“Glass Town”

Book Review:

Glass Town.  Isabel Greenberg, Jonathan Cape, London

How do I describe this?  Glass Town is a thick, large format graphic novel, beautifully produced, of the Brontës’ juvenilia, of which there was a massive quantity, more than all their novels combined!  

I am not in general a devotée of graphic novels, but I loved this and my graphic version of Jane Eyre.  It is not the genre perhaps, but the matter dealt with that makes a graphic novel memorable.  Here Isabel Greenberg weaves together the juvenilia and the Brontës’ lives to form a coherent whole.  Much of the incident in the juvenilia and in their lives is familiar, but she also indulges in a few creative flourishes, which fit well with the overall tone of the book.

The opening does not bely its’ promise!  Glass Town opens with Charlotte being immediately accosted by her Animus in the guise of Lord Charles Wellesley, the male protagonist who often carried her voice in her early writings.  It is such a clear picture of the way the Animus works that I gasped!  For those of you unfamiliar with Jungian psychology, the Animus is the male aspect of a woman’s personality.  I think it is quite enlightening to view CB’s writing through a Jungian filter, especially here! 

The book is structured as a conversation between CB and her Animus and it works brilliantly!

The juvenilia focus more on CB’s and Branwell’s writings about Angria than Emily and Anne’s writings about Gondal, which are nearly all lost except for the poems.  This is reflected here.  Despite this, Greenberg still manages to create an exciting story about the intrigues in Glass Town and at the same time suggests how these youthful idols, transformed and changed, survived in her novels.  From passive Mary Percy to feisty Miss Eyre.  From the Byronic Zamorna to crotchety M. Paul Emanuel.  In the end CB leaves Glass Town and the “Infernal World” behind for “real life”-but Lord Charles is still here, made immortal by her genius.  A wonderful Christmas gift for any lover of serious literature and any Brontë aficionado. I enjoyed it very much!  

Sandya Narayanswami 2021