[Gifted from the publisher, Hodder & Stoughton. All opinions are my own.]
First and foremost, I would like to apologise for my absence on here. I’m been super bogged down by university work, work work, and having a life outside of my bedroom, but I’m back, read a few books in my hiatus, and I’m ready to talk about them till my hands ache from typing. Thanks for sticking around!
We can all agree that we’re sick of the same old Wuthering Heights retelling; bored of seeing Mr. Rochester reflected in every modern fictional fuck boy; and that nothing will outshine The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. No one can capture the hearts of readers like Charlotte did with Jane Eyre, like Emily did with Wuthering Heights, and like Anne did with Tenant. Instead of reimaging the classics, why don’t people turn to reimagining the lives of the authors? Well, this is exactly what Bella Ellis did with The Vanished Bride, where the sisters are detectives, solving the mystery of a missing woman, who left nothing but a bloody room behind her. It might not be plausible, or, you know, accurate, but it’s different. It’s fun.
The sisters are going about their usual business. Charlotte is pining after Monsieur Heger; Emily is roaming the moors and preparing food; and Anne is sat by the fire, scribbling away. Everything is ordinary – that is, until they hear word of a vanished bride not far away from their village parsonage. Charlotte, ever the enthusiast and pioneer, propose that the sisters investigate the crime when the police produce no answers. The image of the sisters being detectives isn’t totally far-fetched to me. They weren’t the type to sit around and do nothing, and if anyone is going to fight the oppressive Victorian ideals of womanhood, then it would be these three.
Despite the gruesome nature of the story, The Vanished Bride was actually a very fun and light-hearted read. I was in the Worst Reading Mood when I picked this up. I wanted something different – something that could ease me back into reading – and this definitely didn’t disappoint. Bella Ellis doesn’t take herself, or the characters, or the plot, for that matter, too seriously. She is here to have fun, and to tell a story. It’s a fast paced book, which is exactly what you want from a mystery novel, and it’s never predictable. I played along with the sisters, trying to discover what had happened before it was revealed. I thought I was onto it, but then Ellis pulled the rug from right under me. It was an addictive read, to say the least.
Ellis blends fiction with her own appreciation for the sisters, so every now and then there would be a reference to their lives or to their work. It can be a bit overdone in some instances, and some lines were really quite cringey, but it’s nice to see how much Ellis knows about the family. It’s very clear that she is dedicated to them and, as a fellow lover of the Brontës, I really appreciated this aspect of the novel. Just be aware that it can get quite cheesy at times, which really affected my overall enjoyment of the book. It felt a little too forced. It wasn’t necessary to have so much non-fiction packed into a fictional story, you know?
All-in-all, a very enjoyable book. The plot wasn’t always the strongest, but the characterisation was (for the most part) spot on, and it was a refreshing, light-hearted read. It’s quick and easy. I’ll definitely try the next book in the series. This is, after all, Ellis’ debut, so I’m sure she has a lot more to give!
Does this sound like something you’d enjoy – not your typical retelling? Are you a fan of the Brontës? Let me know in the comments – I’d love to discuss your thoughts on this kind of book!
Thanks for reading, Lauren X