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Tuesday, 21 July 2009

The Brontes went to Woolworths

The Brontes Went to Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson is one of those unclassifiable books which fills a niche on its own. It is published by the Bloomsbury Group who are re-publishing long out of print early twentieth century classic - much in the same manner as Faber Finds I suppose.

The story at first seems a little hard to credit but as you get into the book it wraps its tentacles around you. The three Carne sisters live in London with their mother and a governess between the wars. Deirdre is a journalist, Katrine is a trainee actress and Sheil (think Isle of Skye not diminutive of Sheila) still studying with the governess. The three girls and their mother - like the Bronte sisters - make up stories to keep themselves amused. One of their longest running fantasies involves the High Court Judge Sir Herbert Toddington and his wife Lady Mildred.

Deirdre is offered an opportunity to meet lady Mildred at a garden fete and approaches it with mixed feelings. Will reality live up to fantasy? What happens when Lady Mildred gets on so well with Deirdre she invites her home for tea and she meets the judge in person makes a charming whimsical story. It is a real feel good story and I was quite sad to turn the last page.

Other reviewers have commented on the snobbery inherent in the book but in my opinion this does not detract from the story as it simply reflects society as it was then. I would put it in the same category as John Hadfield's Love on a Branch Line, E F Benson's Mapp and Lucia series and E M Delafield's Diary of a Provincial Lady. If you like those you will probably like this. It is a book to curl up with when you are feeling less than cheerful as it reminds you human beings are not all bad.

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