For the first two months of 2015 I read nothing but Victorian novels, taking in all of Thomas Hardy’s major works, some Gaskell and Dickens and filling in the gaps in my reading of the Bronte sisters, among others. I was obsessed. By the end of February I was even starting to think and talk like a Victorian and wonder why I wasn’t wearing a bustle and hiring a governess. I had to be forcibly dragged away from my beautiful Penguin English Library collection and rehabbd with modern fiction. It was hard, but I made it.
While all of this makes me, perhaps, a little strange, it also means I found common ground with Lucy Alling, the main character in Katherine Reay’s The Bronte Plot; Lucy sells rare books for a living and has a particular affinity with my beloved Victor
ians. Her passion for the books leads her to some dubious courses of action which are swiftly discovered, causing Lucy a number of issues in her relationships, her career, and her
own sense of identity. There are various subplots involving Lucy’s long-estranged father and her fears about ways in which she might resemble him, as well as her romantic
relationship and how her less-than-legal actions impact it. Things start quite slowly but, before the novel reaches its halfway point, Reay’s story has real momentum. As someone who values their sleep very, very highly, I can offer th
is novel no greater praise than that I had to stay up past 11 p.m. (I know, I’m a rebel; don’t tell my mother) to see how it resolved itself. The relationships are compelling and I developed a particular love for Helen, who leads Lucy on a literary adventure which I would quite like to follow myself.