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the-bronts

The Brontës is an engrossing and intimate chronicle of an astonishingly creative family. "Anyone fascinated by the Brontes cannot fail to read this book. It is indispensable to understand them, their world and their uniqueness. . . . Barker has made a massive contribution to Brontë scholarship."--Los Angeles Times. This was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 199The Brontës is an engrossing and intimate chronicle of an astonishingly creative family. "Anyone fascinated by the Brontes cannot fail to read this book. It is indispensable to understand them, their world and their uniqueness. . . . Barker has made a massive contribution to Brontë scholarship."--Los Angeles Times. This was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 1995 and a Publisher's Weekly Best Book of 1995. photos....

Title : The Brontës
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ISBN : 9780297812906
Format Type : e-Book
Number of Pages : 469 Pages
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The Brontës Reviews

  • La Mala ✌
    2018-08-21 17:39

    La leyenda literaria de los Brontë empezó con un juego de chicos. Así lo contaba Charlotte en 1829:"The play of the Islanders was formed in December 1827 in the following maner. One night about the time when the cold sleet and <?> \dreary/ fogs of November are succeeded by the snow storms & high peircing nightwinds of confirmed <?> winter we where all sitting roundthe warm blazing kitchen fire having just concluded a quarel with Taby concerning the propriety \of/ lighting a candle from which she came of victorious no candles having been produced a long pause suceeded which was at last broken by B saying in a lazy maner I dont know what to do this was reechoed by E & AT   wha ya may go t’bedB   Id rather do anything [than] that& C Your so glum tonight Tsupose we had each an Island.B   if we had I would choose the Island of ManC   & I would choose Isle of WightE   the Isle of Arran for meA   & mine should be GuernseyC   the D[uke] of Wellington should be my cheif manB   Her[r]ies should be mine.E   Walter \Scott/ should be mineA   I should have Benti[n]ckhere our conversation was interupted byto us dismal sound of the clock striking 7 & we where sumoned of to bed. the next day we added several others to our list of names till we had got allmost all the cheif men in the Kingdom."...para luego empezar a escribirse en libros diminutos improvisados con papel de diario:Primero les tocó a Branwell y a Charlotte inventar el mundo de Angria, con héroes de guerra sacados de las noticias que leían en revistas, imitando el estilo pero ofreciendo el original toque de la imaginación de ambos:(Fíjense el tamaño: 5cm)Después le llegó el turno a las hermanas más chicas, Anne y Emily, quienes dieron origen al mundo de Gondal (la fuente de inspiración para el pre-Heathcliff y la pre-Catherine), influenciadas por las aventuras de los libros de Walter Scott y los amores controversiales de las poesía de Lord Byron (ambos ídolos máximos de los hermanos Brontë.)Las historias evolucionaron hasta el punto en que la fantasía parecía, muchas veces, dominar la realidad. Para los Brontës Branwell, Charlotte, Emily y Anne, el mundo mágico, épico, de personajes heroicos y a veces brutales, era más apasionante que la vida misma, que la vida en aislamiento en el parsonage....los chicos, introvertidos, inocentes y mimados por un padre viudo (la madre había muerto de cáncer poco después de nacida Anne) y una tía soltera (sin contar a los escasos empleados, que eran familia también), inventaban la vida y la aventura por escrito, prefiriendo siempre el mundo de la imaginación al de la vida común. Pero los chicos crecen, y esos hermanos tan unidos en el mundo de la fantasía y la poesía, crecieron y en el camino, los años adolescentes, los efímeros años adultos, vinieron las obvias separaciones, peleas, y decepciones.Y, sin embargo, nunca dejaron de ser esos chicos solitarios e introvertidos que encontraban más felicidad en la magia de la ficción que en la áspera verdad de la adultez.-Esta biografía es excepcional. Quienquiera que se le atreva a las 1000 y pico de páginas, va a conocer a fondo lo que fue la vida de esta familia. Olvídense de The life of Charlotte Brontë, la errada biografía que escribiera Elizabeth Gaskell- es esta biografía la indicada -absoluta- para aquellos que quieran conocer en detalle a los Brontë; ésta la que se ocupa en desmitificar por completo a los hermanos y al padre clérigo. Juliet Barker derriba hasta la última leyenda en pie con evidencias más que suficientes. Muestra a cada integrante de la familia como fue realmente. Humanos y nada más.Desde Patrick Brontë abandonando su país natal, Irlanda, con terror a las revoluciones, buscando la vida pacífica en su religión; pasando por crisis económicas, guerras a lo lejos, matrimonios, muertes (porque hay demasiadas tragedias en la vida Brontë, demasiadas!) y cartas interminables desde Yorkshire hasta Nueva Zelanda. Cada palabra cuenta, cada violación a la intimidad que hiciera hace 150 años, Elizabeth Gaskell, con la ayuda de la "amiga" de Charlotte Ellen Nussey, cada traición es expuesta pero, a fin y al cabo, sirve para retratar quienes fueron estas personas. La traición que cometieran los mal llamados amigos de Charlotte son los que, el día de hoy, sirven para demostrar la humanidad de estos artistas.Charlotte, la gran protagonista. La primera en tocar la fama con las manos.Egoísta, intelectual, guardiana, (y a la vez lo contrario) de sus hermanas , enamorada no correspondida que transformaba sus pasiones en literatura; la mujer que buscaba el reconocimiento a costa de cualquiera, la que pusiera en boca de Jane Eyre el "yo quiero ser tu igual" pero que perseguía el amor para someterse a él y quien, en los últimos meses de su vida, encontrara la felicidad total en el matrimonio con un clérigo "aburrido" y no en las letras que tanto bien le habían hecho de niña.Branwell, the promise betrayed, el artista que nunca fue, autodestruyendose en alcohol y el opio; el gran orgullo de su padre y sus hermanas cuando era chico; quien, de grande nunca, por más esfuerzo que le puso (que está bien demostrado en este libro que el pobre adicto siempre luchó por no dejarse estar), no logró el éxito ni el amor que tanto deseaba, traicionado por una amante maldita (Mrs. Robinson, irónico el nombre para una mujer mayor y casada que no hizo más que aprovecharse de un joven prometedor para lueg contribuir a arruinar su vida, pagando sus adicciones) y por su propia imposibilidad para darse a conocer sin dejar su arrogancia de lado. Nunca malvado, siempre soberbio.Emily, las más misteriosa de los cuatro. No porque guardara algún secreto, ni porque tuviese una doble vida; sino porque su vida era pura y exclusivamente su ficción: Gondal, el mundo de fantasía que creara con Anne. No se puede saber mucho sobre lo que sentía o pensaba, porque , efectivamente, Emily novivía ni pensaba más allá de Gondal. Sus historias (junto con sus perros) eran su gran alegría. Su Heathcliff y su Catherine, inspirados por su amor a las historias de Walter Scott y por las mismas historias de Branwell y Charlotte. (Sin la influencia de Branwell, quizá los libros jamás hubiesen existido), su amor por lo brutal que Charlotte tanto buscaba esconder del público (se da a entender que Emily había escrito una segundo novela pero Charlotte, para cuidar la reputación de su adorada hermana, tan devastada por la crítica por sus "personajes horrible", puede haber quemado el manuscrito antes de que otros pudiesen leerlo.Y Anne, probablemente, la más sensata de todos. Cuando sus hermanos preferían ahogarse en la lástima por ellos mismos, era ella quien se levantaba y actuaba; la primera en buscarse trabajo y mantenerlo como se debe; la que escribía historias sin hacerle asco a las verdades. Hecha y derecha, menospreciada injustamente por Charlotte, negandose a dejarse manejar por ésta. Una genia menospreciada. La gran promesa que no tuvo tiempo de ser: injustamente olvidada, casi borrada (en parte por culpa de Charlotte, que se negaba a reconocer su talento, incluso después de su muerte). Juliet Barker demuestra a través de versos sin editar, la fuerza de voluntad y estilo propio que Anne tenía. Leer esta biografía tan extensa, tiene a veces el efecto de hacerte sentir estar hablando directamente con sus protagonistas. Yo me sentí así, al menos. Barker no esconde nada, no embellece nada. Todo está expuesto con objetividad. Demuestra a la perfección las verdades que Gaskell (manipulada por la traidora "amiga" Ellen Nussey) prefierió esconder. Como ien dice en algún momento:"Charlotte and her sisters thus became the dutiful, long-suffering daughters and Branwell the wastrel son of a harsh, unbending father. The portrayal of Charlotte as the martyred heroine of a tragic life, driven by duty and stoically enduring her fate, served its purpose at the time. Charlotte’s wicked sense of humour, her sarcasm, her childhood joie de vivre which enlivens the juvenilia, are completely ignored. So, too, are her prejudices, her unpleasant habit of always seeing the worst in people, her bossiness against which her sisters rebelled, her flirtations with William Weightman and George Smith and her traumatic love for Monsieur Heger. What remains may be a more perfect human being, but it was not Charlotte Brontë.Mrs Gaskell’s Emily, too, reduced to a series of vignettes illustrating her unusual strength of character, betrays nothing of the obsession with Gondal which made her almost incapable of leading a life outside the sanctuary of her home but led her to the creation of the strange and wonderful world of Wuthering Heights. Anne is simply a cipher, the youngest child, whose boldness in defying convention by adopting a plain heroine in Agnes Grey and advocating startlingly unorthodox religious beliefs and women’s rights in The Tenant ofWildfell Hall finds no place in Mrs Gaskell’s portrait."...y cómo tan injustamente optó por manchar a Bell Nicholls, el viudo de Charlotte y al mismísimo patriarca Brontë, Patrick, con mentiras y falsas evidencias (todas de las bocas de gente envidiosa o resentida por alguna razón u otra)."Most of all, however, it was the men in Charlotte’s life who suffered at her biographer’s hands. The Patrick Brontë who took such tender care of his young children, campaigned incessantly on behalf of the poor of his parish and espoused unfashionable liberal causes is unrecognizable in her malicious caricature of a selfish and eccentric recluse. Similarly, the Branwell who was his family’s pride and joy, the leader and innovator, artist, poet, musician and writer, is barely touched upon, despite the fact that, without him, there would probably have been no Currer, Ellis or Acton Bell."Es un librazo difícil de leer porque, lo repito, no deja nada de lado. Los detalles a veces pueden resultar pesados o abrumadores, pero, al final, valen la pena leerlos para tener un entendimiento a fondo de cómo vivieron, cómo se sintieron y tristemente murieron los legendarios Brontë."More than anything else (...) they had each other. As children they had needed no other companions and in the sometimes heated, often intense, but always affectionate rivalry between them, they had each found a place and a voice. Even as adults they tended to exclude others: though self-sufficient as a unit, they were dependent on each other for the mutual support and criticism which underpinned their lives and illumined their literary efforts."Al final de todo, ya sin las escritoras prodigiosas ni la promesa fallida del hijo, solos Patrick y el yerno Arthur contra el mundo, injustamente criticados y señalados debido a la publicación del libro de Gaskell. Solos para pelear por la memoria de los fallecidos y el respeto a la privacidad de una familia por siempre destinada a la leyenda. Juliet Barker les da la oportunidad de reinvindicarse...una chance tan merecida para ellos! Branwell, condenado a ser un artista misterioso olvidado en adicciones, es, con justicia, es bien representado como un pobre pibe con aspiraciones que nunca pudieron ser (tanto en el arte como en el amor.) Ni tan maldito ni tan santo, sólo humano. Charlotte, que antes fuera una santa aburrida y sola, es introducida como una mujer capaz, con muchos defectos y egoísmos propios de un temperamento tan genial como problemático. Emily, el mayor misterio, desmitificada, presentada como una chica simple que prefería los héroes brutales de su amado Walter Scott a la vida social del afuera. Anne, la olvidada, ahora revivida como una cristiana cuasi feminista, que en sus libros y poemas fue más bisagra que Charlotte, más valiente, más inteligente y práctica, sus corajes más osados, sus historias mucho más realistas y menos románticas, tanto en la vida como en la literatura. Y, finalmente, Patrick, pintado por Ellen Nussey (y en consecuencia, por Gaskell, quien, en las palabras de Patrick : "“Well, I think Mrs Gaskell tried to make us all appear as bad as she could”.) como un tirano sin sentimientos, tanta injusticia, en esta biografía es el padre solo, de una inteligencia admirable que supo criar hijos geniales, dándoles todo el amor; después de ellos, triste, solitario y final, acompañado por la inquerantable amistad de MR. Charlotte Brontë, es decir, el viudo Arhtur Bell Nicholls.Los Brontë, personas de carne y hueso, a veces más llenos de fantasías y sueños que de realidad. Aislados pero juntos, al final, en el paisaje de cumbres borrascosas que envuelve a la magnífica casa BrontË, en Haworth.Muchas lágrimas, y mucho amor para ellos, que por siempre van a ser inolvidables. Los amo hasta el fin. Y (aunque sé que Barker nunca va a leer esto) igual, gracias a vos, genia total, biógrafa soñada, por semejante libro. Las Brontë (al menos Charlotte, Patrick y Branwell) seguro te estarían muy agradecidas.(Reseña con links de interés y fotos explicadas en La Loca de los Libros. opara más fotos/info/links, los invito a pasar por mi tablero dedicado a la familia Brontë-lo empecé hace poco pero pienso (tratar de) subir todas las últimas novedades que vaya pescando de acá y allá)

  • Jane
    2018-08-14 14:44

    Juliet Barker's The Brontës, published in 1994, is a humungo 830 pages, followed by 170 pages of notes. It is frequently, so it seems, referred to as the "definitive" Brontë biography, which is why I asked my friend The Blond Knitter to buy it for me when I won her blog contest. (I like to think of the writers of definitive biographies crying "Follow that!" as they write the final line. I would.)The Brontës totally lives up to its billing. Between the text and the notes (which I only dipped into), I really did feel that Barker had explored every possible source available to her. And yet not once, not once, I am not kidding you, was I bored. This could be due to my fascination with all things 19th-century-literature, but I think I'll put it down to good writing.And I discovered so many interesting things, especially about Patrick Brontë, the father, and his most famous daughter, Charlotte. The book begins with the transformation of Paddy Branty, a poor but highly intelligent farmer's son, to the gentleman who outlived his wife and all six of his children; in some ways, he is the star of the narrative just by reason of his longevity.Barker sets out to set the record straight about Patrick, who in Brontë legend is usually seen as mad and bad; in her book you get a portrait of a deeply devout clergyman (with a few foibles, such as a tendency to brag about himself and his children to the family he left behind in Ireland) who greatly loved his children, encouraged them to think and write, and was constantly worried about their ill health (which mostly seems to have been due to Haworth's generally unhealthy environment. The water supply was bad, and disease was rife in the village). Charlotte, on the other hand, comes across as less saintly than she usually does: she was rather on the bossy side, prone to outbursts and sulking, and decidedly manipulative.Barker quotes extensively from the Brontës' letters and early poetry and prose, showing every alteration and insertion so that I got a real sense of their writing process. Fascinating. Her notes are detailed and written in just as lively a fashion as the text.As the book advanced, it became increasingly hard to put down. A very nicely done treatment of a fascinating group of subjects. I'm actually racking my brains to think of a criticism, but the only one that comes to mind is that the collection of photos is a little idiosyncratic. But I've read enough about the issues surrounding the publication of photos in books to understand that this may have been a situation beyond the author's control.I'm happy. Except that I have to inform you, dear reader, that this is a hard book to obtain. I was lucky and located a good copy at a reasonable price, but I see that on the day of writing we're talking about "collectible" (i.e. exorbitant) prices. I hope you have better luck.

  • Jeff
    2018-07-27 17:30

    I've read many books on the Brontes, but this weighty tome has sat on my shelf for years. Now is the time!Great book, overall. This is definitely THE book for the diehard Bronte enthusiast. It is extremely detailed, and extensive. The author does a fantastic job of recreating the world of the Brontes. Unfortunately, we don't know many details about the Brontes' lives, but the world in which they lived can be revealed through newspaper accounts, diary and journal entries, letters, etc. This book goes a long way in bringing that world to life.There is also extended discussion of the writing of all the Bronte authors: father Patrick, brother Branwell, and the famous three sisters. In this book there is a tremendous amount of insight gained into the juevenilia of the four siblings; long explorations into their imaginary world of Gondal. Much of this was brand new information to me.For those who are fans of Emily or Anne Bronte, be prepared for mild disapppointment. We know much more about Charlotte Bronte than about any of her siblings, and this comes out in the book through much more space being devoted to Charlotte than the others. This is not a flaw, just an unavoidable necessity due to the nature of the surviving documentary evidence.The first few chapters delve into the birth and life of Patrick Bronte, the father and patriarch of this famous family. I greatly enjoyed learning so much about him and the early years of the Brontes. Most of this information was new to me.One of the best things about this books is the meticulous documentation. Everything is noted with an extensive list of end notes. For anyone seriously studying the Brontes, for those wanting to become experts on Bronteana, this is an indespesable resource. Basically the entire history of Bronte research is referenced in these pages.Bottom line, this is a very long, indepth, detailed book, that can at times become tedious; however, as far as I know, there is no better book on the entire Bronte family. Highly recommended especially for the SERIOUS Bronte student or enthusiast.

  • Amanda
    2018-08-10 15:23

    It took a full two months to finish this book. After watching the recent biopic about the Bronte siblings, I was excited to read this biography which had been sitting very large and intimidating on my shelves for a few years. However, when I started reading I found out just how incredibly detailed the book is, about every possible aspect of the Brontes' lives, including their father's life, education, and career before the siblings were even born, every plot of their childhood writings, every social outing in their lives, etc. I skimmed through some of these parts, but once it got into their actual lives as adults and writers, it was much more fascinating and enthralling. Some parts were very fast reads, others started to drag on again. Eventually, I realized the author must have never intended to "tell a good story" and rather, meant to supply every fact and possible fact about their lives, without much thought to pacing & story arc. Thankfully, the lives of the Brontes are interesting enough to be a good story, once you get through it. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is my favorite book of all time, and in high school and college, I read many of the Bronte books, wrote many essays about them, and read a few biographies or articles about their lives. I still did not know most of the information from this book, so I in no way regret the time I spent reading this book. I had the dual experience of both not knowing "what happened next" and also feeling like I already knew the events of their lives. I hadn't realized how autobiographical Charlotte's novels were, and I loved seeing how Charlotte became who she was as a person and as an author. I wish I could know as much about Emily and even Anne, since unfortunately there is not much left from their writings or letters. I do have a definite sense of accomplishment for having finished this huge book, and I'm also left with a very deep desire to re-read all of their works, and finally read the ones that I haven't. And, of course, to someday make my own pilgrimage to Haworth & the moors.

  • Julie
    2018-08-06 17:20

    Bored to senselessness, at times. Exhaustive, comprehensive -- yes. But Barker is not a writer, nor one who can spin an interesting tale out of dust. The writing reminds me of one of those endless droning tour guides who just won't shut up and let you enjoy magic: they insist on analyzing the larva incubating in the corner. The detail is wonderful -- and wondrous to those who love the Brontes, as I do -- but the message is carried by an-oh-so-average medium. Three stars is generous, only for the volume of facts herein presented. I had to skim some, or I'd be dead now, under its weight.

  • G.G.
    2018-08-07 14:31

    For Brontë devotees: I confess to skipping over most of Patrick's letters to local newspapers. Nonetheless, the account of Charlotte's lionization in the literary world following the success of Jane Eyre is fascinating. And Barker's stark descriptions of the deaths of Emily, Anne, and Charlotte are deeply moving.

  • Greg
    2018-08-19 18:41

    Having read one book by each of three sisters (Anne's "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall", Emily's "Wuthering Heights", and Charlotte's "Jane Eyre") I wanted to know how it's possible that after 150+ years, we are still reading books by all three of these sisters. (Has this ever happened in the world of literature? The odds against this happening must be stupendous!)But the answer comes early in the book: Anne, Emily, Charlotte, and their brother Branwell began writing fiction and poetry very early in life. The four of them would sometimes continue another sibling's story, perhaps changing the direction, getting rid of a character, challenging the original author to explain how changes came about. That's the key I think: they challenged each other, all the while improving their own writing skills until they went their separate ways. Branwell's life story was completely new to me, and was perhaps the saddest story within the family: he was accused of forging checks, of having an affair with a married lady (named Mrs. Robinson, no less) and of perhaps even seducing the son of Mrs. Robinson. A small portion of his early poetry was published, he started a novel but didn't complete it, he composed and played the piano and organ, and even turned to portrait painting. The picture on the front of this book was painted by Branwell, and you can see that one person was painted out: Branwell, his ghost slightly visible. Perhaps that's a prediction of his early demise as he descended into alcohol and perhaps opium addiction 'to find relief in oblivion'. (The author notes that this portrait now hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London and may be the most viewed portrait in the entire gallery.) Also, I didn't know that the father, Patrick, survived all his children and passed at age 78.Real life events influenced the writing of Anne, Emily, and Charlotte. For example, at one point Patrick is losing his vision, and Charlotte created a blinded Mr. Rochester in "Jane Eyre": naturally Jane would choose to aid Rochester in his blindness. Anne based "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall" on a true event. And a reviewer intriguingly promises readers of Emily's "Wuthering Heights" that 'they have never read anything like it before.' I think Emily created the strongest and most influential character in all of their works: the haunted moors surrounding the family all their lives. This is a good read, but is plagued by a singular issue: density of information. It seems Barker has left nothing out and this reminds me of David Starkey's "Six Wives: The Queens of Henry VIII": both books are so dense the reader has to work to understand the overall point of numerous chapters. Where was the editor? Still, I found the answers I, personally was looking for within this book. And Barker ends her work perfectly: "Without this intense family relationship, some of the greatest novels in the English language would never have been written." Barker's work seems more passionate, more alive with new information, than Starkey's "Six Wives" (which I rated three stars) so I'm rating this book 4 stars.

  • David Burton
    2018-08-22 20:20

    I loved this. I tried to read it slowly, just 30 pages or so a day since I was given it for my birthday some six weeks ago, but the joy had to end at some point, and that point was this evening. As a gift, it was a revelation and a eureka moment, as I have never been a Bronte fan, and -I think- only ever read Emily's "Wuthering Heights" (at uni). And yet I was pulled in and removed to the 1800s, to Yorkshire, through the intricate, detailed and interesting retelling of the Family Bronte, from father Patrick's journey to England from Ireland at the turn of the century, through his work, his middle-aged marriage and six children, and then through their wonderful imaginations and untimely deaths, their lonlieness and loves, their strength of family and sense of disconnectedness from the rest of the world. I could identify with much here, but was pulled in by the depth and thought behind all the fine detail. If you have any interest in the Brontes... or even if you had next to none, kind of like me, I would heartily recommend this somewhat large (almost 1000 pages) biography. It will fly by your fingers. Oh yes, I have also recently bought cheap n cheerful second hand copies of all seven Bronte novels, and will now relish every last one of them.

  • Moira Russell
    2018-08-04 19:37

    AHAHAHAOH MY GODIT'S FINALLY FUCKING AVAILABLE ON THE KINDLEI WILL BE ABLE TO SEARCH IT ELECTRONICALLY//buys immediately....ahem. What?

  • Amerynth
    2018-08-05 15:29

    At 830 pages (plus notes,) Juliet Barker's biography "The Brontes" is incredibly comprehensive -- perhaps a little too dense for a more casual reader interested in learning about the life of authors Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte.The book mostly focuses on Charlotte and her father Patrick, as Anne and Emily died young and had no friends to correspond with, so letters detailing their lives are pretty much non-existent. Charlotte's letters to her friend Ellen chronicled much of her life and Ellen turned those letters over to Charlotte's first biographer, Mrs. Gaskell, so there is a lot more source material there. It also contains a good deal of information about their brother Branwell, and his descent into alcoholism and depression, which eventually killed him.I thought the book bogged down a bit (considering Charlotte, who lived the longest of the sisters died at age 38... short lives all...) the quoting of the sister's childhood writing grew a bit tiresome for me. At the same time, Barker's book provides a great amount of insight into the sisters and what inspired them to write. The book also works hard to debunk some of the myths surrounding the sisters as well. Overall, an interesting and generally entertaining read.

  • Liz Haigney Lynch
    2018-08-02 15:36

    Thoroughly researched but also immensely readable. A strongly argued and compassionate corrective to the traditional view of Charlotte and her sisters as lonely eccentrics on the moors. Instead, Barker presents an absorbing portrait of a close-knit, creative family in a busy provincial town, and in particular does much to rescue the sisters' father, Patrick, and brother, Bramwell, from the stereotypical views of them in the Bronte legend. Extremely worth reading for anyone with an interest in the sisters and their real-life world, as well as the landscapes of their imagination.

  • Maria Yohn
    2018-07-29 19:35

    This book was fantastic and completely comprehensive. I feel like a Bronte expert now as I learned so much about each member of the family, especially the ones I didn't know as much about, like Branwell(did you know he had his own Mrs. Robinson?-literally). I was almost sad to reach the end because I felt as if I had gotten to know them personally. This is a great book if you have the time to read it-its length is definitely intimidating!

  • lauren
    2018-08-13 20:39

    It's taken me nearly two months, but I have finally conquered this humongous biography. I loved every minute of it. I have no doubt this will stick with me for a long time to come, and I have no doubt that this will be a book I read again and again and again. Barker's The Brontës is the first definitive history of the family, actively seeking to destroy the "myth" that shrouds the very nature of this close-knitted group. Images created by the likes of Elizabeth Gaskell, Ellen Nussey, and Harriet Martineau, to name but a few, were challenged and redefined into more accurate portrayals. Barker spent eleven years researching the family, looking into letters and manuscripts that related directly to the family members, as well as newspapers and other periodicals of the time. If anyone was to write a biography on the family, one that can stand the tests of time, it would be Juliet Barker. I enjoyed this mostly for the in-depth and accurate character profile of each family member. I've only ever read two other biographies on the family - The Life of Charlotte Brontë and Charlotte Bronte: A Life - so I've a very large knowledge on Charlotte, but a brief one of her father, sisters and brother. I know feel comfortable in discussing each member in great detail - it's like I know them personally now. The extensive notes section shows how much research Barker did whilst composing this, and thus suggesting the most minute detail is the truest. I'm a little dazed at the moment by how overwhelming it was to read this beast. I'm going to take a few days to ponder over my thoughts and feelings and I'll write up a review, which I'll either post on here or on my blog: https://bookishbyron.wordpress.com/Just know I loved it. It was worth the read. I'm happy I was slow with it - I was able to digest everything fully. I would 100% - definitely - completely - wholeheartedly - recommend!!

  • Domhnall
    2018-07-25 13:36

    Juliet Barker needed all 976 pages of text (plus notes) to set out her account of the Bronte family and I found none of it dull. Indeed, her style of writing is excellent. For example, we are introduced to Howarth on page 134 as follows: “Apart from a few short weeks in September, when the moors are covered with the purple bloom of the heather and the air is heavy with its scent, the predominant colours of the landscape are an infinite variety of subtle shades of brown, green and grey. There are no hedgerows and the few trees which brave the elements on the skyline are stunted and grow aslant, bent under the power of the prevailing wind. The whole landscape is in thrall to the sky, which is rarely cloudless and constantly changing; each season it absorbs a peculiar and different quality of light and the wind sends cloud-shadows dancing or creeping over the hill, according to mood.” The same skill is employed as we are confronted with the insanitary housing conditions of the village itself, which were responsible for its excessive death rate from avoidable infectious diseases. Later in the book, we are also able to observe the wealthy property owners declining to allow an increased rate (the local tax) to pay for clean water, better drainage and sewers which would, as they knew very well, greatly reduce those deaths. Death features prominently in this book, from conditions that would be treatable in modern times, and for all of the sisters, as for the one brother, it is without fail a painful thing to observe. It is just stunning to contemplate the calm necessity with which people then faced such early deaths. The book is clear eyed about social conditions and not least about the unacceptable condition of educated women in that society. A startling example very late in the book shows Charlotte Bronte in London, a successful and respected author with a huge readership, obtaining a ticket to sit in a gallery from which she and other women can observe a literary dinner, with men like Thackery, Dickens and others eating and making speeches, but as a woman she is not suitable to take part. It is the very restricted opportunities available to them as women that gradually induced the Bronte family to try one opening by which to make a living with dignity, and in the same year Anne, Emily and Charlotte each produced a novel of sufficient quality to not only sell but also endure. Their ability to perform this astonishing feat at their first attempt arose because, in reality, they had been writing imaginative fiction almost incessantly since their early childhoods. The book's account of this "juvinilia" is a major part of the story, especially for Anne and Emily. The children, in fact, invented characters and countries and not only developed entire biographies of the characters and histories for the countries, but did so often by taking turns with the same stories, often struggling competitively to drive events in one direction or another. For example, Branwell might invent a character who behaves brutally, only for Charlotte to transform the character by writing a romance for him, on which Branwell may write a story in which the lovers are torn apart, ... A significant task of this book is to change perceptions of Branwell, a brother long regarded in an evil light. He is shown here to have been a leading figure in the lives of the sisters, typically initiating projects which the sisters then adopted. He was expected to enjoy a brilliant career, though the form this might take was uncertain, and the account of his disappointments and frustrations as these hopes are undermined by experience is a painful one. He does finally succumb to alcoholism and an addiction to opium, in the context of a severe and unbearable depressive illness, but this is not allowed to conceal the memories of his youth and his gifts. If the story of the Brontes requires the radical revision which this book achieves, it is because the very first biography of Charlotte Bronte - written almost immediately after her death by her friend, Mrs Elizabeth Gaskell - had established very quickly a jaundiced version of the family's history based on a few, very negative and mistaken sources. However, instead of turning this into an historian's self indulgent feast of academic point scoring, Juliet Barker manages - I think - to merge the writing and reception of Gaskell's book into the story so that it becomes yet another interesting part of the whole picture. It must be said that the book is filled with spoilers - we are told far too much about what will happen before we need to know. The fact is that I knew very little about the Brontes before opening this tome and I was prepared to enjoy the story as it unfolded. To take one example, a photograph of Arthur Nicholls appears in the chapter about the year 1850, and the text which accompanies this picture tells us all about the role he will play from 1854 onwards. Now if, like me, you had no idea this was coming, nor who this man might be, you would, like me, be enraged. Maybe the Bronte story is indeed very widely known already and has few surprises for those who know, but even if everyone knows, there has to be a moment when each one first discovers this story. In future, I am sure there will be many people like myself who first discover the Brontes through Juliet Barker's wonderful book.

  • Rachel
    2018-08-09 17:37

    OK. I think I'm done with my spontaneous Bronte readings. I think. This time.

  • Christy B
    2018-08-19 20:43

    I haven't read any other non-fiction book about the Brontë family, but I can tell you that this is the Brontë biography to start with. Yes, it's a tome, but it's oh so worth it. It completely erases the myths and legends surrounding the family, and relies on fact (or as close as you can get to fact) using letters and other documents.This book may end up depressing some people who like to believe the embellished sensationalism that are rooted in rumor. However, for someone who wants to know the real Brontës, then this book is a dream. We're shown the family as they are, flaws and all, and believe me, none of them are perfect.Stripped down are the words of Elizabeth Gaskell in her 'biography' of Charlotte, and even the words of Charlotte are examined, especially in reference to her sisters. Charlotte was grossly unfair of Anne in particular, and in Charlotte's letters, a view of Anne emerged that is untrue. The Brontës does justice to Anne, showing her as an intelligent being, when Charlotte gave her no credit in that regard. I must admit that I've always been sort of a defender of Anne; I always felt as if she got the short end of the stick, in no fault of her own.This book is about all the Brontës, not just about the three sisters. Granted, I basically read this to read about the sisters, but reading about Patrick, and Branwell, as they truly were, was fascinating. The stereotype of Patrick being a strict tyrannical father was shot down. The view of Branwell always being a drunk and screw up is also diminished.Of course, we also find out that some of the sensationalist events in Brontë lure were true, such as Branwell's affair with his employer's wife, and Charlotte's infatuation with Mousier Heger. Reading the details of both gave shape to how these significant events shaped each respective sibling's life.What was also fascinating, and something I never gave much thought to, was the imaginary worlds that the siblings created. Charlotte and Branwell with their Angria world, and Emily and Anne with their Gondal world. They created worlds and characters, wrote up histories for them, write poetry that were part of these worlds, and it's evident that the sisters' earlier work on these imaginary worlds were a huge part of their future novels. There are characters and events in the Angria and Gondal worlds that show up in disguise in the seven novels, along with personal events and real life people in their lives. Reading in detail about these worlds and the sisters' real life experiences gives me a new appreciation for their novels.I could go on and on about everything I learned from the tremendously thorough biography, but I'll stop here. I don't think I need to do any more convincing.

  • Stine
    2018-08-08 16:35

    I'm quite in awe of the meticoulous research Juliet Barker has put into this biography of the Brontës, rich in both detail and scope. The biography begins with the reverend Patrick Brontë, and reveals him, as opposed to popular belief, as an attentive, loving albeit slighty eccentric father, who takes great care of his young children. The four Brontë children who survived into adulthood, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne, form a closeknit circle and during their childhood neither of them seem to have much need for outside companionship. Indeed this was quite a remarkable family, housing 3 novelists whose works are still widely read (and adapted to film) today!! It seems as if Barker has left no stone unturned in this amazing biography, which actually reads more like a novel. I even found myself with watery eyes reading about Anne's death in 1849 (although I knew it was coming), which is quite an accomplishement of a biography (or maybe I'm just sentimental). Because ultimately, this is a tragedy - they all died so young, and left their father as the sole surviver. What I also found moving, was how Charlotte's widower, Nicholas Bell, opted to stay in Haworth with his father-in-law untill he died. Only then did he leave for his native Ireland.Not much is known about Emily and Anne; we only have their novels, poetry and a few letters. So much relies on Charlotte's opinion of her two sisters. She especially seems biased towards her youngest sister, Anne, whom she perceives as a mere child. However, Barker's interpretations of Charlotte's attitudes to her sisters (and to others) seems balanced and fair. This is indeed a biography of the BRONTËS. It doesn't limit itself to the 3 sisters. It also gives in depth details of their brother, parents and the people surrounding them, furthermore it places them in a social, political and historical context, which satisfied my interest in early to mid victorian Britain.

  • J.R.
    2018-07-29 18:22

    This isn't a book you'll read in a day (or want to drag to the beach).But, if you have any interesting in this brilliant and creative family, this is a book you'll want to read.There are a number of differences between this and other biographies of the Brontes, all of them laudable. Among them is an illuminating portrait of the single-parent, Patrick. Presenting documentation for various sources, some never quoted before, she reveals him to have been a hard-pressed but compassionate father rather than the cold, uncaring man portrayed by others.The evidence shows he sought to provide for the welfare and education of his children to the best of his ability and also found time in his busy schedule to read and play with them in their childhood. As they grew he endeavored to do more which, in some cases, ended tragically with the illness and deaths of daughters Maria and Elizabeth at boarding schools. The deaths of these siblings may have made Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne more self-reliant.Speaking of Branwell, there's considerable information on him, his talent and his downfall as well as on the lives of Charlotte, Emily and Anne.Barker often refutes or expands on comments by Elizabeth Gaskell who she feels often concealed information or simply didn't have it available to her.Overall, a worthy effort and I'd give in more than five stars if I could. I know I'll be dipping into it again and again just for the readable entertainment value.

  • Sean Kennedy
    2018-08-13 20:26

    This gigantic, epic tome about the life of the Brontë family is the definitive biography which seeks to address the myth that has grown around them, address the wrongs of the biography of Charlotte Brontë as written by Elizabeth Gaskell, and bring Branwell, Emily and Anne into sharper relief. The level of research in this book is astounding, and Barker does a very thorough job in deconstructing Charlotte's martyrdom through the years while still doing her no injustice of character. Anne is also given her spotlight, one which was always dimmed through Charlotte's own actions, however misguided they were. This book is a must for any Brontë fan.

  • Sarah Beth
    2018-08-09 17:18

    The Brontë family, known for the writing sisters who between them wrote and published Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and Jane Eyre, are typically referred to as forlorn children raised by a repressive and cold father in an isolated and cold setting. Yet in the comprehensive 979 pages of this family biography, Barker unravels the myths long perpetuated about this famous family and the truth behind the tales. The father of the famous Brontë sisters was Patrick, born in Ireland in 1777. Patrick left Ireland to attend St John's College, Cambridge. After graduating he became a curate and after several jobs with several different parishes acquired the position with the Haworth parish, which he held until his death. He married Maria Branwell in 1812, who was the daughter of a successful grocer and tea merchant of Penzance. Much of what we know of Maria is gleaned from some of the only surviving letters she left behind, letters written to Patrick after their engagement. The couple had six children between 1814 and 1820: Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Patrick Branwell, Emily Jane, and Anne. Yet tragedy soon struck, when the children's mother Maria died of cancer in 1825. Fortunately, the children's aunt Branwell came to live with them and helped Patrick raise his six children. Disaster struck again when Patrick scraped together money to send his daughters away to boarding school. Maria and Elizabeth both caught consumption and died within months of each other in 1825. The death of the two eldest daughters again deprived the younger children of maternal figures and created a void in the family.After the catastrophe of Maria and Elizabeth's deaths, the remaining four children were largely raised and educated at home. All four surviving children delighted in fantasy kingdoms and chronicling their imaginary kingdoms in tiny, handwritten books. Indeed, Charlotte and Branwell in particular had a close writing partnership as children and would interweave complex storylines in their writing. The children were in part influenced by writings by their father, principally, The Maid of Killarney; "They would imitate his style, particularly his inclusion of poems as songs in the text, and borrow his characters" (89). The Brontë children did attempt means of going out into the world and earning their own living, with varied success. All three girls spent time working as teachers and governesses. Charlotte in particular hated her teaching jobs, writing about her time at a school, saying, "But just then a Dolt came up with a lesson. I thought I should have vomited" (296). Eventually, all four adult children ended up back at home with father Patrick. Branwell slowly succumbed to mental illness and alcoholism, while Charlotte, Emily, and Anne worked on their writings and published books. Branwell died of consumption and alcoholism in 1848 and was tragically quickly followed by Emily later in 1848 and Anne in 1849. Following the death of Anne, Charlotte no longer felt compelled to keep her identity a secret and was feted in society as the author of Jane Eyre. It was likely a wise choice that the sisters chose to publish under the pseudonyms Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, because of the moral outrage that the novels elicited upon first publication. "It was not simply the unprecedented passion with which they were written that dismayed the critics: the stories and characters, too, displayed all those qualities which polite Victorians most feared - a disregard for social niceties, an obsession (as it was seen then) with violence, cruelty and vice, and a complete lack of that satisfying morality which doled out rewards to the innocent and good and punished those who had done wrong" (104). Yet despite this criticism, Charlotte was able to live comfortably with her father on her earnings and eventually married her father's curate Arthur Bell Nicholls, who apparently loved her greatly for herself and not her writing. Tragically, their happy marriage and Charlotte's contentment was ended too soon when Charlotte died in 1855, likely of pregnancy and a 'wasting disease.' Patrick Brontë outlived his wife and all six of his children. His daughter's husband cared for him in his final years. After Patrick's death, Arthur returned to his home in Ireland and spent his remaining years as a farmer. Many of the erroneous myths long perpetuated about the family are thanks to Gaskell's biography of Charlotte that was published shortly after her death. For instance, Mrs. Gaskell described Haworth drastically different than it truly was: "'Isolated,' 'solitary,' 'lonely' are the epithets on every page. But in reality, Haworth was a busy, industrial township, not some remote rural village" (105). Patrick was described as a half-mad and violent eccentric, when in reality he was a devoted father and well liked in his parish. Even during Patrick's lifetime, these discrepancies were noted by visitors to Haworth, who upon meeting Patrick and talking with people throughout the town, had their "faith in Mrs. Gaskell" severely undermined. It is unfortunate that to this day, these myths are still held as fact by many readers of the Brontës' works. This novel does primarily focus on Charlotte Bronte, as she was the longest living of her siblings, the most prolific both in fiction and letters, and who was not as private and reclusive as her more retiring sisters. Letters written by Charlotte to her friend Ellen are extensively quoted throughout. However, I do wish the motivations and thoughts behind the other sisters and behind their father Patrick was explored a bit more. Additionally, after her sisters' deaths, the novel spends significant time and pages detailing the many travels and social adventures that she enjoyed after her identity as the author of her books became known. While this was important to understanding Charlotte, it was at times a tedious and long drawn out account. It is perfectly fitting that Barker chose to write this as a family biography rather than selecting one member, because ultimately, they functioned as a self-sufficient and close knit unit. "They were dependent on each other for the mutual support and criticism which underpinned their lives and illuminated their literary efforts. Without this intense family relationship, some of the greatest novels in the English language would never have been written" (979). While still a very tragic family story, I enjoyed this comprehensive and unprejudiced account of the Brontës, which does much to correct the false impressions long generated about the family.

  • David
    2018-08-03 18:29

    In the earlier pages, I kept feeling there was too much attention being paid to Patrick. Ironically, after everyone else died, and Charlotte was the only surviving child, I began to long for a few more details of Patrick's struggles with 19th-century religious practice. There were many lessons here, not least of which was the new understanding that the existence of the Bell brothers was as much a part of Emily's insistence on privacy as it was a marker of how difficult it might've been for women to publish under female names in the 1840s. The biography is meticulously researched and documented, right down to including virtually everything that Charlotte and Emily wrote while in Brussels in the original French in the endnotes. It is, ultimately, an endearing glimpse into the lives of the sisters, and is also quite fair to Branwell. The extent to which the cult of personality pursued Currer Bell is still a little surprising; there are also fascinating insights into figures like Thackeray and Dickens, as well as Harriet Martineau and Elizabeth Gaskell. Worth the 1000-page effort.

  • Sharon
    2018-08-11 18:21

    Got a little too ambitious at the start of the year. I don't like reading this many books at once. Putting aside temporarily at page 60.

  • Joan Colby
    2018-08-05 19:21

    It is, to say the least, exhaustive, but readable and debunks quite a few myths. I confess to skimming over some of the childhood sagas of mythical kingdoms that served to sharpen the childrens' narrative skills. Barker casts the family biography in its historical and geographic aspect which is interesting in itself. Involvement in the Brontes fictional land of Angria and Gondal influenced not only the poems of Emily, Anne and Branwell, but Wuthering Heights in particular. The novel also owed a good deal to Scott’s “Rob Roy” a favorite of the sisters. Their immersion in their world of fantasy which persisted into adulthood, especially for Emily, was kept secret. Branwell’s work largely depended on his juvenilia. His despair over the failure of his affair with Mrs. Robinson (which one guesses must have inspired her character in The Graduate) resulted in alcoholism and drug addiction, vices that Branwell easily succumbed to in the past. Charlotte too, was influenced by infatuation, that which she carried for her Belgian professor, also a married man, in creating the character of Mr. Rochester and part of the plot of Jane Eyre. Her first effort at a novel “The Professor” was regarded positively by the publisher to whom she submitted it, but ultimately rejected, with an offer to view her next book. Already at work on Jane Eyre, Charlotte rapidly finished it, sending it off under the pseudonym of Currer Bell. All the sisters had adopted male aliases. Jane Eyre entranced the editors who accepted it with an offer of 100 pounds and the right of refusal of the next two books. Charlotte recognized this sum was inadequate, but stood fast only on her refusal to alter her manuscript. After Thackery praised Jane Eyre, the critics of the day joined suit and the novel became an unprecedented success. Anne also published two books and Emily just one, but that one a masterpiece. It appears that Emily was working on a second manuscript which Charlotte may have destroyed after her sister’s death. Ultimately, all three sisters’ identities were revealed though many readers had guessed that Currer Bell was a woman. After the deaths of her siblings, Charlotte wrote “Shirley” which obtained moderate success. She had, however, achieved a degree of fame and emerged into the world of London society, meeting her idol Thackery and other literary figures. The contrast between the exciting life of London and the remoteness of Haworth contributed to Charlotte’s recurrent depression. Her next novel “Villette” was well received. She had consistently maintained her female friendships and her connection with Mrs.Gaskell resulted in the latter writing the first biography of Charlotte Bronte. While Charlotte had received proposals from various of her father’s curates which she had declined, the suit of curate Arthur Nicholls was greeted more favorably by Charlotte, if not initially, by Patrick, Ultimately she accepted Arthur and married him at the age of 38. The marriage proved happy but brief with Charlotte dying within a year of complications of pregnancy. The many diseases that afflicted people in the 19th century took a toll on the Brontes. The mother died young of cancer, two elder daughters of consumption caught at the dismal school they attended, Branwell falling to drink and consumption at 31, Anne and Emily to consumption at ages 28 and 30 respectively, and Charlotte, dead at 38. Of the 6 Bronte children, 5 died of consumption.In her biography of Charlotte, Mrs. Gaskell mythologized the Brontes. Her descriptions colored the public’s perceptions for many years, casting Patrick as a harsh and eccentric father, Aunt Branwell as a severe disciplinarian and their life in Haworth as one of deprivation and poverty

  • Danelle
    2018-08-09 18:30

    I am just astounded by this book. The research that went into it and the scope and breadth of it is just, incredible.This particular biography on this famous family begins with Patrick Bronte, the father of the famous siblings, his journey from Ireland to England and his education. Patrick, unfairly portrayed in Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of her dear friend, Charlotte, was actually a very kind, loving and generous father who took great pains to provide for his children, as well as the people of his parish. He worked relentlessly to aid the poor and fought for things like clean water for Haworth and universal edcuation. For a curate living in the 1800's, he held surprisingly liberal beliefs and his correspondence paints him as magnanimous, indeed.Now, if you are at all familiar with any of the Bronte's (Anne Bronte, Emily Bronte, Charlotte Bronte, Branwell Bronte) works, you are aware of the tragic story of this family. You know that there were six children and that their mother died when they were very young. And then, there were only four Bronte children as the two eldest died from the same illness that took their mother from them - exacerbated by the conditions of the school they were attending (which, of course, we read about in Jane Eyre).This left four children, home, in a rural setting with their father, their mother's sister, and two servants for companionship. And this is where the writing began - and the saga-like stories that led them on their path to becoming some of the most remarkable writers of their time. Of all time.I won't go on, though I could. You see, Barker's research, her findings, her way of presenting the information on the Brontes - just all of it - is done in such a way that I would feel more than comfortable filling you in on nearly everything there is to know about this amazing, albeit a bit eccentric, family of literary geniuses.If you love the Brontes, or 19th century England for that matter, and don't mind big, heavy books to read, then read this. It's just incredible.(Just don't be surprised if you begin to really dislike Elizabeth Gaskell for the fiction she inserted in her biography on Charlotte that, ever since, has perpetuated the myths of this family and the place they came from.)What was most surprising to me was what a complete portrait of 19th century England this book was - the focus was, of course, on the Brontes, and that information is extensive, yet it doesn't leave out what is happening in the world at the time.

  • anna
    2018-07-24 16:33

    This is a really great biography for anyone who loves Jane Eyre. It's a bit slow getting into; the first hundred pages are about Patrick Bronte, who was Irish, came from a poor family, but managed to get a scholarship to study at Cambridge. After another courtship Patrick married Maria Branwell in 1812. They had two girls Mary and Elizabeth, and the other four Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. At the age of thirty eight Maria died of cancer, 1821. Mary and Elizabeth were sent to Cowan bridge a school which served as the prototype for Lowood in J.E., where they got tb and died soon after. Patrick then recalled the other two girls Charlotte and Emily from the school. They attended other schools later, trained as governesses, and worked as governesses, all except for Emily who took care of their father Patrick. Later Emily and Charlotte went to Brussels where they studied for a year, Charlotte later went back there to work but left after falling in love with the married Monsieur Heger who owned the school and was now her boss. All four wrote, Branwell published poetry in local newspapers after failing as an artist. There's a maybe a hundred pages or so describing the fantastical worlds all the siblings created in their juvenilia, this part is a bit boring but everything else is fascinating. Branwell fell in love with his employer's wife Mrs. Robinson, he later lost his position as tutor ( the red and the black meets the graduate) and became an alcoholic. Meanwhile the girls published a book of poetry under the names of currer, Ellis and actin bell, then Charlotte wrote the professor, Emily W.H., Anne T of WH, and sent them off to a publisher who accepted Emily's and Anne's works but rejected C's. C sent her manuscript to other publisher's, she got a response from George Smith's company saying they wouldn't publish this work but would be glad to look at the next. Branwell does of TB. Jane Eyre is published to great acclaim, Anne finishes Agnes grey. Emily dies a few months after Branwell, a few months later Anne also dies of TB, 1848-49. C. starts to travel to London and meet the other literary figures of the day, Thackeray, h. Martineau, Mrs. Gaskell. She publishes two more novels and falls in live with her publisher George Smith. When he marries she gives up hope and marries her fathers curate Arthur bell Nicolls who was in love with her. She falls in love with him after they get married it seems, she becomes pregnant but the pregnancy is too much of a strain on her body and she also does from TB a few months later. I loved this book, there's nothing better than reading a great work about your favorite author. Rectitude is charlottes favorite word.

  • Mary
    2018-08-10 20:18

    I cannot say enough about how much I loved this book. Since I love the Brontes' novels and am fascinated with the authors' lives, this book was like having dessert at the end of every day! Juliet Barker is the former curator of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and she has painstakingly researched the Bronte family. She has taken it upon herself to debunk the myths surrounding the Brontes that began with Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte in 1857. Sadly these myths have been perpetuated through the years so that they are now taken as fact. I recently read a biography of Emily Bronte written by Agnes Mary Frances Robinson, published in 1883, which quoted heavily from Gaskell's book, as do many books about the sisters. Ms. Barker's new material is both enlightening and heartening. There is something so romantic about this family living a somewhat solitary existence on the beautiful-but-desolate moors. The genius displayed by the four older children is evident in their juvenilia (works written in youth). The author goes into minute detail about their juvenilia, highlighting their creativity and their sophisticated thinking (elections and political debates between the characters in their imaginary worlds, for starters). Was I even aware of political debates in my teenage years?! Ms. Barker also paints a more realistic portrait of the authors by printing their writing, unedited, warts and all. As sad as the story is, it is fascinating to see how the lives of the 6 children influence the novels of the 3 sisters, as they lifted situations straight from their real-life experiences (and their juvenilia) and inserted them into their books. Even the life of the patriarch Patrick proved to be much more interesting than I would have dreamed. I highly recommend this biography, particularly if you are already a fan of Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Fascinating.

  • Jaylia3
    2018-07-28 15:20

    The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors is long, highly detailed, usually fascinating, often moving, and sometimes heartbreaking. It’s the story of the entire family, from the time Patrick and Maria, parents of Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell, were young adults until the death of Patrick, the last surviving member of this Brontë family. Besides the offspring already mentioned, there were also two older sisters who died while at boarding school, a tragedy Charlotte uses in Jane Eyre. All four of the children who survived early childhood were imaginative, obsessive writers, even from a young age creating their own literary worlds, and The Brontës gives a good sense of their distinct personalities, interests, and talents. Author Juliet Barker wants to correct what she believes are misunderstandings created by earlier biographers, errors in attitude, especially about Patrick and Branwell, that go back to Mrs. Gaskell’s biography of Charlotte shortly after her death. That mission makes this book a passionately engaging account as well as a scholarly serious one.I have to admit I ended up skimming some passages on things like the debates over church fees, but I found most of the history very interesting and I learned a lot about the circumstances and cultural attitudes of small towns in early industrial, Victorian era northern England--Mrs. Gaskell novels aside, most of my previous knowledge of the time centered around London. I read the Kindle version of this book, which has the advantage of being much lighter than the 1,000+ hardcover and paperback editions, but while it has a well working interactive table of contents it doesn’t include any of the photographic plates.

  • John
    2018-08-22 16:24

    The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors by Juliet Barker was, in my opinion, a masterful accomplishment and a moving study of, not only, the three Bronte sisters, but the Bronte and Branwell families as a whole and their friends and acquaintances. Regardless of contrary opinions, I believe most people can agree that Ms. Barker is unquestionably one, if not the most, accomplished expert on the Bronte family at the present time. Through her meticulous research and well documented conclusions, Ms. Barker provides aspects of the Bronte family that will help the reader understand them better than anything previously written, including the highly respected biography of Charlotte by Elizabeth Gaskell. In addition, the book is a joy to read, due to its organization and flow. Consequently, in many cases, it reads like a novel, keeping the reader's interest piqued throughout almost every aspect and season of the lives of this very interesting family. After reading this very detailed and prodigious volume I may not be an expert on the Brontes, but I feel that I know them better and can hold a much more cultivated discussion regarding them than previously. For anyone who has the curiosity regarding the Bronte family, the desire to know an alternate view of family members than has been previously understood, and the fortitude to read this daunting volume, I highly recommend this book. You will not be sorry.

  • Barbara Murphy
    2018-08-21 14:41

    This is a mega read but so pleased I have persevered. The detail is phenomenal and some of it is too much so skimmed over these bits. Mostly the fantasy worlds which the children created and detail about the father's religious duties. Both these were tiresome because of the names. That aside I have been totally absorbed in their lives, the social history of the area and period and their dedication to writing. I blow hot and cold over Charlotte. Sometimes she wins me over. At other times she seems quite cold and manipulative...but she wrote Jane Eyre. I am intrigued by her relationship with George Smith the younger publisher. He seemed quite besotted with her. Why was there no romance there? Poor Branwell. He never recovered from Mrs Robinson. All the children have died now, three within 9 months. Only Charlotte and father left. It is is so sad but at least C achieved recognition in her lifetime for her books.Now finished this tome and really enjoyed it. what a research project this must have been. Ms Barker has done a good job in not giving too opinions of her own but rather relating the evidence and leaving it up to us the reader to draw our own conclusions. She did comment on the father Patrick and Arthur Nicholls regarding the bad press they got from Mrs Gaskell and others after Charlotte's death. They were treated shamefully with total lack of respect and hopefully this has now been set right.Both lived to a ripe old age however.

  • Joy
    2018-08-21 18:29

    What a vivid, thorough account of the Brontë family. The time and research that have gone into compiling this book is astounding; it's certainly a labor of love for Juliet Barker. It's a must read for those with a passion for the Brontës.The book is lengthy and gloriously, minutely detailed. Barker dispels the myth of the Brontës that has been perpetuated since their lifetime thanks to Mrs. Gaskell's famous biography. She illuminates Patrick in particular and recognizes the siblings as much more than their usual caricatures. I was amazed to find out more information than ever before about their mother Maria. She also brings to life the time and place in which they lived. The included verse and correspondence provide clear and memorable portraits of the voices of the Brontës, their friends and acquaintances.I am fortunate to have traveled to Haworth and have wonderful memories of my time spent in the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the church, and the village itself. I have been interested in the Brontë family ever since I first read Jane Eyre. I wrote a paper on Wuthering Heights in high school that led me to read as much as my local libraries afforded on the Brontës, particularly Emily. I wish this book had been available to me then and I am very glad I was able to read it now.