrapped. It was exactly as it should be, denoting a new beginning in these characters’ lives.
Lest I forget, I should also mention the third-person format in The Brontë Plot. This is Katherine’s first novel that is written in such a format (her first was epistolary, second written in first-person) and I loved it. The fact that she has tackled so many brilliant presentations attests to her talent. The story is aesthetic and truly, brilliant. While The Brontë Plot is not traditional, at least not in the ordinary contemporary novel’s patterns, never fear because this is in actuality a strength well suited to this story. The beauty and uniqueness of this story are like a love letter to those scholars of classic literature. Anyone whose true love are the classics will appreciate this for all it has to offer, and those of us who admire what classic literature can inspire or teach will also be quite enchanted and enthralled with this armchair adventure.
This review originally appeared on Silver Petticoat Review.
Sincere thanks to the publisher for a complimentary ARC of this novel.