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Review: Yuki Chan in Bronte Country by Mick Jackson


Yukiko tragically lost her mother ten years ago. After visiting her sister in London, she goes on the run, and heads for Haworth, West Yorkshire, the last place her mother visited before her death. Against a cold, winter, Yorkshire landscape, Yuki has to tackle the mystery of her mother’s death, her burgeoning friendship with a local girl, the allure of the Brontës and her own sister’s wrath. Both a pilgrimage and an investigation into family secrets, Yuki’s journey is the one she always knew she’d have to make, and one of the most charming and haunting in recent fiction.

What an odd book! I have my theory on this, which I’ll explain in a minute.
Yuki Chan has gone to Yorkshire to check out Haworth, the motherland of the Bronte sisters and the last place her mother visited before her death. She wants to see what her mother saw and follow in her footsteps in the days leading up to her death.

This book wasn’t action packed, not a great deal happened apart from Yuki getting on the wrong end of an Alsation and shouting at her sister down the phone. The characters weren’t particularly vibrant and the setting was…. well…. Yorkshire. (Just kidding, it has some spectacularly dismal grey bits but Yorkshire is right up there with North Wales in my list of ‘most gorgeous places in the UK).

Yet I found myself finishing this entire book in a single sitting- the entire prose is very detached, beginning with a description of Yuki’s hairbrained schemes of things she plans to do with her life and make her millions and then gradually begins to spiral into that deep blue melancholy that sits over the rest of the story. She’s in Bronte country, but she doesn’t really care about the Brontes- she’s just there to see what it was her mother came to see.

After ditching her tour group, she stays in the B&B that she knows her mother stayed in and meets a teenage girl called Denny who seems equally needy and dysfunctional. The form a bond and work together doing ridiculous things to uncover the truth about the death…. which they do.

It transpires that Yuki’s mother had been seeing visions of a little girl everywhere and had come to the UK from Japan to consult with a paranormal society, to prove that she was seeing spirits. During her stay, however, it began to snow heavily and she pulled her car over, got out and walked out to freeze to death.

So. My theory on this strange, sad little tale is that mum was suffering from mental illness which led her to hallucinate and kill herself (possibly unintentionally) and Yuki has inherited this a similar condition. This is why the story starts with her crazy plans and eccentricities but slowly winds down, and why her sister and father are so protective of her – and also why the story is written in a detached and isolating style, depicting her depression and isolation from the rest of the world inside her own mind.

I personally enjoyed this book for its eccentricities and a surprisingly insightful take on what Japanese tourists might think of British culture and countryside, though it didn’t leave a cosy ‘I just read a good story’ feeling. You feel more like you’ve taken a stroll through the mind of a person with one of the less exciting (less ‘fun’ insanity and more bleak depression) mental illnesses and now need a bit of a hug – still great, just don’t read it if you’re feeling low!

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