My most recent Brontë-inspired read is one that has been in my TBR read ever since it came out back in 2019. I even started it once and then became distracted by something else, always meaning to return to it. When putting together my book club a few weeks back, I was collating lists of possible titles for the group to vote on reading, and The Vanished Bride, by Bella Ellis, came to my attention once more. Deciding that it would be the third novel in our book club schedule, I thought it wise to make a start. And I’m so glad I did. What follows is a spoiler free review, however, I will make reference to a particular scene from the novel but minus as many details as possible so as not to reveal anything key to the storyline.
The Vanished Bride is set in 1845 and in a Yorkshire setting where mystery and danger are around every corner. Elizabeth Chester, the young bride of Robert Chester of Chester Grange has been brutally murdered in her own home. The most mysterious aspect is that her body has not been found. When the news reaches the ears of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, they set out to comfort their old friend and governess to the Chester children, Mattie. However, what should have been a simple visit to Mattie turns into a Gothic adventure in which the sisters act as “detectors” and become entangled in the mystery of just what happened to Elizabeth. There are nods to the sisters’ own lives and works, their relationships with others, as well as the landscapes they knew and loved. It’s a solid and highly entertaining read, and its sequel, The Diabolical Bones, is waiting for me on my shelf. I’d recommend The Vanished Bride to Brontë fans everywhere.
Now onto the curious case of the button and the Brontës. In The Vanished Bride there is a scene in which one of the characters is snooping/sleuthing around Chester Grange. When deciding which way to go and what to focus on, suddenly, from the darkness, an object rolls across the floor towards them. Grabbing it, the character at first is unable to discern what the object is, but somehow they feel it is important. The scene which follows is a chilling and pivotal scene in which the character in question receives confirmation that they are following the right path, and doing the right thing. They also identify the object as a button.
To be honest I thought little of this until yesterday when something similar happened to me. Whilst out shopping and debating for what seemed like the thousandth time over whether to drop out of a Brontë related project or not, I had picked up a fresh notebook to buy, deciding to use it for my research and notes. Then I decided not to buy it and thought about dropping out again as I placed the notebook back on my shelf. After walking down the aisle, I thought, no I can and want to do this. And I will do this. And then after spotting my boyfriend at the end of the row, he placed his arm in the air, and I met him, just as a button fell to the floor from his clothing. Only it wasn’t from his clothing. He was wearing only a t shirt and jeans and it definitely hadn’t come from him.
I looked around and there was nobody immediately near us. I checked my clothing. It hadn’t come loose from my cardigan. In fact, it seemed to have come from up above. Hence why I thought it had fallen from something on my boyfriend when he raised his arm. My dad had been walking towards us and saw us looking confused. He hadn’t seen anyone throw anything but had seen us looking up. We all stood and looked up (I bet the CCTV footage is a hoot), but there was nothing. I reminded them both of Coraline and they shuddered. I laughed.
I picked up the button and we carried on with our day. Later on, I told the story to my mum as we’re always open to spirits guiding us, and in our case, often tormenting us. She was as confused as us. On further investigation (thank you Google), we discovered the symbolism of a button and its connection to being at a crossroads. In claircognizance, a button is symbolic for being at a crossroads with a particular issue or concern, and the button was a sign to make up my mind about something and just get on with it one way or another. So was this a message from someone, somewhere to just get on with the Brontë project? I believe it was. Whether is was a message from one of the Brontës or not, I’m not too sure. I think they favour the Yorkshire landscape rather than my neck of the woods, but stranger things have happened and it’s true that I do feel a deep connection to them. However, my mum and I have our own spirits who watch over us, including our beloved Bob. Perhaps it was him. He did love the Brontës. Whoever it was, I’m grateful for the message and this morning there are so many ideas whizzing through my mind about my project.
And as I look at the clock, it’s 11.11am. Another sign.
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.
Please do not copy, share, or use the images from this post without seeking permission first.
Crossroads photo by Einar Storsul on Unsplash. Feather photo by Javardh on Unsplash