Ok, confession time … I have never read a Graphic Novel.
I know – shame on me – but they have always been something I was interested in, just never quite invested the time to properly look into. During one of my book buying sprees during Lockdown, however, I came across Glass Town by Isabel Greenberg and felt that this was the perfect book to finally try this genre out with.
Glass Town is an original graphic novel by Isabel Greenberg that encompasses the eccentric childhoods of the four Brontë children—Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The story begins in 1825, with the deaths of Maria and Elizabeth, the eldest siblings. It is in response to this loss that the four remaining Brontë children set pen to paper and created the fictional world that became known as Glass Town. This world and its cast of characters would come to be the Brontës’ escape from the realities of their lives. Within Glass Town the siblings experienced love, friendship, war, triumph, and heartbreak. Through a combination of quotes from the stories originally penned by the Brontës, biographical information about them, and Greenberg’s vivid comic book illustrations, readers will find themselves enraptured by this fascinating imaginary world.
For my first introduction into the world of Graphic novels, I had to say that this was perfect. Greenberg creates a fantastic world, brimming with childlike imagination and reinterpretation of the cruel realties of human life. I loved how innocent the beginning pages were, the clear ache from the loss of their sisters and desperate union to try and survive their grief together, and it was fascinating to watch that morph into something darker and more mature as each Brontë was forced to face real life.
The novel operates across two timelines. The first is Adult Charlotte as she is revisited by one of her characters, and recounts the tale of Glass Town. The second follows the children as they created Glass Town, devising stories, characters, and tragedies to distract themselves. In an almost ‘Narnia-like’ manner, the Brontës are able to interact with their characters, even being led astray by them. What I found so immersive about this read was the utter honest humanity of it all. Glass Town presents a safe space where cruel reality and the harshness it inflicts cannot touch them, and you can truly understand the temptation of such a paradise. However, as the Brontës age and their characters become more complex, this paradise seems to relapse into chaos, reflecting the inner turmoil within the four literary giants. The Brontës lived truly tragic lives, and you can see that beautifully reflected in this novel. It wasn’t immature or undeveloped as I fear, but instead a trascendant masterpiece that leaves you empathising and idolising in equal measure.
Of course, you cannot talk about this novel without mentioning the stunning artwork. This is what first drew me to this novel, and it was utterly captivating. Whilst also beautiful, the illustrations are so creatively clever that they perfectly reflect the journey that characters undertake, both actually and emotionally. I desperately want to see if I can get some prints of these because I want to showcase them everywhere.
This graphic novel was utterly gorgeous. It is a beautiful account of human determination and survival when life throws the worst at you, and is both an astounding tale of bravery and a heartbeaking tragedy.