The Brontës Went To Woolworths by Rachel Ferguson
Quirky, whimsical, and eccentric are the words that spring easily to mind when describing this book. Since I enjoy all of those in fiction, I found it a delight, albeit a difficult to describe one.
The Brontes Went to Woolworths throws you, from the very first page, right into the rich fantasy life of the Carne family, a trio of sisters and their widowed mother. Told primarily by the eldest, Deirdre, we learn of their family enjoyment of imaginary friends. Some of these are of the familiar sort, pets with lives and attitudes, former nursery toys who have moved abroad; and some are real people with whom they have taken a fancy, and created lives for and imaginary relationships with.
One gets the sense that, since most of these characters are male, and older, that the loss of their father looms large in these fantasies, but this is not analyzed or explored. Nothing is. It is simply told, which I find delightful. I like that the author throws you right into their lives, and leaves you to sort out which bits are imaginings and which are real. She also throws in an occasional letter from a governess to her family, so we get glimpses of how the family is perceived by outsiders.
About midway through the book, Deirdre meets an object of their fantasy lives: Lord Doddington, an elderly judge with whom the family became infatuated when their mother had jury duty. Watching the integration of the real Doddington and his wife into the Carne's lives was so sweet.
Ferguson creates such sympathetic characters, with so little exposition. It begins and ends abruptly, as if a window had been opened and closed, and yet the story within is enough. (This was a delightful contrast to the last novel I read, Game of Thrones, which was all exposition and not enough story.)