Monday, June 05, 2017

Monday, June 05, 2017 12:30 am by Cristina in    No comments

Todo ese fuego
Ángeles Caso
Editorial Planeta
ISBN: 978-84-08-14470-0

Todo ese fuego, which translates as 'all that fire', was first published in Spain in 2015 and hasn't been translated into English. Author Ángeles Caso is a well-known Spanish writer with a background in History. She tackled Empress Elisabeth of Austria in a novel in 1994 so it's not so surprising that she has decided to try her hand at writing about the Brontës.

The first part is set in the parsonage on July 16th, 1846. During that long, long day we see the Brontës' day-to-day life and get glimpses of their past experiences chronologically: their mother's death, Aunt Branwell's decision to stay with her nieces and nephew, the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, the creation of the imaginary worlds (constantly referred to as Angria, Northangerland (Northumberland even, once) and Gondal) etc. Either the approach or the single-day concept don't fully work. We are big fans of novels like Mrs Dalloway, so it's not the concept in itself we dislike, but, even though many reviewers praised the style of this book back when it was first published, we found it contrived and rough around the edges. Most glaringly, she has Charlotte writing Jane Eyre at this early date, when it is a well-known fact that she started writing it the following August during her father's cataract operation in Manchester. She also uses some 'events' as discussion points for our present, which is not a mistake per se, but it makes the book feel too much of a hodgepodge. Still, though, some of these reflections are valid and lucid enough. Another inaccuracy brought about by the date is the fact that she keeps referring to the cedars in the churchyard. There are no cedars in the churchyard that we know of (horse chestnut trees, yew trees, etc.) and the trees in the churchyard weren't planted until 1864 anyway. So the Brontës' lookout over the churchyard would have been nothing but endless rows of graves, such as shown recently in To Walk Invisible. Finally, and this is somewhat silly, but still worth a mention, she has Charlotte ironing clothes for a long time that day, mainly because she keeps going up and down the stairs to re-heat the iron in the kitchen fire. We think it's safe to assume that most Victorian households ironed their (in many cases, huge) clothes in the kitchen.

In this first part, as well as in the afterword, she makes it clear that she was won over by Sarah Fermi's theory about Robert Clayton(1), and thus Emily's portrayal is through that lens. Apart from that, the siblings are portrayed stereotypically, with the odd addition of depicting Anne as somewhat lazy or, at least, a late-riser for seemingly no reason at all.

The second part is a fast-paced, mostly objective, account of what happened later.

Our conclusion is that Todo ese fuego may be a good introduction for Spanish readers wishing to know a little more about the Brontës (hopefully with a pinch of salt) as the Spanish market is scarce in Brontë biographies and books, apart from the novels, but not much else. Still, Ángeles Caso deserves some praise for tackling the Brontës, particularly out of the English-speaking market, in what was clearly a labour of love.

Notes
(1) Check out our review of Sarah Fermi's Emily's Journal (2006).

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