“With its fun facts and detailed illustrations, we predict that Brolliology: A History of the Umbrella in Life and Literature will make a “brolly” enthusiast out of you yet”
NO MAJOR SPOILERS
An umbrella is such a ubiquitous item that most of us seem to own and use that we hardly think about it. But this book tells the story of the umbrella in a way that helps us perceive it as so much more!
Tracing the history of the ‘brolly’ as the umbrella is known by the English, this story is informative, humorous, satirical at times and above all, hugely entertaining.
From its origins as a parasol that was considered a feminine vanity to being adopted as a protection against rain and then becoming a status symbol as well as a fashion accessory, the brolly has come a long way.
Be it the severe black ones with a plain curved handle that we wield almost like weapons or the colourful, dainty designer umbrellas that are unfolded and opened at the first sight of rain, they all represent our very own personal canopy or roof offering protection.
The literary references to umbrellas that have been mentioned in this book range from the one fashioned by Robinson Crusoe when he was marooned on the island and considered the umbrella he made to be as important as his gun to the frilly pink umbrella wielded by Rubeus Hagrid in Harry Potter, that so scared Dudley and gave him a tail. The most interesting part of this book were these references from some fabulous books to umbrellas and the insight into how these brollies were pivotal to the story at some point or the other.
Be it Howards end where a wrongly picked up umbrella led to the connection between the protagonists and took the story forward or the comic element provided by the brandishing of a brolly in A room of one’s own or the underlying theme of the brolly indicating social status in many books of Dickens and others in the nineteenth century, the humble brolly is just so much a central character.
There is talk of the classification of people based on how they carry their umbrellas…a person could be a sky striker or a shield bearer, for instance, and the terms are self-explanatory!
I really enjoyed this anthropomorphism of the brolly into an object that needs to be considered as important as it actually is.
Social mores and ideas of status as indicated by attitudes to the brolly and those who carried them are intriguingly portrayed.
Above all, it is an account of a regularly used item from the standpoint of different cultures, people of varied times and possessing different levels of education and social standing. Definitely made me look at my umbrella differently!
Added 22nd January 2020