Glass Town: The Imaginary World of the Brontës by Isabel Greenberg

My Rating: 5 stars

Glass Town is a historical fantasy graphic novel about the fictional world the Brontë siblings made up as children and wrote about into adulthood. It’s one of the most gorgeous graphic novels I’ve encountered. Every single thing about it is beautiful: the art, the story, the dust jacket, the end pages, even the physical book itself are simply stunning. I particularly appreciate Greenberg’s use of color; the present day sections of Charlotte feature blacks and greys, the past is in dulled reds, and Glass Town is bright and colorful.

I also appreciated how well Greenberg has managed to capture the siblings’ real personalities (at least as we know them from letters, diaries, and first hand accounts). This is always my biggest fear going into fictional stories about the family; I’ve spent so much time studying them, so it irks me when writers or directors have them do or say something out of character. But even though most of the conversations are fictionalized, everything that occurs between the siblings in Glass Town feels as if it could have really happened. Their dialogue and actions reflects their real-life personalities. She does an especially excellent job with Charlotte since she is the main character, but Emily, Anne, and Branwell are just as strong. One of my favorite scenes was when Emily and Anne announce they are breaking off from Glass Town to create a new world. That is certainly how it could have gone down in reality.

The intersection between the real world and Glass Town is probably the most fascinating aspect of the book. The story starts out with Charles Wellesley, one of the Glass Town characters, appearing in the real world and interacting with Charlotte. This continues throughout and occurs with other characters as well. I thought this was a great way to portray how invested the siblings were in their world; it truly became real to them. It also brings up complicated questions within the story: is this fantasy world real or is it some kind of coping mechanism? The reader is left to wonder, which is why I label this fantasy as well as historical fiction.

Overall, Glass Town is a beautiful graphic novel that provides both a realistic and fantastic vision of the Brontë family. Though the conversations are fictionalized and there is potentially a fantasy element introduced, it gives insight into the siblings’ early lives in a fun and creative way.

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