Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Me on Always Emily

Title: Always Emily
Author: Michaela MacColl
Release Date: April 8, 2014
Publisher: Chronicle Books

Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature. But they're not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor's death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle... before someone else gets killed.

Always Emily is inventive and creative, an atmospheric setting and a dangerous mystery investigated by two opposite but passionate sisters. It's a race against time to stop crimes, uncover the truth, and ease someone's terrible suffering.

I was unaware of the differences between Charlotte and Emily's personalities before this book. Emily's carefree and wandering nature is often at odds with Charlotte's practicality, but both love writing. They love stories and creating new places and characters. This book is a fictional moment in time in the Brontë sisters' lives, and so I have to wonder how much of their personalities are their own and how much comes from the author. Also their habits and ways of speaking to both family and strangers. Creating new characters and worlds can be complex, but writing about actual people can be so much harder. The need to be correct is so important.

The moors of their home and the mystery make this a rather haunting book. A secret group holds its meetings in private, seemingly random thefts occur in the area, and a mysterious man with a mysterious mission suddenly appears. The mystery itself seemed rather timely, a possibility given what was and wasn't known about people and their motives in the 1800's.

But I have a problem with this book, and it's purely one of my own making though no fault of the book itself. My problem is that, with Emily and Charlotte, their hints and whispers of mystery-seeking and romance, it gives me hope for a happy future for them and their family, but that is not what happens. Not when Emily dies not long after their brother in 1848, rarely-mentioned sister Anne the next year, and Charlotte, while with child but in ill health, in 1855. It sours my opinion but I have to remember that, while the Brontës are real, this story is not.

As with Nobody's Secret, this was a creative and well-researched look into the adolescence of renowned literary figures. If the author chooses to write similar books, mysteries in the teenage years of other authors and poets, I will certainly read them.

(I received an advance copy of this title to review from Raincoast Books.)

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