H is for Hawk (2014) by Helen MacDonald

HISFORHAWK

I was in ruins. Some deep part of me was trying to rebuild itself, and its model was right there on my fist. The hawk was everything I wanted to be: solitary, self-possessed, free from grief, and numb to the hurts of human life.

It’s been several weeks since I finished this book so you’ll have to forgive the hurried, vague review which doesn’t really do it justice. Despite not being my usual cup of tea (at least on first appearances) this was an early addition to my birthday wishlist; I say this because when H is for Hawk first came out I carelessly dismissed it as a sort of misery memoir until several word of mouth recommendations assured me I’d got that entirely wrong.  I’m pleased I got over my initial reservations; this was very well worth the reading.

It’s a difficult book to describe, H is for Hawk, because there’s a lot going on here but put very simply it’s a memoir of MacDonald’s attempt to train a goshawk named Mabel in the wake of her father’s sudden death. She knits her grief into the story of Mabel, describing both her memories of her father as well as the practicalities of purchasing, training and living with a wild bird.  Alongside this tale MacDonald also provides a study of the reclusive author T.H. White whose own chaotic dabblings in falconry, as described in his 1951 book The Goshawk, were a source of much childhood confusion and inspiration to McDonald. In this way she provides a really moving account of her own grief, carefully scrutinising all the ways in which she consciously or unconsciously looked to the wilderness as an escape from her own life in much the same way White did seventy years before. In her own eyes they both follow an ancient, literary tradition, that of the grief stricken hero who retreats into the wild to forget the traumas of the past. Her attraction to the sullen, troublesome goshawk and to White, a fellow misfit, reflect her own perception of herself as an outsider in grief.

For a memoir about grief this isn’t a dark book although of course it deals with what was clearly a very dark time in the writer’s life. For me it was a surprisingly enjoyable read, told with real passion and warmth. Because it’s so unusual – part nature writing, part personal memoir, part literary biography – it’d be very easy to accuse H is for Hawk of feeling scrappy but I really don’t think it does. There’s a lot going on of course but it’s all meshed together really naturally so you almost don’t notice the switch from one theme to another. The strongest parts, at least for me, were McDonald’s descriptions of the natural world. I think I could read some of her descriptions of afternoons spent flying Mabel over the flat Cambridgeshire countryside again and again and I would still find them lovely.

As I said, it’s just a quickie review today but I’ll be back again soon with a post on The Man in the High Castle. I have more to say about that one… read into that what you will.

Advertisements

Top Ten Tuesday: Autumn TBRs

TTT170919_1TTT170919_2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. 

Usually I begin a TBR post with a long whinge about how I never stick to my reading plans and don’t really know why I bother making them. My last such list, made about this time last year, began exactly that way. This time, however, is a little different because I actually read six (six!) of the books I listed back then. Six! Hoo-bloody-ray.

Admittedly, it’s been a year but…… Six!

The books on my current Autumn reading list are a combination of leftovers from the last one (with the exception of To The Hermitage which I’m finally giving up on after thirteen years and four attempts) and those I got for my birthday:

1. A Place of Greater Safety by Hilary Mantel. This came all the way to France and back again and remained unread in my suitcase for the entire holiday. I liked the idea of reading it in France but clearly it wasn’t to be.

2. The Warden by Anthony Trollope. I know, I know. Soon.

3. Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimimanda Ngozi Andichi. I was so excited about this book when I bought it, and still am, but I just don’t seem to have quite gotten round to actually reading it yet.

4. Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. I loved Azar Nafisi’s book Reading Lolita in Tehran, which I read last year. I’d not really given this book much thought until then.

5. For Two Thousand Years by Mihail Sebastian. This is a bit of an unknown for me. I chose it entirely because I was intrigued by the blurb on the back. It could be awful but I’m hoping not.

6. The Dark Side of Love by Rafik Schami. When I added this to my wishlist I failed to appreciate how big it is. It may well wait until Christmas when I’ll hopefully have a bit more time on my hands and will be able to throw myself into it properly.

7. The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim. This book gets so much love from bloggers and I have to admit to being a bit curious. It looks like exactly the kind of thing I normally love.

8. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton. Another mega-ton tome and another gift from my lovely friend L. She always buys me the biggest books on my wishlist because they’re better value for money apparently.

9. The Bookseller of Kabul by Asne Seierstad. I picked this up in a secondhand shop a while ago and am desperate to make a start. I keep putting it off until after I’ve read more of the birthday books though.

10. Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. I recently read The Cuckoo’s Calling and was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. I’d like to read Silkworm before I fall too far behind the TV series.

As Autumn approaches I’m also considering some more from the Victorian and Edwardian Ghost Stories collection I’ve been reading over the past few winters. For Christmas last year P gave me a collection of short ghost stories collected by Roald Dahl and I’ve been delaying reading any of these until after I’ve finished the other collection but I’m not sure how strict I can carry on being about that. The Roald Dahl ones look awesome.

Oh yeah, and I still have to finish Doctor Zhivago. And hopefully some time soon before I completely lose the will to continue.

Good luck with all your own reading plans!

Bronte Waterfall and Top Withens

1

My recent discovery that Lucy at Hard Book Habit and I share an appreciation for Emily Bronte’s poem ‘No Coward Soul Is Mine’ reminded me that I’ve still not provided the second part of my post on the visit P and I made to Haworth back in June. This, then, is that post but be warned: there are a lot of shaky, over exposed camera-phone pictures coming up….

A couple of days after our visit to the Bronte Parsonage P and I drove back that way with the intention of walking along the Bronte Trail as far as the waterfall and back again. We’d already walked to the top of Malham Cove earlier that morning (it was awesome, in case you were wondering) so to save our poor legs we ended up ditching the car at the Penistone Country Park, halfway between Stanbury and Oxenhope, and walking from there. It knocked a couple of miles off the trip. At this time it was still quite sunny so we weren’t in any particular hurry and there was plenty of time to admire the lambs, the green hills and the distant view of Haworth behind us.

23

It took about forty minutes in all, I reckon. Probably less.

When we got to the falls there were quite a few people milling about taking pictures so we sat on a rock overhanging the stream and watched some children playing with a dog in the water below. In spite of the bustle around us it still felt peaceful. It’s a really beautiful spot.

45.556

We weren’t especially tired and although the weather looked like it would turn – there were some seriously ominous clouds on the horizon – I thought we’d probably have just enough time to walk the extra mile or so to Top Withens, the supposed inspiration behind Wuthering Heights. At this point I have to say that this is one of the reasons why I think P is a particularly lovely person; we could both clearly see that it was about to rain a lot but he could tell that I secretly had my heart set on going to Top Withens so he not only insisted that we go but also made out that it was all his idea so that I wouldn’t feel bad about dragging him around the moors on a pilgrimage to a site he doesn’t really care about in the rain. He’s great.

Unlike the first part of our journey, the walk from the waterfall to Top Withens was almost entirely uphill, much rockier and desperately muddy. The green and rolling hills had very quickly been replaced by desolate, windswept moorland. The tiny tree on the horizon in the photographs below marks our final destination.

789

We were probably about a third of the way there when it started to rain. The sky turned quite dark and the temperature dropped but even thought it was all quite depressingly bleak I was secretly thinking how perfect this all was; if you’re going to visit Wuthering Heights for the first time you might as well do it in a storm, right? Like Lockwood at the start of the novel.

I said this to P but he was keeping very quiet.

Thankfully it didn’t rain for long and, British weather being what it is, the skies were clearing by the time we reached the top of the hill. The farmhouse is derelict now of course but it was inhabited right up until the 1920s. There’s a display board detailing the history of the house and a plaque noting the part it is reported to have played in Wuthering Heights. The building doesn’t really match any of the descriptions of the farmhouse in the novel but I can well imagine that Emily Bronte took inspiration from the setting; the spot it occupies is at the top of a crest overlooking the moors and completely exposed to the elements. It’s eerily bleak.

11

11.512.51213.513

We had a really lovely weekend in Yorkshire but I have to say that this was absolutely my favourite part.

Bookish News #2

VINTAGE TYPEWRITER

I’m sure no one is surprised to hear that I’m massively behind with posting at the moment. I’m certainly not. I spent my morning off  bulk scheduling reviews and Top Ten Tuesday posts for the coming weeks (beginning with this review of Wide Sargasso Sea) so hopefully the radio silence shouldn’t continue for too much longer and I will soon be almost up to date.

I began Dr Zhivago three weeks ago and took it to France on holiday with the best intentions of doing a ton of sea/pool side reading while we were away. It just didn’t happen though, mainly because the weather was lovely and there was just too much to see and do (and eat); reading by the pool seemed a bit of a waste. I came home with a cold and in my germ ridden, brain addled state couldn’t face reading any more of it at all so it has been temporarily set aside in favour of The Cuckoo’s Calling which is an unashamedly easy read in comparison. Hopefully I’ll go back and finish Pasternak soon; I’m a little sad that I gave up so easily, especially because I was almost getting to a stage where I knew what the hell was going on at least some of the time.

In other Dr Zhivago news, remember that second hand copy of the book I lost back in January? I finally found it last week down the back of the bookcase in the spare room. The discovery couldn’t have come at a better time as I’m not completely in love with the translation of the text I’ve been reading. It’s a little clunky in places and I’m assuming it’s down to the translation and not Pasternak himself, although I guess I could be wrong about that and wouldn’t know. Once I’m back up to speed I’ll do a quick comparison of the two copies and see if the second hand one might be better.

Until the hiatus I’d been complementing my reading with the audiobook version of Helen Rappaport’s book Four Sisters which I’ve been listening to in the car on my home from work in the evenings. It’s a biography of Tsar Nicholas II’s daughters so it provides quite an interesting contrast to Dr Zhivago’s view of the times from the bottom up, a bit like seeing the revolution from opposing sides of the divide. Anyway, what I’ve heard of Four Sisters so far has been quite good but the narration of this particular audio book drives me mad and I have occasionally wanted to punch the car radio. It’s the voices that do it; it’s acceptable to adopt a funny French accent or an exaggerated pompous tone if you’re narrating a novel but in a non-fictional biography it seems out of place and adds comedy where there shouldn’t really be any. I’m finding it quite distracting.

That’s all my news for the moment but watch out for an influx of reviews over the next few weeks as I drag myself up to date.

Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) by Jean Rhys

WideSargasso

And if the razor grass cut my legs I would think ‘It’s better than people.’ Black ants or red ones, tall nests swarming with white ants, rain that soaked me to the skin – once I saw a snake. All better than people. Better. Better, better than people.

Thanks to my lovely friends and family (and a carefully curated Amazon wishlist) I received a ton of new books for my birthday in June. They’re currently stacked up under the coffee table and will likely remain there for ages and ages while I slowly work my way through them. It’s not often I have nice things to say about Amazon (who need to pay their damn taxes and treat their staff a bit better) but I do kind of love the wishlist feature. It makes birthdays for lazy people like me so much easier.

Wide Sargosso Sea was the first to graduate out of the unread pile. I’d been curious about it for quite a while; it came highly recommended by a friend and I knew enough about it to suspect that we’d probably get along quite well. This novel is Rhys’s attempt to give Antoinette ‘Bertha’ Mason, Jane Eyre’s original madwoman in the attic, a voice and a life before Bronte’s classic story. The first part of the novel is told from the viewpoint of Antoinette and gives an unsettling account of her lonely childhood in Jamaica in the 1830s, shortly after the abolition of slavery. After a traumatic start for Antoinette the novel jumps ahead several years to the days immediately after her marriage to Mr Rochester (who’s never actually named in the novel). His narrative is one of resentment at having been coerced into a marriage with a Creole girl he doesn’t care for and later suspicion when he finds cause to doubt her. For the last few short chapters the novel again leaps forward in time, this time to a point where it overlaps with Jane Eyre; a wild, forgotten Antoinette is now captive in the attic of Thornfield while Rochester lives his life below, trying to forget that she ever existed.

As a Jane Eyre lover I found this last chapter most fascinating of all but in truth I was pretty taken with the whole of Wide Sargasso Sea. It had occurred to me before now that for a character so vital to Jane Eyre, Bertha Mason is given very little page time by Bronte. In effect she isn’t much more than a dramatic plot twist. When I first read the book as a teenager I pushed aside the niggling feeling at the back of my mind that maybe, just maybe, Rochester hadn’t treated his first wife (or Jane) very fairly; I argued that the book was a product of its time and that really Rochester, who never claims to be an honourable or a good man, was probably doing her a kindness by not having her locked up in some appalling asylum somewhere. I expect these are the kinds of things that many readers consider and while I’m not usually a fan of prequels I love the fact that Rhys must have wondered about some of the same things.

Rhys’s Rochester is aloof and occasionally cruel, much as he is in Jane Eyre, but she doesn’t really depict him as a liar or suggest that he behaves any differently to other men of his class and time would have done in his situation. Antoinette, on the other hand, is traumatised, desperate, childlike and distant; although she narrates much of the novel she still feels strangely shadowy towards the end. Rhys plays up her sense of isolation throughout the novel by suggesting that she doesn’t belong anywhere; as the daughter of a former slave owner she’s reviled by the island’s black inhabitants but as a Creole she’s not considered civilised by the white Europeans, including by Rochester.  She’s stuck in some lonely, untouchable place between the two so by the end of the novel you’re not really sure who the real victim is here. Were the seeds of Antoinette’s madness sewn in her childhood or was she driven to insanity by her husband’s cruelty? Were Rochester’s suspicions about his wife well founded or did he willingly accept an explanation that offered him an easy way out? I was still pondering some of these questions a week after I’d finished the novel.

Wide Sargasso Sea provided a welcome chance to tick off another destination on my Around the World in 80 Books tour. For Antoinette Rhys evokes the West Indian islands of her childhood as an almost indecently lush, green garden but for Rochester it’s an overwhelming contrast to Thornfield:

“Too much blue, too much purple, too much green. The flowers too red, the mountains too high, the hills too near.”

It’s claustrophobic and disorientating, much like this novel. And I mean that in a good way.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I Struggled to Complete

TTT20170904_1TTT20170904_2

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. This week’s theme is all about the books we had a hard time getting into. 

Thinking back, I’m sure I’ve made a similar list to this one before – something along the lines of ‘Ten Books I Didn’t Finish’ – but I now can’t find it (admittedly, I didn’t look that hard). This time I’m listing ten of the books I found a real chore to read, at least at first. In some cases they improved on further reading, in others I just gave up.

1. Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I am in awe of this book but there’s no escaping the fact that, for me, it required insane powers of concentration, patience and perseverance. [review here]

2. As I Lay Dying by William Faulkner. I had to give a presentation on this book for a university course I was taking on depression-era America. I kind of loved it in the end but spent a lot of time cross referencing the book with the Spark Notes to make sure I was on the right track. It did my head in a bit.

3. Moby Dick by Hermann Melville. Don’t. Even. Get. Me. Started.

4. The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco. I eventually got through this on the third attempt and it was absolutely well worth the effort. I think I just got a bit bogged down in all that stuff about semiotics, the Inquisition and monastic poverty. I tried too hard.

5. The Sot Weed Factor by John Barth. I gave up. I just couldn’t.

6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. I’m not knocking this book, it’s ruddy brilliant but it’s definitely a slow burner. It was one of the first Russian novels I read and I found the names – all those Raskolnikovs and Razumikhins – particularly confusing.

7. The Magus by John Fowles. I have no intention of going back to finish this. It was infuriating.

8. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth. I think I was probably just intimidated by the size of this one. Once I got over that minor obstacle I fell in love with this book.

9. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller. I think this book is wonderful but it took me a long time to get used to the way Heller writes. He darts around from one story to the next, never telling anything in the right order. It can catch you out if you’re not careful.

10. To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf. I can’t even tell you why I have given up on this book so many times. I just have. And I’m embarrassed by it.

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Recommendations for Londonphiles

TTT170815_2.jpgTTT170815_1.jpg

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

This week’s TTT theme is all to do with book recommendations and I confess to having had a bit of a brain freeze with this one; nothing really seemed to be coming to mind. I’ve plumped for the above purely because we had a day out in the big city last month and I’ve been mulling this list quietly over in my mind ever since. This week seemed like a good enough time to put it to use.

Many a moon ago I lived in London but I now only really get to experience it once or twice a year as a country-mouse day-tripper fresh off the train. It’s a strange turnaround and my feelings on the subject are mind-bogglingly complicated – I mean, really, who knew I could feel quite so many things about something so simple? – and while I never feel truly myself when I’m in London these days I’m still quite disgustingly fond of the place. In its honour here are some books that have attempted to bring the city to life:

1. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman. Gaiman’s imagined city beneath the city feels so alive. It’s bizarre and wonderfully inventive and definitely my favourite Gaiman novel so far.

2. The End of the Affair by Graham Greene. An agonising love affair set amongst the bombed out houses of Blitz London.

3. The Children’s Book by A. S. Byatt. A multi-layered and immensely detailed novel partly set around the foundation of the Victoria & Albert Museum which will always be one of my favourite places to visit in London.

4. Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. You could pick almost any Dickens’ book here but I particularly like this one. The characters that populate the dreary Thames’ shores and fancy parlours of the novel are among his best. [Review here].

5. Bridget Jones’ Diary by Helen Fielding. As a teenager this was the kind of London I imagined for my adult self; all swanky black cabs, trendy flats, office parties and handsome co-workers. Ridiculous.

6. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle. As an adult this is the kind of London I like to imagine for myself.

7. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch. Ok, so I didn’t love this. But I think the idea is a great one and, like Gaiman, Aaronovitch shows that fantastical, otherworldly Londons can feel as exciting and real as the city itself. [Review here].

8. About A Boy by Nick Hornby. Or, in fact, most Nick Hornby novels.

9. Vile Bodies by Evelyn Waugh. It’s not too long since I read this so it’s still on my mind. For Waugh’s wealthy, carefree Londoners the city is a shallow whirlwind of wild parties, fleeting relationships and senseless fun. [Review here].

10. White Teeth by Zadie Smith. I think of all the fictional Londons I’ve listed this is the one that most closely resembles the ‘real’ one, if such a thing exists, or at least it most reminds me of the one I lived in as a child.

All done. I’m trying to get back into the habit of Top Ten Tuesdays as they’ve fallen by the wayside over the past few months. Next week’s is a back to school related freebie so I’m desperately trying to think of something now… We’ll see how it goes.

The Plague (1947) by Albert Camus

PLAGUE.jpg

There have been as many plagues as wars in history ; yet plagues and wars take people equally by surprise… 

I picked this up in a charity shop after reading a great online article (that I now can’t find) about the life of Albert Camus and how his experiences in the French resistance helped shape this particular novel. It struck a chord with me at the time, partly because the resistance story was incredible but also because, and I’m aware this might sound a bit grim, I’m kind of fascinated by the history of the plague. It’s obviously not the death and the suffering that do it for me; rather, as an ex-history student, I find it quite interesting to consider how plague epidemics changed the world around them. I’ve read a couple of non-fiction books on the subject but never any fictionalised accounts until the article on Camus encouraged me to give this one a try. And I’m very pleased I did.

The genius of Camus here is that this isn’t really a book about plague. Well, actually it is, but rather than dwelling on all the gory details just for the sake of it he uses his tale of a fictional plague epidemic in his home town of Oran in Algeria to draw subtle comparisons with the experiences of those living under Fascist rule. For the citizens of Oran it begins quietly enough, with the death of a few rats, but it’s not long before the city is overwhelmed and the populace is in a state of panic. The unnamed narrator’s account of the epidemic describes Oran’s year in enforced quarantine in minute detail; he describes the mounting death count, the daily struggle to survive, the fear of being forgotten by the outside world, the dwindling power of hope and the eventual abandonment of all those things that used to give life meaning.

Much of the novel is focused on Dr Rieux and the men who join him in trying to prevent the further spread of the disease. Their stories are told partly through diaries, letters and sermons, so they’re a welcome contrast to the hard, cold precision of the report style used elsewhere. In focusing on the efforts of these men in particular, and in switching the format every now and again, Camus ensures that occasional moments of friendship and kindness shine through every now and again. In fact, Camus often stresses how it is love alone that brings Oran’s inhabitants through these darkest days and keeps them fighting.

The Plague is a powerful novel and a genuinely moving one at that. The writing is simple but commanding; at times I felt so immersed in this novel it was like living in the quarantine zone myself. I shared in Rieux’s despair. I found it completely absorbing and quite disconcerting at times.

 

The Essex Serpent (2016) by Sarah Perry

essexserpent

The beautiful William Morris-y design gracing the cover of The Essex Serpent was what first sparked my interest in this book. It was also enough to attract the attention of two strangers who separately approached me to enquire what I was reading. On one of those occasions I ended up drawn into a long (but interesting) conversation about Victorian novels until, hey presto, lunchbreak was over and I was supposed to be back at my desk fifteen minutes ago. Ooops.  But still, it’s nice the way a pretty book can bring strangers together.

On the face of it this book is everything I usually love: not-so-stuffy Victorians, a strong and intelligent female lead, tons of gothic drama and atmosphere, a mythical threat and a bit of social conscience. The leading lady, Cora Seabourne, is a young widow and amateur fossil hunter who heads to the marshy Essex countryside for some rest and relaxation following the death of her husband. Curiosity at the bizarre rumours of a winged serpent terrorising local fishermen attract her to the village of Aldwinter where she sparks up a friendship with the harassed local vicar William Ransome. The novel focuses partly on the hysteria and superstition arising from the supposed mythical beast but also on the effect that her rapport with Ramsome has on them both and those they love.

The setting, I think, is possibly the thing I enjoyed most about this book. I often find that I particularly warm to books with a strong sense of place so Perry’s haunting descriptions of the bleak, wintery marshes rang really true to me. It’s also the case that in books and in real life I’m naturally drawn to this kind of flat landscape myself (see: WaterworldGreat Expectations, The Nine Taylors…) so maybe I just felt quite at home in Aldwinter. It’s the perfect setting for a mythical beast dragging unsuspecting men fresh from the alehouse to their deaths beneath the waves. I also think it lends itself really well to a story like this one where tension and atmosphere are so important. Combined with Perry’s beautifully lyrical writing style this makes an eerie, almost otherworldly tale at times.

 “Each was only second best and they wore each other like hand-me-down coats.”

I couldn’t help thinking that in the end, sadly, too much of The Essex Serpent was given over to the growing friendship between Cora and Ransome and as much as I enjoyed watching this unfold at the beginning I found it to be a bit of a distraction towards the end when the narrative tension should really have been at its height. I didn’t dislike either party particularly but it occurred to me afterwards that I found every other character more compelling and would have liked more of them instead. In the main, though, I think my problem is that I was just a bit disappointed that the serpent didn’t feature more prominently or that the answers to my many questions weren’t answered in the way I wanted them to be. It felt a little bit like a clever plot had been swept aside in favour of some romance and melodrama that weren’t enough on their own to keep the momentum going. I’d have liked a twist, a reveal, something, to keep me interested but it just wasn’t there.

This book hasn’t been relegated to the charity shop just yet; I think I enjoyed it enough to keep hold of it for now and it will look quite pretty on my shelves (when I find some space for it). I’ve since read Albert Camus’ The Plague  – a 99p Oxfam shop find – and was struck by some of the similarities, and differences, between this and The Essex Serpent (although I’m aware that this isn’t a fair comparison to either author). I’m working on a short post on this now and should have something up here soon.

 

Haworth and the Bronte Parsonage

My birthday weekend was spent in the beautiful Yorkshire Dales. P organised the whole trip as a surprise, mainly, I suspect, because I’ve been banging on about how much I want to visit Haworth for years. Literally years and years. It must have been getting quite annoying. Anyway, I wasn’t planning on writing much about the trip but it was Bronte Country and this is a book blog so it only seems right to post a few photos, although I now realise that I might have to divide this into two separate posts in order to squeeze it all in.

20170609_114033

We got the steam train into Haworth from Oxenhope. It’s only a short journey – less than ten minutes – but it feels very Victorian and I quite liked imagining Charlotte and Ann Bronte encased in those wood panelled carriages on their way to see their publisher in London. Although they obviously wouldn’t really have taken that particular route, now that I think about it. Duh. Anyway, you can take the train through to Keighley – which we did later that afternoon – but first we got off at Haworth to do some exploring.

The Bronte Parsonage is only a five minute walk from the station and its well sign posted but up a fairly steep hill. Haworth’s cobbled streets were decked out in bunting and it was a beautifully bright day so everything looked neat and welcoming, far cleaner than they probably did a hundred and fifty years ago I imagine. It was a slow walk up the hill and we kept stopping to admire all the Bronte themed cafes, bookshops and gift shops that dot the High Street. When we finally got there we spent a lovely couple of hours in the Parsonage. I’m not going to say too much about it – you should go, that’s all you need to know – but I will say that for this Bronte fan it was ridiculously thrilling and kind of overwhelming.

20170609_11541020170609_12010020170609_12254720170609_12264320170609_133231

I spent a bomb in the gift shop and then we explored the neighbouring church. The current church was rebuilt in the 1870s so it isn’t the same as the one in which the Reverend Bronte preached but there is a Bronte chapel with some memorials to the family.

20170609_11513320170609_134012.jpg

20170609_13405920170609_134253

We followed our trip to the church with a nice lunch sitting in the sun outside one of the cafes on the High Street. We returned to the area a couple of days later to explore the surrounding countryside but I’m going to save that part of the trip for another post, just to prevent this one from being obscenely long.

20170609_13480720170609_13482020170609_144747

Forgive the slightly self-indulgent holiday-snappy post. I’m a little bit in love with Haworth.