To be completely honest, I a little bit feel like I might have expended all of my creative energy on the title of this post. As I think I mentioned in my Villette post, I am only recently a Brontë enthusiast, and my enthusiasm is mostly centered around Villette and the weirdness of the sisters themselves, as primarily introduced to me through the miniseries To Walk Invisible. I tried to pace my reading of the books at the beginning and end of this post so that I would finish them the same week as each other, and in between you’ll find something a bit frothier.
Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart – Claire Harman
Thanks to this book, my Twitter lately has become me sharing disturbing little facts about Charlotte Brontë and her family — of which there are MANY — and enjoying the responses which are usually variations on: “waaaaaaat??” Truly, CB [as I referred to her in the notes I took] was a small, angry, brilliant little oddball and this thorough biography opened her works up to me even more.
In terms of dealing with the rest of the family members Harman does a good job of providing enough information to contextualize Charlotte’s life while not bogging us down with information about the Brontës we really don’t care about [I’m looking at you, Patrick and Branwell.] I would have liked to know a smidge more about Emily and Anne, but so little is known about them individually that I think the author included as much as she could without resorting to speculation.
It is a rather hefty book, and though I wouldn’t consider it a difficult read, exactly, it is rather dense and not written to be breezy bedtime reading.
Roomies – Christina Lauren
This book was recommended to me by the excellent Taylor [if it seems like I reference her at least once a post, all I can say is YOU’RE WELCOME], who highly recommended listening to the audiobook if possible. One of the main characters is Irish, as is the audiobook reader whose performance is apparently quite ~affecting~. However, I am stubborn and mulish and also have an enormous backlog of podcast episodes I’m trying to work my way through, so I read the book with my eyes and just pretended I was hearing Matthew Goode in Leap Year whenever Calvin said anything.
This book is kind of like if the Sandra Bullock/Ryan Reynolds movie The Proposal was not a little bit about misogyny and workplace harassment? Basically our main character, Holland, marries an Irish musician [Calvin] so that he can get a green card and perform in her uncle’s Broadway musical. FEELINGS ENSUE. This book was delightful and lovely and there were more than a few nights in which I stayed up later than I should have to finish. It also has legitimate character development and plot stakes that are more than just half-cooked attempts to pad out the parts of the book that are not about what the book is ACTUALLY ABOUT.
The Tenant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë
Once upon a time, several years ago, I watched a movie adaptation of this book and promptly forgot almost all of it. Like, I could not have told you a single thing that happened but I knew that it was WILD. As part of my revived interest in the Brontës, I decided to read one of the two novels written by the “forgotten Brontë” [we’re not counting the even MORE “forgotten Brontë”, their brother Branwell, because he was, frankly, a pile of garbage]: the quiet, sweet sister who wrote one of the most frank, shocking novels about vice and profligacy the 19th century had ever seen.
All of the Brontës died much too young, but reading this book made me feel especially sad about Anne’s death. She was such a sneaky observer and conveyed those observations with more subtlety and dark humor than Charlotte or Emily. I wish she’d had more time to develop those skills and, while we’re wishing for things, maybe just like a happier life in general.
My main takeaway at the end of this book was: there are many different kinds of trash men. 2/3 of this book is narrated by a young man named Gilbert Markham who quickly becomes enamored of a young widow named Helen Graham, the new tenant at Wildfell Hall (I told you I used up all my cleverness on the title). By the end of the book I was rolling my eyes at basically every other thing he said, but I believe that that was exACTLY AB’s intention. The middle third is narrated by Helen herself, in which a series of diary entries explains Helen’s past and contextualizes her current situation, as well as all of Gilbert’s narration.
Probably for me no Brontë book will ever measure up to Villette, and parts of this book were just exhausting to get through, but it was kind of fun to read a book in which one of our narrators literally punches a man off of a horse and is then annoyed when that man won’t let them help him back onto that horse, which, again THEY PUNCHED HIM OFF OF.
I’ll leave you with some further Brontë Contënt, which I haven’t yet read, but plan to SOMEDAY, hopefully:
- Last week on Twitter I was connected to a person named Miranda Pennington [thank you, Lauren!] who actually wrote a MEMOIR on reading the Brontës, called A Girl Walks Into a Book: What the Brontës Taught Me About Life, Love, and Women’s Work and I’m excited to read it, hopefully sometime in the next decade!
- Waaay back at the beginning I talked about Samantha Ellis’ How to Be a Heroine [post here] and one of her other books is actually an Anne Brontë biography called Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life, which looks a dang lovely read, and a little less dense than the Charlotte bio. [which! doesn’t mean that it’s any less thorough or thoughtful! I, personally, would love to read more biographies that are less taxing to read/access. I get the necessity of books like Harman’s for like, academic-y reasons, but I would just love for there to be a FEAST’S WORTH of different types of biographies for different types of reading experiences.