Monday, January 7, 2019

Romancing Miss Bronte by Juliet Gael -- Book Review

From Google Books: "In this brilliant mix of fact and fiction, Juliet Gael captures the passions, hopes, dreams, and sorrows of literature's most famous sisters--and imagines how love dramatically and most unexpectedly found Charlotte Brontë. During her two years Brussels, Charlotte had a taste of life's splendors; now, back home in the Yorkshire moors, duty-bound to a blind father and an alcoholic brother, an ambitious Charlotte refuses to sink into hopelessness. With her sisters, Emily and Anne, Charlotte conceives a plan to earn money and pursue a dream. 

Transforming her loneliness and personal sorrow into a triumph of literary art, Charlotte pens her 1847 masterpiece, Jane Eyre and catapults herself into the spotlight of London's fashionable literary scene--and into the arms of her new publisher, George Smith. But just as life begins to hold new promise, unspeakable tragedy descends on the Brontë household, throwing London and George into the background and leaving Charlotte to fear that the only romance she will ever find is at the tip of her pen. But another man waits in the Brontës' Haworth parsonage... Romancing Miss Brontë is a fascinating portrayal of an extraordinary woman whose life and work articulated our deepest human longing: to love and be loved in return."

This was a story that will stick with me for a really long time and has claimed a high place on my list of best books ever. I was reluctant to read it as Charlotte was always my least favorite of the sisters, but this story brought her to life in a way that made me sympathetic to her. I can't say that I'm endeared to her, but I think I get her better now and don't hold as many grudges as I did before.

 At first, I wasn't sure about the writing style. Sometimes the story would go into deep detail; other times it would summarize more sterilely, like a nonfiction biography type. The author would zoom in to rich description and intimate dialogue, but then all the way out to the point of addressing the reader about the characters as if we were watching them together through a window.

 All that changes half way through or so and the author does address the issue in her afterward. She had a lot of ground to cover in bringing readers up to date with the Brontes past and lifestyle so her choice makes sense and was not badly done. I got lost in this sad story many times and found myself putting aside other important things to keep reading. The Brontes' story has always been one of the most tragic I've known.

When I went to Haworth in 2016, I wept at the desolateness of the area and the sorrow that household had felt. However, being there and knowing the town and "neighborhood" featured in the story brought it to life dramatically. I was able to see it all in my mind's eye---so thankful for that. My husband and I have a northern England trip planned for 2020 or so. I hope to return to Haworth and see Charlotte's legacy there with a fresh perspective.

Romancing Miss Bronte meets the requirements for The Victorian Reading Challenges at Belle's Library and at Becky's Book Reviews.

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