We British are proud of the Brontës, especially in cinematic form played out by attractive actors. But the Japanese are the real fans, apparently, making pilgrimages to the village on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales where the sisters penned their novels. One such tour is the launch point for Mick Jackson’s fourth novel for adults in which the eponymous “heroine”, after a few days drinking with her sister in London, travels north with a coachload of older women. But Yukiko is no Brontë aficionado. Instead, armed with a handful of photographs taken in the area, she considers herself a psychic detective, intent on discovering the secret of her mother’s visit ten years before, which she believes precipitated her suicide back home in the snow.
The spiritualism side got a bit weird in the second half of the novel, but you don’t have to believe in it to enjoy the story. In her search for her mother’s memory in the frozen wilds, Yuki reminds me a little of Katherine Carlyle. Thanks to Faber and Faber for my review copy.
My own introduction to the Brontës was through my mother’s evening class in English literature which led to her quoting bits of Wuthering Heights at us as she prepared for her exam. A couple of years later, I was studying the same novel at school for my own O-level but, as outlined in my post A Mind of My Own in the Other Side of the Story, it was another sister’s novel, Jane Eyre, that had the greater impact on my maturing mind.
While Yorkshire has the biggest claim on Brontë country, there’s also a little bit further south in Derbyshire, as it is commonly believed that Charlotte Brontë used the area around Hathersage as her setting for Jane Eyre. Little did I know, when I first read the novel over forty years ago, I’d be leading a literary walk around the area in my role as a volunteer ranger with the Peak District National Park. It’s taking place this year on Sunday 3 July; if you’d like to come along you can book through the national park website. Hopefully we’ll have some sunny weather but, even if not, the walk will still go ahead: Jane Eyre might start with the sentence There was no possibility of taking a walk that day, but, unlike Charlotte and her sisters, we have the luxury of lightweight waterproof clothing and won’t let a spot of rain put us off. If you’re a walker, you might also like my post on the Peak District walk that features in my novel.