My Brother’s Keeper
Hallowe’en has come and gone for another year, and what better way to mark the season than with a novel about terrifying supernatural goings-on on the Yorkshire Moors, staring none other than Emily Brontë?
By now most of you are doubtless familiar with the fantasy worlds that the Brontë children created when they were young. They are a major feature in the Fantasy exhibition at the British Library (thereby claiming some of Britain’s most famous and beloved writers for the fantasy genre). Possibly less is known about the Brontës themselves. Wikipedia has this to say about Emily: “Emily Brontë’s solitary and reclusive nature has made her a mysterious figure and a challenge for biographers to assess.”
Most of what we know about Emily comes from her sister, Charlotte. But modern biographers fear that the eldest Brontë sugar-coated the truth somewhat. One, “argues that Emily evidently shocked her [Charlotte], to the point where she may even have doubted her sister’s sanity.” And yet a schoolmaster remarked of Emily:
She should have been a man – a great navigator. Her powerful reason would have deduced new spheres of discovery from the knowledge of the old; and her strong imperious will would never have been daunted by opposition or difficulty, never have given way but with life. She had a head for logic, and a capability of argument unusual in a man and rarer indeed in a woman… impairing this gift was her stubborn tenacity of will which rendered her obtuse to all reasoning where her own wishes, or her own sense of right, was concerned.
And of course Emily produced Wuthering Heights, which is clearly the most bonkers part of the family output. One Victorian critic described as, “unchecked primal passions, replete with savage cruelty and outright barbarism.”
Clearly Emily deserves to have a book written about her, and who better to do it than Tim Powers?
Powers, of course, is already well-known for his interest in 19th Century British writers, most notably the reclusive poet, William Ashbless. He also produced The Stress of Her Regard, which is a great book about Byron, the Shelleys, Keats, and vampires. In My Brother’s Keeper he turns his attention to the Brontës with the not-entirely-unbelievable presumption that the family had a history of being menaced by werewolves. I mean, what else would they be doing on the Yorkshire Moors?
The brother of the title is Branwell, the artist sibling of the famous sisters. He is portrayed as a rather incompetent young man, tormented by the fact that his lack of ability has prevented him from becoming the glorious success that his position as the male heir in a household of women clearly destined him for. These days he’d be joining incel groups on the Internet, but in the 19th Century he instead falls under the influence of werewolves. Charlotte is too sensible to believe in such things, and Anne too young and timid. So it falls largely to Emily to keep the family safe, and to put an end to the terrible scourge that has followed them from Ireland to Yorkshire.
Tim Powers has been writing novels since I was at university, which is a very long time ago. Also, in his younger days, he was a close friend of the great Philip K Dick. He knows what he is doing with a book. That should be all of the recommendation that you need.
Title: My Brother's Keeper
By: Tim Powers
Publisher: Head of Zeus
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