Over the past few years I’ve read and enjoyed the first two novels in Tracy Neis’s Rock and Roll Brontë series, and I was eagerly anticipating the third book, Wildfell Summer. The first book in the series, Mr R., is based on Charlotte Brontë’s 1847 novel Jane Eyre. Neis’s novel reinvents Mr. Rochester as an ageing rock star who finds himself falling in love with Jenny Ayr, who arrives to take care of the daughter of one of Eddie’s more troublesome (but also very loveable) bandmates, Gerry. The second novel, Restless Spirits, is a mash up of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) and Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey (1847) and focuses on another bandmate, Jim. For various reasons, I didn’t get around to reading Wildfell Summer on its release last year but I finally delved into it last week. So, what can you expect by throwing together the characters from Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall with a 1960s Brit Pop Invasion band? Something very special indeed.
Despite the name of the novel, Wildfell Summer is NOT a re-telling of Anne Brontë’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, but is a tale which interweaves the author’s love of the Brontës with British Invasion Pop. It’s funny, fresh, silly, and it focuses on Gerry! The novel follows fictional British band, The Pilots (Gerry, Eddie, Jim, Tony, and Pete), as they tour America, living the rock and roll lifestyle and, erm, reading classic novels. When loveable rogue Gerry is forced to exchange drinking and partying in favour of cough medicine and bed rest he is slightly disgruntled to say the least. Our Gerry is not one to follow the rules though, and through a mixture of substances which really shouldn’t be combined, he somehow tumbles into the pages of Anne’s novel which has been loaned to him by Eddie.
Fun-loving, high-living Gerry strikes up a friendship with the disreputable Arthur Huntingdon and enjoys partaking of a certain 19th century substance not readily available in his own time. His bandmates, and Eddie in particular, become concerned when their drummer begins to isolate himself and shun their company in favour of a fictional character. The question is whether they can rescue their drummer from falling prey to Arthur’s bad habits and influence when they can’t even believe it is not all a product of Gerry’s imagination.
It’s a pleasure to say that each of Tracy’s books is better than its predecessor, and Wildfell Summer is the best of the bunch. I absolutely loved it! It’s fresh and fun, and in no way disrespectful to the message of Anne’s novel as its focus remains on Neis’s characters rather than hers. The characters are also more fully rounded, and the close bonds between them really leap from the page. I knew you were onto a winner with Gerry, Tracy! Please write him into some spin-offs whilst I re-read Mr. R.
In Loving Memory of Bob the Bichon (2007-2019). A lover of life, the Brontës, and Haworth who knows that I’m just going to write because I can’t help it.
Thanks for reading. I’d love it if you stopped by The Journal of Juvenilia Studies where you can read my essay, “Autobiography, Wish-Fulfilment, and Juvenilia. The ‘Fractured Self’ in Charlotte Brontë’s Paracosmic Counterworld”.
Tales of the Genii (edited by myself) is now available from The Crow Emporium – click here to buy.
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