Sunday, June 21, 2009

The Secret Diaries Of Charlotte Bronte-Syrie James

The Secret Diaries Of Charlotte Bronte
Syrie James
Avon, July 2009, $14.99
ISBN: 9780061648373

The Bronte sisters (Charlotte, Emily, Maria, Elizabeth and Anne) grew up in the nineteenth century in the Yorkshire moors of Haworth along with their brother Branwell under the parenting of their father the local Perpetual Parson and their Aunt Elizabeth. Their mom died when she was eight. Whereas the three girls enjoyed stories, their brother turned to alcohol. At school, Charlotte being ugly was placed last to select for anything until she began telling stories to her fascinated classmates. After leaving school, Charlotte realized her choices of employment as a single most likely spinster woman was teaching or being a governess. She chose to try writing, as did her sisters, using pseudonyms to gain publication without their father knowing it. Ironically she hides her writings from her dad who she is the most dedicated to him of all his offspring. She also begins keeping a diary that opens with a stunner, a marriage proposal in 1845. Well aware that “my heart is knit to him, her father’s curator and their next door neighbor Arthur Bell Nichols. After she dies, he destroyed much of what she wrote to him.

This is a super historical biography that uses a diary to tell the tale of Charlotte Bronte, author of Jane Eyre. Using a first person perspective brings depth to the great author even that much more, but also detracts from how others see her and events like her sisters and Arthur as they come across through a Charlotte filter. Still this is an excellent biographical fiction that looks profoundly at a great nineteenth century writer as Syrie James does her research to tell the story of Charlotte Bronte as she did with THE LOST MEMOIRS OF JANE AUSTEN.

Harriet Klausner

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