Mick Jackson (Faber) 2016, 240pp, RRP $27.99
Yuki Chan is a Japanese student who travels to the UK to unravel tragic family secrets. Ten years earlier her mother toured Brönte country and left behind a series of mysterious and enigmatic photos which Yuki sees as clues to her mother’s death. Yuki resolves to follow in her mother’s footsteps and discover what really happened on her tour of Brönte country.
On arrival, Yuki finds herself on a Brönte fan tour with elderly Japanese women, being bussed here and there to glance briefly and longingly at iconic places: the Parsonage, the ‘Ancient Bridge of Brönte’ and the ‘Brönte Perching Rock’, but Yuki is disinterested. She is not a Brönte fan. This is not what she was seeking:
Another mile or so up the path they stop for lunch – a location with which Hana Kita is clearly familiar, judging by the way she casually encourages everyone to take a seat on the crop of low boulders. Yuki is tempted to enquire whether this collection of rocks doesn’t also have its own significance in Brönteland. Was this not, perhaps, Brönte Picnic Corner, Or Brönte Quick Stop for a Pee?
Bored and disenchanted, Yuki leaves the tour and starts her own investigation. What brought her mother here? What happened here that changed Yuki’s whole life? What is the significance of the photos? In her travels, Yuki meets a local teen, Denny, who joins Yuki’s quest. The pair develop an easy friendship. Denny is clearly bored and looking for adventure. Yuki needs someone to help her find the places her mother visited and a local with inside knowledge is invaluable.
Denny is also invaluable to the story. It is when Denny and Yuki start investigating together that the story finally comes alive. On her own Yuki is quirky, eccentric and unburdened by the laws of nature, and while this is interesting, it’s not enough to sustain a novel. Yuki’s lonely musings are amusing at first, but continue for too long, leaving the pace lacking. Too soon they feel without purpose. It is Denny and her interactions with Yuki that bring the story to life.
Mick Jackson takes his time to reveal what is going on and for a good while the reader is left wondering why? With Denny on board, however, the story lifts and becomes engaging, finally reaching a climax when Yuki discovers the terrible truth of her mother’s death.
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