Wednesday 10 March 2010

The Brontes Went To Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson

Pages - 188

Challenges - Support Your Library Challenge

First published in 1931, repulished by The Bloomsbury Group in 2009.

How I loath that kind of novel which is about a lot of sisters. It is usually called They Were Seven, or Three Not Out, and one spends one's entire time trying to sort them all, and muttering,'Was it Isobel who drank, or Gertie? And which was it who ran way with the gigolo, Amy or Pauline? And which of their separated husbands was Lionel, Isobel's or Amy's.

The Carne sisters are growing up in London just before the Second World War. All three sisters cannot resist making up stories about different people. They range from stories about childhood toys to people they idolise in the public eye. The book deals with one of their imaginary friendships in great detail with Judge Toddington, to them all, he is just like one of the family. Until Deidre, the middle sister actually meets the judge's wife at a bazaar and the family begin to become acquainted with the her and her husband. The family find that they need to look closely at their desire for story telling and decide whether to continue or cast off their childhood fantasies.

This book was a little difficult to get into to begin with but after the first few chapters I absolutely loved it. The reason I had difficulties with it was because I struggled to grasp which parts of the story were fantasized and which were real. The family made up such huge whopping stories about these different characters, that I wasn't always sure whether that the people they were talking about were fictional or real. Once I could actually make a distinction, I couldn't put the book down. It became such a delightful read.

I felt that a lot of the fictional characters were developed in order to help the three girls deal with the lack of a father figure. His loss is felt throughout the book and the two older girls and their mother try and compensate for his loss by developing all these loving male figures into their lives. They find that this is especially of comfort to the younger daughter,Sheil, however it does cause difficulties when the real Judge doesn't live up to the fictional one in Sheil's eyes. By losing themselves in a fantasy world, it limits the amount of contact the outside world has on them.The fictitious world they have invented, puts up a padded barrier cushioning any blows which would normally upset and depress others.

I loved the blossoming friendship that occurs between the Judge and the family throughout the book. The Judge helps to fill a void that has long been dusty and cobwebbed within the girl's lives.

The Brontes do come into the book, but it would be so wrong of me to tell you of the part they play. You will have to read this delight yourself. This book is absolutely charming and full of humour, definitely worth a read.

This book is one of six recently brought out by The Bloomsbury Group. Each book has a delightfully pastel cover which entices you without even having to read a word. All of the books were originally written at the beginning of the twentieth century and had all fallen out of print. Bloomsbury have kindly brought them back into print to for our personal delight.

Other Reviews Of This Book

Nonsuch Books

Things Mean Alot


  1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it too, Vivienne! That's an excellent point that their fantasies were a way of dealing with the loss they'd suffered. I thought it was so sweet how they were so protective of Sheil, and how the Judge "got it" too and tried his best not to let her down.

  2. Hi Viv, I'm glad you've enjoyed it despite the slow start. I've not read this and am not sure if I would, but I certainly know about it now, thanks to you.

  3. I'm so jealous your library has this! I've been wanting to read it forever (and your review makes me want to read it even more), but my library doesn't seem to be aware of Bloomsbury. *sigh*

  4. I love the title of this book, it makes me feel all nostalgic for the loss of 'Woolies'. Glad that you carried on reading and got to enjoy the book.

  5. I would pick up this book based on the title alone. So glad to hear that the story contained within is worthwhile.

  6. This title alone makes me want to read this book; thanks 4 sharing your thoughts Viv

  7. I had no idea this was originally printed in 1931! Figuring out the lies would be fun after a while.

  8. I have had my eye on this one for a while, but it was never in print until just recently. It is in my cart over at Amazon, just waiting for me to click on "purchase"! Maybe I will try to have it for the Read-a-Thon in April. Love your review--

  9. I've heard good things about this one! I just recently won a copy of a Bloomsbury re-issue in a contest- Mrs. Hargreaves- and am SO EXCITED to read it! I love the covers :-)

  10. I think I'll get this one eventually - oddly because the cover really attracts me! Your review makes me feel like I'd be getting more than the cover!

  11. Nice review.
    I do like when they bring back out of print books and I am happy to see that it was worth it

  12. Nymeth - I thought the Judge was very accomodating in the way he helped the girls keep the story alive. I think most people would have run the other way if they thought someone had completely fabricated a life for them.

    Alice - it really was a lovely book.

    Eva - I am really sorry that your library don't have any of these delightful books. I have struggled recently to get hold of books that I want from our library too. Normally American books are hard to get.

    Petty Witter - Woolies, now there is a company I really do miss. I didn't realise how much I used it until it went.

    Molly - the title is fabulous!

    Carmen, Diane and Amanda - I can highly recommend it.

    Kathy - I am beginning to really enjoy these books from the past.

    Kim - I hope you get it soon.

    Aarti - I want to read Mrs Hargreaves soon.

    Caitlin - I think you would enjoy this one.

  13. this sounds good viv, now I want to read it!
    I like the title.
    great review :)

  14. It sounds so different that I want to read it!

  15. Delightful review, Vivienne! I'll keep an eye out for this one.

  16. Wonderfully captivating review! This book sounds like a "must read."

  17. I'm glad you enjoyed it. I started this book this week, but I couldn't finish it. It was hard for me to get into and I put it aside for now. Maybe I will pick it up soon. I don't know. We'll see, as I have many other books that I want to read now.


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