Books have a way of bringing us together and creating conversations that will hopefully reveal our common humanity.
The literary podcast, Bonnets At Dawn, premiered in 2017. When the original episodes focused on the works, lives, and fandoms of Charlotte Bronte and Jane Austen, later seasons expanded to other women writers from the 19th and 20th centuries who deserve equal time in the limelight.
Bonnets At Dawn is one of my favorite podcasts. I appreciate the intelligent conversations and the approach that is fan-based with an academic angle.
William teeters between a disapproving paternal figure and a suitor who is quicker to recognize their growing attraction than she is. Emily is determined to keep him at arm’s length. When they finally get together, the dam breaks. But when real life intervenes, they are torn apart.
There are two schools of thought when it comes to Emily. If an audience member knows nothing or next to nothing about the Brontes, it’s fine. But, if you are a fangirl of the sisters (like I am), that’s another story entirely.
What kills me is that there is so much information out there that O’Connor either ignored or played around with to fit her narrative. I understand that this is a work of fiction and not a documentary. That being said, she could have been a lot more faithful to what is known about Bronte.
Though I did appreciate the callbacks to Wuthering Heights and Mackey’s performance, I was highly disappointed with the movie and O’Connor’s choice of story.
Do I recommend it? No. It is one of the worst films that I have seen in a long time.
For everyone who makes a crack in the glass ceiling, they stand on the shoulders of someone else who made that crack possible. Lovers of classic literature are (hopefully) well-versed in the lives and works of Jane Austen and the Brontes.
They lived what can only be described as a double life. Though they were respected authors/celebrities of their era, the Porters were never financially secure. Debt and poorly made monetary decisions followed them from the time they were young. They were also posthumously buried by the male writers of their era (Sir Walter Scott to be specific), who never publicly named the Porters as the inspiration for their own works.
It goes without saying that the book would be completely up my alley. It goes without saying that it is for a niche audience. But that’s fine. What Looser does so well is to bring her subjects and their world to life. I felt like I knew them as human beings, not as icons and proto-feminists. While she kept to the standard womb-to-tomb biography format, it was far from the dry academic title that it could have been.
I think it is pretty safe to say that every female writer since then, regardless of genre or format, owes the Porters a debt that can never be repaid.
Do I recommend it? Absolutely. It is a must-read.
Sister Novelists: The Trailblazing Porter Sisters, Who Paved the Way for Austen and the Brontës is available wherever books are sold.
*Spoilers ahead. Read at your own risk if you are a newbie to the novel or its various screen reboots.
There is a reason that Jane Eyre has been given the label of a “classic novel”. Charlotte Bronte‘s story of a young woman who defies all odds and creates her own happiness is a tale that we can all learn from.
The 1997 TV movie stars Samantha Morton as the title character and Ciaran Hinds as Edward Rochester, Jane’s mysterious employer, and love interest. As in the novel, Jane is an orphaned young woman who must make her own way in the world. Employed by Rochester as the governess to his ward, their attraction is electric. But he has a past that she knows nothing of. If it is revealed, the truth could endanger their future together.
There is one scene that rubs me the wrong way. After it is revealed that Rochester is married, he tries to convince Jane to stay. Hinds is a little too physically rough on Jane as the character for me.
We all have secrets and we all have parts of our past that we would prefer to forget. That does not mean, however that life will allow us to.
The Wife Upstairs: A Novel, by Rachel Hawkins was published at the end of last year. Orphaned at an early age and raised in the foster care system, Jane Bell learned early that survival is the top priority. Now in her early twenties, she has recently moved to Birmingham, Alabama, and earns her living by walking the dogs of the super-wealthy. She also adds to her pocketbook by pocketing trinkets and other small pieces that none of her employers will miss.
Things change for Jane when she meets Eddie Rochester, a thirty-something widower. Surrounding Eddie is the mysterious death of his late wife, Bea, and her best friend. After running into each other, he asks Jane to go out with him. She says yes. Within the blink of an eye, she has moved into his house and they are engaged.
But things are not what they seem. Jane’s past seems to be catching up to her. Though Bea is physically gone, she is ever-present. Will they have their happily ever after or will their mutual literal ghosts come back to haunt them?
This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The logline is Jane Eyre meets Rebecca in modern-day Alabama. It is delicious, it is thrilling, romantic, sexy, and an absolute must-read.
Do I recommend it? Without a doubt.
The Wife Upstairs: A Novel is available wherever books are sold.
Over the centuries, women have been portrayed as many things: the innocent victim who is in need of rescue, the slut, the man-hater, the marriage-minded miss, etc. The problem with these images is that they are 2-D and without room to grow beyond the boxed-in perception. The only way to smash these stereotypes is to allow us to tell our own stories from our perspective.
This book is a classic for a reason. Forty-plus years after its initial publication, it is as relevant today as it was back then. Their theory that women writers have a greater insight and ability to create 3D fully human characters as opposed to the typecast idea of females that some male writers have can still be seen today on both the page and the screen.
A honeymoon is more than the first time that the newlyweds can have sexual relations without the naysayers putting their two cents in. It is a vacation that gives them the opportunity to break from the stress of the wedding, life, and the daily annoyances that are too easy to complain about.
Nevertheless, they did go ahead with their nuptials, which was then followed by a month long trip traveling through Ireland and meeting Arthur’s family. What starts out as a gamble for Charlotte, who by then was in her late 30’s and was convinced that she would never marry, turns into an unexpected love for her new husband.
As a Bronte devotee, I loved this book. The details are fantastic. It was as if I was there with them. Clooney takes us into a part of Charlotte’s story that is often glossed over or not given the spotlight that it should. I will warn that this story is not for the Bronte neophyte. The ideal reader is someone who has an encyclopedia-like knowledge of these women, their lives, and writing.
My only complaint is that the figurative editorial red pen appeared far too much for my taste. When I am reading for pleasure, I don’t want to be thinking about what I would fix, if I was the author.
A good biopic does more than lay out the basic facts about the life and work of the subject(s). It brings that story and the subject(s) to life, creating a connection between the audience and the characters.
There are certain cultural shorthands that we all know, even if we are unaware of the deeper context of the specific reference. When we talk about Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, he is symbolic of a romantic ideal that many aspire to, even if that aspiration is far from reality.
I loved this book. The author creates a nice balance of academic authority and adoring fandom without veering too heavily in either direction. It was a fascinating deep dive into this man who has become both a romantic icon and a character type for many a romantic male lead since 1813.
When Patrick Bronte died in 1861, he was the last surviving member of his immediate family. Outliving his wife and all six of his children, his legacy would have faded into history if not for the extraordinary books of his three youngest daughters.
Though history tells us that Patrick died without any descendants, author Catherine Lowell asks what if someone living today could claim otherwise. In her 2016 book, The Madwoman Upstairs, Samantha Whipple is an American woman raised in Boston who can make this kind of statement. Raised by her late unconventional father after her parent’s divorce, many believe that she has access to a treasure trove of previously unseen materials created by her ancestors. But Samantha has no knowledge of these artifacts and believes them to be fiction. When she enrolls at Oxford University, clues begin to confirm that what Samantha believes to myth is fact. Working with a handsome professor who she gets along with like oil and water, the mystery of her birthright starts to reveal itself.
I loved the first half of the book. There are plenty of Easter eggs to please the most ardent of Bronte fans. I will warn that the reader should go into the novel with at least some knowledge of their life and work. Otherwise many of the details of the plot will go over their heads. The problem is the second half. The unraveling of the truth is not as exciting as it could be. Neither is “romance” between Samantha and her professor. The sisters are known for heart pounding, blood pumping sexuality (Charlotte and Emily to be specific. Anne‘s novels are not as highly charged in that manner). There is no chemistry between the characters, nor do I believe that in their happily ever after.
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