My Brother’s Keeper by Tim Powers

My Brother’s Keeper by Tim Powers has just recently been published and Jack was sent a copy of the book for review in ParSec, He thought that I would be interested in reading it as it involves the Bronte family. I did quite enjoy it, especially at the beginning. It eventually took me a bit out of my usual orbit – no bad thing now and again I suppose. The book is well written and apparently the author is regarded as one of the founders of Steampunk.

The history of the Bronte family is well known and the author has taken the facts and written a fantasy/horror tale around them. The family is down to just the three sisters and Branwell, plus Patrick the father. They’ve all had their time away from The Parsonage and are back home, things hadn’t gone well for any of them and Branwell has been taken over by his addiction to alcohol. While he was away in London (on a three day bender) he had somehow been sought out by people who knew who he was although he didn’t know them. They damaged his hand and recruited him unwillingly as a – werewolf!!

It turns out that he wasn’t the only one in the family to be targeted, it has been going on for two generations, and their father Patrick has been trying to keep werewolves and ghosts at bay for years, hence his habit of firing bullets at the church every morning!

The blurb on the back says:

Though the future will celebrate Charlotte, Emily and Anne, right now they are unknown,, their genius concealed. In just a few short years they will all be dead, and it will be the middle sister Emily’s chance encounter with a greviously wounded man on the moor that sets them on the path to their doom.

For there is an ancient pagan secret haunting the moors, a dark inheritance in the family bloodline and something terrible buried under an ogham-inscribed slab in the church. Not only are their lives at stake, but their very souls.

I ended up quite enjoying the book although I’m not at all into werewolves, ghosts and dark magic. It was a wee bit spooky that the book features Sulis Minerva, just after we had seen her image at the Roman Baths in Bath though.

It was an apt read for the Halloween season.


Path to the Silent Country by Lynne Reid Banks

Path to the Silent Country by Lynne Reid Banks was first published in 1977 and it’s the sequel to the author’s Dark Quartet.

This book begins with Charlotte paying a visit to her friend of many years Ellen. Charlotte had thrown herself into work in an attempt to fill the void that had appeared with the death of Emily, Anne and Branwell in quick succession. Even the well-loved curate Willie Weightman had died unexpectedly.

Ellen’s neighbourhood is agog, there’s a rumour that Charlotte wrote Jane Eyre. She didn’t bother to disguise the many characters that she had taken from real life, and readers had recognised them, alarmingly sometimes they had recognised themselves, and Charlotte would be thrown into the company of some of those people at Ellen’s.

She’s very glad to get away from Haworth though and her increasingly tyrranical and selfish father. He’s terrified that she’ll leave him, a few men have been showing an interest in her, but Charlotte isn’t really interested, apart from anything else, she finds one of them repulsive, he has red hair and freckles!! (so have I) I wonder if he really existed as it is a typical way of a writer making a character instantly unlikeable.

She has been taken up by some celebrities of the day, particularly Thackeray and Mrs Gaskell of course and she finds a sort of happiness, but can’t stay away from Haworth for too long, her father is furious about being left with just the servants to look after him. But he’s even more angry when he realises that his curate is interested in Charlotte. Of course Patrick believes that Charlotte’s constitution isn’t strong enough for marriage and its inevitable consequences. Sadly he was correct. This was an enjoyable read

The author had access to lots of letters written by Charlotte to her friends so I’m not sure how much of her imagination she had to use. We have Charlotte’s husband Arthur to thank for the personal belongings and letters that he conserved on her death, realising they would be important to people in years to come, you can even see her spectacles and wee bits of jewellery displayed in the Haworth Parsonage, along with pens, a writing slope and clothing.

However the idea of the Brontes remaining anonymous writers for long was shot down by one of the Haworth guides when we visited. The post office is still where it was when the Brontes were sending off their many manuscripts to lots of different publishers, it’s a stone’s throw from the parsonage, and they were being returned to the parsonage under the surname Bell. There are no secrets in such a small community and you can be sure that the post-master/mistress and anyone else in the queue at the post office will have noticed all those parcels being sent off by the sisters, possibly Branwell was the only one who didn’t know what was going on!