Always Emily by Michaela MacColl
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Publishing Date: April 8
Genre: young adult, historical fiction, mystery
Emily and Charlotte Brontë are about as opposite as two sisters can be. Charlotte is practical and cautious; Emily is headstrong and imaginative. But they do have one thing in common: a love of writing. This shared passion will lead them to be two of the first published female novelists and authors of several enduring works of classic literature. But they’re not there yet. First, they have to figure out if there is a connection between a string of local burglaries, rumors that a neighbor’s death may not have been accidental, and the appearance on the moors of a mysterious and handsome stranger. The girls have a lot of knots to untangle—before someone else gets killed.
Practical Charlotte and imaginative Emily may be two creative and artistic sisters, but their opinions and habits often clash in Haworth. They both notice their brother Branwell acting oddly — or, more so than usual — coinciding with their neighbor’s mysterious death. Soon Charlotte and Emily meet the neighbor’s son, a frightened woman, and a determined stranger on the moors, each with a different story that, eventually, influence the sisters’ writing and future success.
This review is battling two sets of opinions (ha, quite like these sisters!): one based off a Brontë fanatic and academic, and one based off a YA reader. As someone who has spent the last 10 years researching the Brontë family, reading their works, watching adaptations, and reading the occasional fictional account, I would have rated this with 1 star. Their lives were exaggerated and slightly misrepresented, and something about their father Patrick seemed off from all I’ve researched on him. Then again, the only true critic would be someone who befriended the real Brontës, and obviously they’re long gone.
As a YA reader, I could give this 4 stars. It’s a great introduction to the secluded family, to the minds of the authors of the strange and wild stories, to the gothic feel of the moors. The mystery is intriguing, the situations the sisters encounter are thrilling, and the growth between the sisters is beautiful to watch. Emily and Charlotte are given alternating chapters in their own POV, and I have to say Emily’s is most compelling. She’s given life and freedom, while Charlotte’s seems restrained. Maybe it’s an expression of their personalities, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the real Charlotte and it would’ve been great to read some more depth in her chapters. Something quite like Jane’s in Jane Eyre — restrained to others but inwardly flourishing.
For a cozy mystery set on the English moors in the 1830s, this is an entertaining read. Yet I wouldn’t recommend this to someone who is a massive Brontë fan or scholar. It’s a good bridge for those new to the Brontës and their quiet yet turbulent lives.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from Chronicle Books for review!
4 thoughts on “Book Review: “Always Emily” by Michaela MacColl (ARC)”
It’s always hard when fiction doesn’t match up to fact, but like you said, this book might get readers more interested in the Bronte sisters. And that’s always good, right?
Oh most definitely! That was the thing about this review — the book wasn’t for me, but it had plenty of great qualities to it, and it really is an excellent introduction to Gothic literature, to the Bronte family, to that period in history, etc. I may not have been the right audience, but there is certainly a perfect audience out there!
What an atmospheric cover! I’ve read some of the sisters’ books but I know little about their lives, so I think I’d be ok with this from that point of view, great review! And I love that you’ve done so much research into their family, so interesting!
And thanks for the comment on my review of DoSaB – I’ve read book 2 and am now onto book 3!!
Isn’t it beautiful?! Perfectly captures the mysteriousness of the moors. The book contains bits and pieces of truth, people and events and such, that are excellent for “new to Bronte” readers. Read it when you can!
You’re welcome! I’M SO EXCITED FOR BOOK THREE. Did you review book 2? I should head on over…