Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been close. After all, nothing can unite four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict, spartan upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.
Well, World of Ink and Shadows was an interesting read, even though it was not what I expected. As the blurb says, the book is about the Bronte siblings. At least in theory. This novel is more fiction than history. It is based on the lives of the Bronte siblings, they’re shared childhood, but most of it is fictionalized. In other words, L.Coakley created her own story.
I’ll be honest, when I first read the blurb, I expected more facts about the Bronte’s lives. Something that I couldn’t find on the internet. I do not know much about the Bronte’s other then what I’ve read on websites. Therefore, if people are expecting a biography told as a story mixed with some fiction, this book is not for them.
Having said that, the novel is still an interesting story. Quite original. I’ve never read anything like it. The novel is mostly about the Bronte’s stories. They are able to step inside the world they created, observe it, and make changes; they can also interact with the characters they created and such. Literary. The Bronte live in two parallel worlds: the story-land, and the real world. There is a portal that lets them pass into the other dimension. However, this ability to go to a land where they can create their own world came at a price. The Bronte siblings made a pact with the devil, if you will.
I will not say more about the story, so I will not spoil it for you.
The novel is written from each sibling’s perspective. Each chapter is about a different sibling. Some people might not like this – the jumping from one sibling to another one in each chapter. I wasn’t bother that much by it, I found it quite interesting. However, not all the Bronte were interesting. Some were a little bit boring, while others were intriguing. My favorites were Branwell (the brother) and Charlotte.
The plot moves at slow-medium pace, and it has ups and downs. Sometimes I was pulled into the story, sometimes I was disengaged with it. I don’t know if it’s because of the different perspective, or because of the writing; or maybe a little bit of both.
The novel also has some negatives. As I mentioned above, the story is focused on the characters stories and their imagination. In other words, the readers are in their heads all the time reading what the Bronte are imagining. Therefore, their characterization is not very deep – Branwell is troubled, Charlotte is plain and romantic, Anne is the good girl, and Emily is the wild one. Nothing really new, since people who know a little bit about them already know this. Personally, I would’ve like to read more about their earlier childhoods or their day to day life- like when they were at boarding school and they were treated terribly. What made them become incredible writer? What events shaped their personalities? Why was Branwell so troubled? Even if it would’ve been fiction mixed with facts, it would’ve been a little bit more interesting.
I think what I’m trying to say is this: the novel is interesting, yes, but the protagonists could’ve been fictional character and it wouldn’t make a big difference. Also, the novel is a little bit messy – sometimes is hard to distinguish between [their] reality, and the fantasy world.
Overall, I have mixed feelings about this one. I liked it, I think it has some originality, and it’s an interesting concept. On the other hand, I wanted something more complex.
I think teenagers will enjoy it, especially if they don’t know much about the Bronte family. People who like reading about other people’s thoughts and dreams will also like it. However, if you want a real historical novel, you might be disappointed. But don’t take my opinion as a fact – give it a try, and you might end up liking more than I did.