For the past month, Lori and I have been reading The Bronte Plot by Katherine Reay. From the publisher:
When Lucy’s secret is unearthed, her world begins to crumble. But it may be the best thing that has ever happened to her.
Lucy Alling makes a living selling rare books, often taking suspicious liberties to reach her goals. When her unorthodox methods are discovered, Lucy’s secret ruins her relationship with her boss and her boyfriend, James—leaving Lucy in a heap of hurt and trouble. Something has to change; she has to change.
In a sudden turn of events, James’s wealthy grandmother, Helen, hires Lucy as a consultant for a London literary and antiques excursion. Lucy reluctantly agrees and soon discovers Helen holds secrets of her own. In fact, Helen understands Lucy’s predicament better than anyone else.
As the two travel across England, Lucy benefits from Helen’s wisdom as Helen confronts ghosts from her own past. Everything comes to a head at Haworth, home of the Brontë sisters, where Lucy is reminded of the sisters’ beloved heroines who, with tenacity and resolution, endured—even in the midst of impossible circumstances.
Now Lucy must face her past in order to move forward. And while it may hold mistakes and regrets, she will prevail—if only she can step into the life that’s been waiting for her all along.
On to the questions (I’m not answering all of them from the website, but you can click the link to find the rest of them).
The Lewis quote at the front of the book describes an aspect of Lucy at the beginning of this story. Why do you think she’d lost the power to enjoy books? Is there something in our lives that we can fail to see clearly and lose enjoyment for?
First, let me lead with the quote: Did you ever know a lover of books that with all his first editions and signed copies had lost the power to read them? ~C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
As the question states, this quote definitely describes Lucy at the beginning of the novel. She’s so interested in the specific volume of a book, rather than the story enclosed therein, that she doesn’t really “get” the magic behind a good book anymore. I think that nearly anything can become that in our own lives; I can’t think of a specific example, but it makes sense to me that the more you focus on one aspect of a thing, the easier it is to lose sight of the big picture and eventually no longer enjoy, even if it used to be something we adored.
Sid is one of the author’s favorites. What character trait do you think she found so attractive? She doesn’t tell you a lot about his background—any thoughts as to his story?
Sid is Lucy’s boss. He’s a purveyor of antiques, and Lucy works in his store as both a sales clerk for the antiques and running a side business inside the store collecting and selling old books. Sid is very likeable. He’s always upbeat friendly, and I can definitely understand why the author likes him so much. As for his back story, I imagine him being an older gentleman, thin with white hair (I don’t remember offhand if he’s described this way or not), probably widowed. Perhaps he owned the store with his wife, and after her passing he kept it going because he loved it so much.
Was James justified in feeling so hurt when he found the forged inscription? How did he perceive Lucy’s struggle? Was it a betrayal, like he claimed?
Yes, I think James was absolutely justified in feeling betrayed when he discovered that Lucy had faked the inscriptions in the books she’d sold him. If it had been something simple like, “Oh, this one is neat because it has some writing in it,” that would be one thing, but Lucy went so far as to tell James that the writing inside was as much or more a part of the story behind the book as the actual story the author had written. I don’t think he was very sensitive to Lucy’s struggle at all, but honestly, I don’t really blame him.
Lucy talks about “boiling a frog.” What does she mean?
The point behind the saying is that if you place a frog in boiling water, it will simply jump out. If you place a frog in cool water and then heat it to boiling, the frog will perish in the water. When the temperature changes slowly, the frog doesn’t realize it’s dying. In relation to the book, I think Lucy realizes that a lot of the characters, herself included, are like the frog in the water. When things are bad, they immediately remove themselves. But when things start out good and slowly get bad, it’s much harder to remove yourself from the situation.
Do you agree with Lucy that each person has his or her own worldview? How did hers change? How did James’? Helen’s?
Absolutely, everyone has their own worldview. Things would be pretty boring if everyone saw things the same way. I’m still finishing up the last little bit of the book as I answer these questions, so I’m not entirely sure yet how each of the characters changes their points of view, unfortunately.
Next month we’ll be reading Someone Knows My Name by Lawrence Hill. It’s a novel about a slave during Revolutionary War era America.
Special thanks to Lori for choosing The Bronte Plot. I’m really enjoying the book. Someone Knows My Name is another of her choices, and I’m looking forward to starting that one next week.