03/02/2013

ROMANCING MISS BRONTE BY JULIET GAEL - BOOK REVIEW


If you love Jane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë, this novel is unmissable. If you are interested in the lives of the Brontë family, so full of sorrow and talent, you'll love it.
I've just finished reading it and, by chance, I'm also working on the Brontës and their novels with my students at the moment. So Romancing Miss Brontë has come out a great source of anecdotes in order to bring  Charlotte, Emily and Anne to life for my pupils, with the aim to make today's teenagers see them as unique human beings as well as great writers. 
Practical advantages apart, reading this novel was a real treat and a great pleasure. I came to discover it after meeting  the author Juliet Gael in Rome not long ago (see my post) and I'm really happy I did it. 

Impossible not to be fascinated by the story of the three sisters who managed to get to fame thanks to their strength, talent and ... stubborness. Yes, stubborness. Because,  if we have Jane Eyre, Villette and Shirley,  Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,  we owe that especially to Charlotte's stubborness. She fought to make it and made it at last. This is the prevailing trait of  her personality revealed in Juliet Gael's portrait: a certain tenacity,  we might even recognize as stubborness.

The romance  suggested in the title is a constant element in the story. Charlotte spent most of her life trying to forget Monsier Heger, the married professor she fell in love with, unrequited, when she was studying in Brussels. She tried to recognize his stern stare and his strong personality in any man she met, and when she couldn't find them anywhere around her, she depicted those traits on paper, attributing them to her own iconic hero, Mr Rochester.

She could never replace Monsier Heger with anyone like him, but she was flattered by the playful,  thoughtful, friendly attentions she received by her young and handsome publisher, Mr George Smith,  and finally realised loyal, devoted love  had always waited for her in the most unexpected place, in the heart of her father's vicar, Reverend Arthur Bell Nichols. Juliet Gael make their love story a very touching romantic tale.

Sisterly love is, of course,  one of the main themes in this novel,  especially in the first part. Charlotte had a very special bond with Emily, whom she considered the most gifted of them all. She deeply admired her and tried to support and protect her, as well.
In Ms Gael's picture, she wasn't so patient with Branwell nor easily bore his weakness; she couldn't re-create with Anne the same bond she had with Emily. Anyway, their childhood is conveyed as an extraordinary adventure and a relatively happy period in this novel and it really must have been when they escaped and found refuge in the world of fantasy they had created. Nothing could harm them there.

The conflict with the patriarcal figure of Patrick Brontë is the focus, anyway. Due to her experience as a scriptwriter,  Juliet Gael has learnt that a very successful strategy to design a biopic is focusing on one conflict, so she decided to build Charlotte Brontë 's novel around the conflictual relationship between the patriarcal figure of the father, Patrick Brontë,  distant and authoritative, and his talented daughter, who feared and revered him.

If you expect Charlotte as obscure, plain and little, you'll be disappointed. She is a real heroine: a tiny figure indeed in stature,  but a giant woman in will, talent and passion. 

The sensation you get while reading is just that of an extraordinary family, one who produced three world class writers. 
I've always thought that the sadness of the three sisters' common destiny and the solitude of their almost secluded lives make their achievements even more astonishing: their vivid imagination and their talent gifted readers with tales which were completely different from everything that  had ever  been written  before.

There is no solution to  the mystery of how so much talent blossomed in that little village in Yorkshire, Howarth,  thanks to an extraordinary set of women and their courage.  A must for any Brontë devotee.





The Book 


(from Amazon.com) In this astonishing novel, a brilliant mélange of fact and fiction, Juliet Gael skillfully and stylishly 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 the two years that she studied in Brussels, Charlotte had a taste of life’s splendors—travel, literature, and art. 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: The Brontës will publish. In childhood the Brontë children created fantastical imaginary worlds; now the sisters craft novels quite unlike anything written before. Transforming her loneliness and personal sorrow into a triumph of literary art, Charlotte pens her 1847 masterpiece, Jane Eyre.


Charlotte’s novel becomes an overwhelming literary success, catapulting the shy and awkward young woman into the spotlight of London’s fashionable literary scene—and into the arms of her new publisher, George Smith, an irresistibly handsome young man whose interest in his fiercely intelligent and spirited new author seems to go beyond professional duty. 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—the quiet but determined curate Arthur Nicholls. After secretly pining for Charlotte since he first came to work for her father, Arthur suddenly reveals his heart to her. 


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.


Buy the book at a very special price!

Italian version by Narrativa TEA is available 
 HERE, HERE or HERE

10 comments:

Trudy said...

Sounds very interesting! I haven't read any Bronte yet - but intend to. I found out quite a bit about Anne Bronte while doing some research about Scarborough for my next book. Now I'm curious to read Anne's work. :)

Maria Grazia said...

I read both Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. The latter is my second best favourite after Jane Eyre, among the Bronte novels.
I visited Haworth, their home in Yorkshire, but I didn't go to Scarborough, where Anne died. Next time I am in Yorkshire, that is a must!
Thanks for your comment, Trudy.

ksotikoula said...

Try also "The taste of sorrow" by Jude Morgan or if you stay at USA its title there is "Charlotte and Emily". It is the best fictional biography I have read about the Brontes.

Margay said...

This sounds like a very interesting book.

Maria Grazia said...

Thanks a lot @ksotikoula for your suggestions and to you @Margay for being such a kind reader. I am reading new great stuff at the moment. Again great writers and fiction: excellent blend. Stay tuned!

Carole said...

Maria, I read this after reading your review and did enjoy it - and got to know a bit more about her background. I hope you are having a good week.

Maria Grazia said...

I'm really glad you liked it , Carole. Many thanks for visiting and sharing with us :-)

Bonnie Way said...

Sounds interesting! I love the Bronte sisters (especially Anne) so I'll have to check this out. Thanks for sharing! (I'm stopping by from the Books You Loved hop at Carole's Chatter.)

Carole said...

Maria, thanks for linking this in to Books You Loved. Cheers

Elizabeth said...

Sounds good...thanks for sharing.

Love your blog too. NEW FOLLOWER.

Stopping by from Carole's Books You Loved February Edition I am in that list as #13.

Elizabeth
Silver's Reviews
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