Monday, November 5, 2012

Middle School Monday Review: The Bronte Sisters

The Bronte Sisters: The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne
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The Bronte Sisters:  The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne
by Catherine Reef

This is a book I have on my "hold" list. I have read several good reviews, including this one by Barbara, a reader on Goodreads. The Brontë sisters are among the most beloved writers of all time, best known for their classic nineteenth-century novels Jane Eyre (Charlotte),Wuthering Heights (Emily), and Agnes Grey (Anne). "Surprisingly, these three daughters of a minister who lived in Haworth in the north part of England all wrote and had books published during a time when there were few women writers and many women were expected to content themselves with marriage and family. To read this carefully-researched biography is to learn about loss--the death of the girls' mother a few months after giving birth to her last child, the early deaths of two Bronte girls, the early promise and later dissipation and wasted potential of their brother Branwell, the deaths of Anne, Emily, and Branwell, all within an eight month period. But their lives weren't always filled with loss and bleakness; as children, all of these creative spirits played games and invented characters and stories. They seemed to draw strength from one another, and while Charlotte formed friendships that lasted a lifetime with others from boarding school, her sisters were close with one another. The author described the area where the siblings grew up as well as the influence on their father and the societal expectations of the times. For those who would claim that women were incapable of creating works of literature that would be memorable or could possibly still be read even a year after being published, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre remains in print, memorable for its remarkably forthright heroine and the notion that a man could find something more than a woman's outward appearance to be attractive. I relished having the chance to read these vignettes of the lives of the Brontes, many of which were based on remembrances of Charlotte's friends or from their correspondence. This is a superb introduction to three intriguing women, providing as it does, a study into characters, but also an examination of times when women's rights were restricted and health care was rudimentary at best. As I closed the book, I couldn't help wondering what other stories were left untold by the early demise of these women, all of whom died when they were in their thirties. Back matter includes notes and a bibliography for those who are curious, as am I, to learn even more. English teachers will certainly want to add this to their bookshelves for the insight it gives into writing and Charlotte's stubborn refusal to change a word of Jane Eyre when it was published. What previously- unpublished author would have the nerve to do that today?"

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