Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Brontes Went to Woolworths

I have become somewhat of a Virago Modern Classics fiend of late. If I see any I nab them straight away - case in point a recent visit to the UNSW book fair. This title, however, I have been on the lookout for for some time; ever since reading about it in Jane Brocket's The Gentle Art of Domesticity. So, when I saw it at a secondhand bookshop in Newton I grabbed it and expedited it up my reading list.

Rachel Ferguson has created a wonderful mix between reality and fantasy in The Brontes Went to Woolworths. It took me until some way into the book to work out which characters the Carnes actually knew and which they knew only in their imagination.

Amongst the ecletic visitors are Ironface - a doll who converses in French, Pipson - a music hall comic and Judge Toddington, or Toddy as he is better known. Toddy had been studied by the Carne household for some years - ever since Mrs Carne was called to jury duty in his court. They know many of his habits and much about his daily routine. They even keep photos of him.

Things become complicated when Deirdre, the eldest Carne daughterand a journalist, is sent to cover the opening of a charity bazaar. There she meets Lady Mildred, Toddy's real life wife, and a friendship develops between the two families. I loved Shiel, the youngest Carne, who when speaking to Toddy would get very mixed up between what was fact and what had been imagined about him.

And where do the Brontes come into it? The Carnes manage to get in touch with them during a seance in the country, and it seems that the Brontes didn't quite get to day everything they wanted to. They come back to the Carnes city residence to pay their governess a visit.....and then they go to Woolworths.

Loved it! Particularly this line "however modern or sceptic or advanced one may be, there is something about a church more likely to make wishes come true than anywhere else".

And, in an update to my last post. DH has arrived safely in Baghdad - though I think the heat and dust are making him rather uncomfortable. When I got off the phone to him just over an hour ago they were in the middle of a dust storm. Just 5 months and 3 weeks left until he gets back!


  1. I searched for ages for a copy of this, and now have two! Have so many books I MUST read, that it's waiting for a bit. Still, did just ignore all my other books for a Pride and Prejudice re-read, so perhaps The Brontes should get the same treatment...

  2. Hi Possum Magic, I just dropped by to let you know that my blog, Classical Bookworm has moved to:

    Would you mind updating the link in your blogroll? Thanks! :)