Sunday, April 11, 2010

Romancing Miss Bronte-Juliet Gael

Romancing Miss Bronte
Juliet Gael
Ballantine, Apr 27 2010, $25.00
ISBN: 9780345520043

With the death of his wife, the Haworth, Yorkshire Vicar Bronte cannot deal with all his children. In 1824 the widower sends his four oldest daughters (Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte and Emily) to a charity boarding school; he kept behind his son Branwell to tutor and youngest daughter Anne. At the school the sisters were abused until Maria and Elizabeth caught consumption and were sent home to die. Bronte brought home his other daughters immediately. Charlotte and Emily went to Brussels to study; while there Charlotte falls in love with her married professor before returning back to Yorkshire.

The three sisters begin to write under pseudonyms (Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell) to pay the bills of the two males in the family. Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and Jane Eyre are highly popular. However within a year of writing success, Charlotte’s three siblings die from consumption leaving her alone to deal with their despondent father. While his curate Arthur falls in love with her, the thirtyish spinster becomes the toast of the Ton as she has been identified as the author of Jane Eyre, but love eludes her in London where she falls for her publisher George Smith until she realizes that and her attraction to the professor were youthful infatuations; she begins to turn to Arthur who begins Romancing Miss Bronte.

Obviously targeting fans of the Bronte sisters, this is an interesting biographical fiction tale. The Bronte family comes across as individuals with some interesting connections to the novels they wrote; for instance the professor is the role model for Rochester and Charlotte’s discomfort with fame becomes the basis of the novel Shirley and The Professor published after her death. Sub-genre readers will enjoy the tragic lives of the Bronte siblings that takes the readers beyond the myth of a brood doomed to romantic misfortune.

Harriet Klausner

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