Friday, March 20, 2015

Always Emily

Always Emily: a novel of intrigue and romance
by Michaela MacColl
Chronicle Books, 2014. 282 pages. Young adult fiction.

If you're a fan of the Bronte sisters, this is the book for you. Meticulously researched, the novel follows teenaged Charlotte and Emily Bronte as they try to figure out the mysterious happenings at a nearby estate. Charlotte is approached by a frantic lady who begs for help before she is forcibly removed by an angry relative who tells Charlotte the lady's mind is unbalanced. Emily sees strange lights on the moor and an encampment where someone is obviously hiding out. And Branwell, the girls' brother, is being even more secretive than usual. Will the two be able to get to the bottom of all the mysteries in their normally quiet household?

I think this is a book that will most appeal to readers who have read any works by the Bronte sisters, especially Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. MacColl is constantly creating situations that foreshadow scenes in these two pivotal works of English literature. Her characters are well drawn and the book doesn't have the campy feel that many books where classic novelists solve mysteries are prone to have. Along with the author notes at the back detailing her research and the real lives of Charlotte and Emily, the book helped me understand both women better as authors. The one thing I didn't understand was why MacColl didn't include Anne, the third Bronte sister, beyond more than a casual mention. But, overall, this was an interesting book for lovers of classic British lit in general and the Brontes in particular.


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