Book Review: Glass Town

Glass TownTitle: Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg
Genre: Biography, Graphic Novel
Pages: 224
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 6th February 2020
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Rating: ★★★

Four children; Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne have invented a world so vivid that they can step right into it. But can reality be enough, when fiction is so enticing? And what happens to an imaginary world when its creators grow up. Plots are spiralling, characters are getting wildly out of hand, and a great deal of ink is being spilt. Welcome to Glass Town.

I had a bit of an unusual reading experience with Glass Town.  I bought it on impulse when I spied it in Waterstones recently, when I realised it was the newest publication by one of my favourite graphic novel writers, Isabel Greenberg.  So, without even reading the blurb, I delved in, my expectations high.

Glass Towns is about the imaginary world created by four of the Brontë siblings – Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne.  The book flits between fiction and reality, with the two frequently becoming confused.  And, if I’m honest, I was a bit confused when I read it to start with.  I wasn’t familiar with the history of the Brontë’s Glass Town, and it wasn’t really until I fact-checked and understood how it had actually truly been a part of their lives that the book clicked into place for me.

I’d probably recommend that anyone unfamiliar with this part of their history reads up on it a little to make the book even more enjoyable.  The children brought their fictional world alive with stories, poems and play, and it really reminded me of the stories I used to create with one of my friends when we were young; those characters and worlds were so real that they too sometimes spilled over into the real world, with us nudging each other knowingly if we met anyone who reminded us of those creations.

There were some very meaningful moments in the book that I was desperate to share.  One moment I really enjoyed is near the beginning when Charlotte is beginning her story.  She suggests she starts and ends the story with a funeral, and her companion tells her, “how morbidly you bookend this tale”.  But Charlotte had lost three of her siblings, and the era of Glass Town had ended – this moment is beautiful but terribly sad, as is a pretty accurate precursor for what is to follow.  There is so much tragedy in the Brontë’s story, with an underlying sadness to the whole narration that only lifts when Charlotte’s mind escapes to Glass Town.

Sadly though, I just wasn’t crazy for the book in the same way I was for The Encyclopedia of Early Earth, and The One Hundred Nights of Hero.  There is no denying this book is beautiful with a bizarre and interesting story.  It was incredible to learn about this sprawling world created by some of the most prominent female writers (and their brother) in English literature, and I liked how Isabel had interpreted their story and made it into her own.  It wasn’t quite the book for me, but there is still a lot to get out of the experience, and I think it’s worth a read.

Have you read Glass Town? What were your thoughts?

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