Our friends at the Bronte Blog have weighed in on Laura Joh Rowland's imaginative new novel Bedlam: The Further Adventures of Charlotte Bronte: "We were pleased to hear there would be a second installment of Charlotte Brontë's secret adventures, as we had really liked the first. Laura Joh Rowland had provided such a sturdy springboard into that fantasy world where Charlotte Brontë turns into a Victorian superheroine that we were oh so willing to take that leap again.
And a few lines into Bedlam: The Further Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë confirmed that the spring board was still good enough. Laura Joh Rowland's apt re-creation of Charlotte Brontë's style is still as accomplished and mesmerising as the first time around, even with the all-American turns of phrase that graze the text from time to time. She moves with ease in Victorian times: conventions, events, behaviour and all sorts of other important background information are seemingly effortlessly whipped up.
Purists may or may not agree with this action-figure Charlotte but what's undeniably true is that when circumstances allow it, Charlotte is as much her real self as possible and even her imaginary projection is intriguing in being quite coherent with her real self and what we know of her. And then there's the helpful disclaimer at the end where real events and real people are differentiated from imaginary events.
And even then there's evidence of Laura Joh Rowland having fun and joking with her readers. The "WANTED" poster with Charlotte's portrait by Richmond made us chuckle and appreciate the effort made by Rowland in order to be - usually at the same time - entertaining and accurate. The impossible situations, the action movie scenes, particularly the last scene at the Great Exhibition, follow the same philosophy, we think. They are not to be taken extremely seriously, looked at with the magnifying glass of reality, but just taken in the reader's stride. We all know Charlotte Brontë wasn't a superheroine, that her health wouldn't have stood 10% of what happens in the book, but for less that 400 pages, may we just forget about it and believe that Charlotte Brontë really did have these secret adventures?"