Thursday, January 28, 2016

"The Bronte Plot" by Katherine Reay

Kara has been raving about Katherine Reay's books over at Flowers of Quiet Happiness for a couple years now, and lately, so has Carissa at Bookshelves and Daydreams.  Since I'm gearing up for my Jane Eyre read-along (even though, yes, I'm still in the midst of the Shane read-along right now), I decided it was time to see what all the Reay-centered excitement was about and try The Bronte Plot.

Let's just say I'll be reading Reay's other two novels, Dear Mr. Knightley and Lizzy & Jane ASAP.  In fact, I've got a hold request in at the library for the latter right now.

In her review here, Kara said, that Reay's characters "sneak into my heart so subtly until suddenly there they are refusing to leave!"  And that's exactly what happened to me.  At first, I wasn't sure I even wanted to like the protag, Lucy.  I liked her love-interest, James.  I liked James' grandmother, Helen.  I loved her boss Sid from the first (doesn't hurt that I imagined him as a blond Tom Hiddleston for no good reason other than that he totally fit the role).

(This is exactly what I imagined Sid looking like.)
(Now you know.)

But Lucy... Lucy was a habitual liar.  Lucy had abandonment issues because she hasn't seen her father for twenty years.  Lucy falsified information and cheated.  True, her father was a con artist, which intrigued me.  (I'm fascinated by con artists.  I expect it's a great moral failing.)  But that didn't mean she had to mess with the truth too.  And then, throughout the book, she came to realize that as well, and that's when I started to like her.  When she realized that twisting the truth hurt people whether she ever learned about it or not.  

The basic story is this:  Lucy works for Sid in the interior decorating business.  She falls for a young and ambitious lawyer named James.  James catches her in a lie and breaks up with her.  And then his grandmother, Helen, asks Lucy to accompany her in a buying trip in England, which is when things got really interesting.

One of the things I liked best about this book was the rich descriptions of furniture, antiques, and decorations.  I'm not at all talented in the decorating realm, but I enjoy learning about it -- I used to watch Trading Spaces a lot on TLC back when I had cable in college.  My friends and I had our favorite designers and would get really into critiquing their design decisions and discussing what would would do the same or differently.  So I really enjoyed that aspect of the book, and the way Reay could use just a sentence or two to make me see the room she was describing.  I struggle with writing succinct, rich descriptions myself, so I hope I learned a bit from reading this.

The Bronte Plot isn't overtly Christian fiction -- the characters don't go to church, don't pray, don't think or talk about making decisions based on what the Bible teaches.  But it plainly comes from a Christian world view, and to be honest, it was more wholesome and God-honoring that some "Christian fiction" I have read that puts lots of religious sentiment into characters' mouths, then has them behaving in decidedly un-Christian ways.  I'm happy to say I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone.

Particularly Good Bits:

As the silence continued, Lucy's angst faded with the realization that no one could press the answers, force the change, or listen well enough to heal her.  She was on her own (p. 118).

"Did you know Dickens never killed his bad guys?  Well, he killed off one.  The others were cowards, bullies, minor villains, and general degenerates, but they were worth something and they lived.  If they didn't change on the page and find redemption, they lived with that promise still out there (p. 126-27).

"You are your own person and I wouldn't worry about the stories.  We all compare our lives to them.  That's why we love them:  they help us understand ourselves" (p. 130).

"Artists create things that point us to beauty, to truth, to God" (p. 157).

How much changed in a life, in a person, when one wasn't paying attention? (p. 163).

If This was a Movie, I Would Rate It:  PG for serious discussions of death and dying.  There's no bad language and zero racy scenes.


  1. Love your review! I'm on hold for The Bronte Plot and can hardly wait it come in! I'm not really a true foodie so Lizzy & Jane was sometimes a little distracting with all the food references, but I love antiques, so I suspect I'll thoroughly enjoy Reay's latest! It's hard to believe Reay's work has only been around for a few years. She's quite amazing!

    1. Carissa, I'm not exactly a foodie myself, but I do enjoy good food and preparing it, so I'm thinking I'll dig that aspect. We'll see!

      And yes, it's hard to believe this is her third novel, because it feels like the work of a seasoned writer.

    2. Well, and I can see her progression even from her 1st novel to her 2nd so I'm anticipating that her 3rd will be even better. She keeps improving, tightening her plots, better character development. It's really nice to see a writer making such advancements with each new novel she releases.

    3. Carissa, that's cool! I'm reading them backwards, as it were, so we'll see what I notice in that regard.

  2. Yay! I am so happy you liked this one. (And thanks for the shoutout. :) You perfectly described my reaction to Lucy. She's so unlikeable at the beginning, but then slowly she took root in my heart and the more I journeyed with her, the more I liked her. She has to grow on you though, for sure.

    And now that you know you liked this one, AND the fact that you love Daddy Long Legs, I really think you should try Dear Mr. Knightley. Because I'd love to hear your thoughts on that one! :)

    Also, I didn't have a particular picture in mind for Sid, but I do like your idea. A lot! Great visual. Thanks. :D

    1. Kara, you're welcome! It's cool to find an unlikable heroine that eventually comes around, because too often they just remain unlikable and then I just don't like the book either and feel bummed.

      I'll definitely be reading Dear Mr. Knightley after Lizzie and Jane! It had more holds on it, though, so I opted for L&J cuz I'd get it faster :-) I promise to review both!

  3. I've had Dear Mr. Knightley on my wishlist forever, and The Bronte Plot is also so tempting! I've read an excerpt of DMK and Reay has a writing style that I find very similar to that of certain Persephone novels. It's lovely.

    1. Masanobu, I just started reading her Lizzy & Jane last night, and so far I'm liking it equally well. Reay is definitely an engaging writer!

  4. Going through a Reay kick right now because I'm almost done A Portrait of Emily Price, and I think I'll end up liking The Bronte Plot just a little better than APOEP simply because the themes of truth and honesty and moving on from the past resonate with me so deeply. <3

    1. Eva, that sounds like me a couple years ago! I read all the books she had out at the time, almost back-to-back. Good stuff.

      I'll be interested to hear what you think of TBP when you get to it.


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