Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Brontes Went To Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson: Book Review

The Brontes Went To Woolworths
By Rachel Ferguson

Bloomsbury Publishing, Copyright 1931, 2009.
188 pages

Rob's Rating 4/5

Reading Challenge: Typically British 2010

First published in 1931, The Brontes Went To Woolworths is now back in print thanks to the Bloomsbury Group. They feature a series of lost novels from the early twentieth century.

To be honest, I had never heard of the book (or author Rachel Ferguson) until a complimentary copy was sent to me by Library Thing Early Reviewers.

I was able to find a photo of the author and short biography on-line. Like the fictional family in her book, Rachel's father died early in life and she lived with her mother and sister. At age sixteen, Rachel was a suffragette. She began her writing career as a drama critic and penned nine novels. Rachel died in 1957 (the same year I came into the world) at age sixty-five.

Favorite Quotes From The Book:

"I suppose that nothing, no emotion, no personality, ever really dies, but hangs about in the atmosphere waiting for one to get into touch again."

On Charlotte Bronte: "I thought she must be one of those sort of writers who sounded as if they ought to be dead before they really were."

My Book Review:

At first I didn't get it. The dialogue between characters was hard to follow. But then I realized some characters were not in the room and some were nursery toys. A few were dead but why let that stop a good conversation?

This British family of three sisters and a Mum in 1930's London seemed odd at first. There's Deirdre who is an author and journalist (Emily Bronte proofs her work of course), Katrine an actress (she has lots of material to work with), and young sister Sheil.

Deirdre sees herself as the man of the family. Her father has died but not much is mentioned of him. He still comes around at times as do the Brontes.

The sisters have a wonderful fantasy life where they make up conversations with people they do not know. This often gets in the way of their "real life." When Deirdre is proposed to for example, she declines due to her love for Sherlock Holmes. "His personality and brain...converted living men to shadows."

Sometimes Deirdre feels depressed but the author never digs too deep. I felt sorry for Deirdre when she attended the funeral of an actor whose life she followed and talked about constantly. He was such a major part of her life but they had never met. The closest she ever came to the real person was in death.

Another imagined friendship is with a high-court judge. After making his life part of her own family, Deirdre actually meets the Judge and his wife. What happens when fantasy collides with real life? I won't give away the details but it's fun to follow.

The big question: "Do the Brontes go to Woolworths?" Yes, but "Emily had one of her difficult fits right in the middle of the haberdashery."

I read the book twice and loved it more the second time. Fans of the Brontes will no doubt find subtilties I missed. I did smile with Emily's new book, "Swithering Depths."

Are the sisters odd? I'm not so sure. After the book I visited my Facebook page. Some friends are now imaginary farmers and others have connected with celebrities. Perhaps we all need a dose of fantasy in this life.

More Reviews (if I missed yours please send a link): Nonsuch Book/ Book-A-Rama/ Dovegreyreader/ Passionate Booklover/ A Ladybug's Books/ Midieval Bookworm/ Serendipity/ Joy's Blog/ My Porch

FTC: I received a review copy from the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.


  1. Glad to read that you enjoyed this - i have been meaning to read it for ages - and have read quite a few good reviews. It sounds quite surreal which I like. for years I got it mixed up with Our Spoons Came From Woolworths by Barbara Comyns!

    thanks indeed for sharing an interesting and helpful review


  2. I've seen a good number of bloggers mention this on their blogs, but I honestly had no idea what it was about! Sounds very interesting, and it's one I think I would enjoy. Will keep an eye out!

  3. Hi Rob,

    I'm dropping by after you've left very kind comments on Desert Book Chick.

    This is a book I've had my eye on for a while, having seen it reviewed on several blogs.

    Now, I haven't been to Hawaii (that will change next May) but it's a place that I am looking forward to visiting.

  4. +JMJ+

    This is a book I've never heard of! I think your review is a great introduction.

    And since I happen to be one of those people with great imaginary friendships but only disdain for the imaginary farming, battling and whatnot on Facebook . . . I particularly appreciate your closing sentence! =)

  5. This sounds like a very interesting book. I love stories about people with rich imaginations.

    I particularly loved your comment at the end "Are the sisters odd? I'm not so sure. After the book I visited my Facebook page. Some friends are now imaginary farmers and others have connected with celebrities. Perhaps we all need a dose of fantasy in this life."

    How very true.

  6. Thank you for stopping by my blog and posting! I really like your style of reviewing. I'm very intrigued to see more research that goes into yours with author photos from way back when such as in this post! Keep up the good work. I look forward to reading your posts via RSS because I like the type of books you read.


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