Yuki Chan in Brontë Country - review

by Chris Bell / 19 April, 2016
The famous sisters’ home is the focus of a woman’s attempt to solve a family mystery.
Mick Jackson: bringing the ghosts’ reflections to life. Photo/Zul Mukhida
Mick Jackson: bringing the ghosts’ reflections to life. Photo/Zul Mukhida


Yukiko is visiting Britain for the first time. The young Japanese woman is possessed by the impossible dreams many young people have before they’re eroded by debt and disenchantment. She wants to open a Museum of Interesting Things and envisages a “Beautiful Decrepit Future”; something like a JG Ballard short story in which barefoot infants pick tankers apart on beaches at the end of civilisation.

Yuki thinks of herself as a “psychic detective”. She’s visiting the home of the Brontë sisters in an attempt to solve a family mystery. Yuki’s journey becomes a back-scattering of mirror images: a woman searching for her mother who was in the same place doing the same things 10 years before.

There are parallels between this book by Mick Jackson and the work of 1960s author and counter­culture figure Richard Brautigan – not only because of the ­Japanese connection. He was obsessed with Japan, and in particular its women, but there are also similarities in the directness of style and the author’s empathy for his heroine.

In spite of her youthful naivety, Yuki is capable of breathtaking risks; or foolhardy choices, depending on your point of view. From the outset, it’s clear her journey is to be one of transformation: “As you get older, she thinks, it’s all too easy to forget the serious business of being a child.” But even she seems to realise life is a one-way ticket, despite her insistence on clinging to childhood.

LS1416_b&c_YukiChanBy unearthing then reuniting images and found objects from her family’s past with her present, Yuki hopes to complete “some powerful, universal circuit” from which her mother’s life-force will be reinvigorated. But she isn’t sure what the “psychic consequences” of this may be.

Yuki’s grasp of English waxes and wanes depending on the story’s requirements rather than plausibility, but she is likeable, believable and brimming with contradictions and complications. In a book set largely in Brontë country, it’s only fitting for the environment to dominate, and the story is suffused with Yorkshire brooding: “… the body is given over to the elements, which know no better and so are merciless”. The landscape, meteorology and the ghosts recur and Jackson masterfully brings even their reflections to life.

YUKI CHAN IN BRONTË COUNTRY, by Mick Jackson (Faber, $32.99)

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