Friday, June 20, 2008

The Brontes Went to Woolworths

Sometimes almost too many ideas are floating around at blogs. Have you ever read so much at Library Thing that you can't decide what to read next? After Virago’s 30th anniversary, I came across at least five blogs excitedly recalling the pleasure of first reading Rachel Ferguson’s novel, THE BRONTES WENT TO WOOLWORTHS.

Well, my copy finally came today. After ripping off the wrapping, I threw down DAVID COPPERFIELD (due Monday) and FIDELITY, then ran outside and sat on the lawn chair, slathering my arms with Off (which has DEET, which can’t be a good thing, and probably turns my body into a horrid chemical experiment), and soon became absorbed in this likable little novel.

It is very gently amusing, a comic novel of a kind I've never read. Like the Brontes, the three sisters, Deirdre (a freelance writer and failed novelist), Katrine (a drama student), and, Sheil (who has a governess), have imaginative lives which supersede reality. Deirdre burlesques celebrities about which she has read or written about for newspapers. Among these whimical characters are Toddy, a judge; Dion Saffron, a Pierrot; and a doll called Ironface. Deirdre, her mother, and sisters have stagy dialogues about these people, speaking in different voices and creating imaginary situations for them.

Here’s a description of Shiel's trip with her governess to Judge Toddington’s law court:

“”She sat, it seems, drinking him in, and horrified Miss Chisholm, the predecessor ot Miss Martin, by unwrapping one of my photographs of his lordship in Court and frankly comparing it with the aloof, seated figure. Going home she said, ‘He is VERY pretty, and yawns like tiny jam tarts.’ And Miss Chisholm, who had seen an old, frail man in pince-nez, austerely putting people in therir place, told her not to talk nonsence.”

It reminds me very slightly of Dodie Smith's I CAPTURE THE CASTLE.


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