Tag Archives: Charlotte Bronte

Happy Birthday Anne Bronte!

During Anne Bronte‘s time, the expectations of woman’s life was simple: marry upon reaching adulthood, bring children (boys preferably) into the world, support her husband and live a quiet, appropriately feminine life. But Anne Bronte was not just any woman and she did not come just any family.

With her elder sisters Charlotte and Emily, Anne has become one of a handful of 19th century women writers whose influence has lasted long after her brief time on Earth. Her two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, speak to a woman’s condition and what she must endure because she is a woman.

Agnes Grey is about a young woman who works as a governess for wealthy families. Her charges are spoiled and wild, their parents do nothing to curb their bad behavior. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is about spousal abuse, alcoholism and the choices that some women must make to remove themselves and their children from that environment.

The thing that I love about her books is that they are grounded in the real world, as a pose to the fantasy-ish world of her sister’s novels. An example of this is the romanticizing of Heathcliff in Emily’s Wuthering Heights. Upon the first read, Heathcliff is the romantic hero pining for Catherine Earnshaw. But Heathcliff reveals himself to be a brute and have serious anger issues.

In The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne reveals the harsh truth of what it is to live with an abusive spouse. In her era, divorce was hard to come by and marriage was for life. Women were told to look the other way when their husbands acted less than honorably.

If there is one takeaway I have from both books, it is that the issues that she wrote about are still front and center today. Which is why Anne Bronte and her books are still being read today.

Wherever she is, I wish her a very happy birthday.

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Books, Feminism, History, Writing, Wuthering Heights

The Bronte Myth Book Review

Among the great writers of the 19th century, the Bronte sisters stand tall. Lionized as proto-feminists and adored in the literary community for their contribution to the world of literature, fans sometimes have to ask themselves where fact ends and fiction begins.

In 2001, Lucasta Miller published The Bronte Myth. The book starts with the brief lives of the Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte and follows their posthumous celebrity as their image is shaped to fit the needs of the biographer. In the book, Ms. Miller delves deeply into the facts and the myths of the Brontes and how both have been used to tell the story of the legendary sisters.

When I heard about The Bronte Myth, the concept sounded interesting. I am sorry to report that the concept I had in my head did not meet reality.

The book is not for the casual or virgin Bronte fan. It borders on academic and is probably better suited for a reader who is well versed in the story of the Bronte sisters, their brother Branwell and father Patrick. But my main issue is that Ms. Miller spent most of the book talking about Charlotte. Granted, Charlotte lived the longest of her siblings, but the book is not entitled The Charlotte Bronte Myth. She spends about 60% of the book talking about Charlotte, 20% talking about Emily. The other 20% are given to Anne, Branwell and Patrick. I think I would have liked this book more if all of the Bronte siblings and their father were given equal attention.

Do I recommend it? Sort of.

 

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Eyre, Writing, Wuthering Heights

Mrs. Wilson Review

When we marry, the expectation is that the person we are marrying is who they say they are.

In the miniseries, Mrs. Wilson, Alison Wilson (Ruth Wilson, playing her grandmother), receives a rude awakening after the death of her much older husband, Alexander (Iain Glen). Her husband was good at keeping secrets. His most potent secret was that she was not his only living wife. Coleman (Fiona Shaw), her husband’s handler from World War II is not too forthcoming with information. There is also the question of Dorothy Wick (Keeley Hawes), who keeps popping up as Alison tries to find out the truth of her husband’s life. As the series flips between the beginnings of Alison and Alexander’s (who was known as Alec) early relationship during the war to the 1960’s, where the widowed Alison is desperate for answers.

I have to admit that I am impressed with this series. I am impressed because this is a very personal story for Wilson. It takes a lot to share a personal story that is part of her family lore with the public. As a viewer, I can understand why Alison was not the last woman to fall for Alec. He was charming, intelligent and appeared to radiate qualities that would qualify him as a good man.

Both Wilson and Glen are familiar faces to Masterpiece viewers. Wilson made her Masterpiece debut in the 2006 adaptation of Jane Eyre. In 2011, Glen had a brief role as Sir Richard Carlisle, Lady Mary’s fiance on Downton Abbey. As Alison and Alec, I was rooting for them as a couple. On the same note, my heart was aching for Alison as she grieved not only for her husband, but for the husband she knew.

I recommend it.

The first two episodes of Mrs. Wilson are online. The final episode airs this Sunday at 9PM on PBS. 

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Filed under Charlotte Bronte, History, Television, TV Review

Carnegie’s Maid Book Review

Between 1850 and 1930, millions immigrated to America, looking for a better life and a brighter future.

Clara Kelley was one of them. She is the heroine in Marie Benedict’s 2018 book, Carnegie’s Maid. In her native Ireland, Clara knows nothing but poverty and hunger via the great potato famine. The daughter of farming family, she has nothing to lose when she emigrates to America. But she has everything to lose when she takes the identity of another woman with the same name who died on the voyage to America. The job she has taken is that of lady’s maid to the imperious mother of steel magnate and future philanthropist Andrew Carnegie. Mrs. Carnegie knows what she wants in a lady’s maid and makes no bones about firing girls who do not meet her exacting standards.

Intelligent and very capable, Clara becomes friends with her mistress’s son. As they become closer and their friendship becomes something more, the harder it becomes for Clara’s secret to stay a secret. Will her true identity ever be revealed and will the consequences of that revelation be?

I loved this book. Ms. Benedict has a way of immediately drawing her readers in and telling the stories of women whose stories would normally not be told. Though the narrative has a Jane Eyre-ish undercurrent, it does not end the way I would have expected the narrative to end.

I recommend it.

 

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Jane Eyre Laid Bare: The Classic Novel with an Erotic Twist Book Review

We all know that sex sells. The question is, when enveloped in a story, especially a classic novel, does the sex help or hurt the narrative?

In 2012, Jane Eyre Laid Bare: The Classic Novel with an Erotic Twist was released. Written by Eve Sinclair with original text by Charlotte Bronte, this book more or less follows the narrative and characters from the original novel. Jane Eyre is an orphaned young woman who takes a job as a governess for the mysterious Mr. Rochester. Jane is plain, poor and outspoken, hardly the ideal women for the Victorian era. As Jane begins to fall her for employer, the mystery intensifies until everything is revealed in a twist that no one saw coming,

I was intrigued by this book because I love Jane Eyre and it’s always interesting to see how modern writers bring out the sexual tension that is just below the surface. However, Ms. Sinclair made several narrative choices that I disagree with. Without giving too much away, I will say that I am really disappointed in this book. It makes promises that ultimately fall through, leaving me as a reader angry and frustrated.

This is a poor imitation of Jane Eyre, not even the sex scenes between Jane and Mr. Rochester can make up for that. When it comes to my favorite classic novels, I am not one of those fans who believe that it is the novel in its purest form or nothing at all. I appreciate a well written reboot or fanfiction. However, this book is neither.

Do I recommend it? Absolutely not.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Fanfiction, Feminism, Jane Eyre

Happy Birthday Charlotte Bronte

For those who lived in her era, Charlotte Bronte was an unassuming person.

She was the oldest child of the widowed Patrick Bronte, a man of the cloth who some might have considered an odd duck. She lived in a dirty, poverty-stricken middle of nowhere town in Yorkshire, England. Her mother, Mariah and elder sisters, Mariah and Elizabeth died young, elevating Charlotte to the title of oldest Bronte child. Like her most famous heroine, Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte was without the standard bearers of her day that would have made her a catch in the marriage market: beauty, status and/or money.

Today is her birthday.

In our own time, we celebrate her genius and the genius of her sisters, Anne and Emily. Jane Eyre, like her other novels, is a respected classic that is beloved by readers the world over, is part of the syllabus in many a classroom and for better and/or worse has been adapted for the stage and the screen.

We remember her as a proto-feminist, a writer in an era when novel-writing belonged to men only and a woman who refused to quietly give in to the image of what a woman should be.

Happy Birthday, Charlotte Bronte.

 

 

 

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, Jane Eyre

The Story Question AKA Why Should Someone Else Care About Your Story

Of all of the basic elements that make up a successful narrative, the most important one to my mind is the story question.

Today I started reading a book and by the beginning of the second chapter, I felt like I couldn’t go on. The writer had yet to ask the story question.

In a nutshell, the story question grinds down the narrative down to a sentence or two.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: Can a small band of rebels destroy an evil empire?
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet must marry because she has a small inheritance and no brother to inherit directly from her father. But she will give into the pressure to marry or will she marry for love?
  • Jane Eyre: Can an orphaned young woman remain true to herself and not change to please others?

But, even with a great story question, the key is to ask the story very question early in the story.

I.E.

  • Star Wars: The opening scene is that of the Empire’s warship closing on a ship they believe belongs to the rebellion.
  • Pride and Prejudice: Elizabeth Bennet is the second oldest of five daughters in a family that is without a direct male heir. Her mother is crowing about their new neighbor, a young man who is single and reputed to be wealthy.
  • Jane Eyre: Jane Eyre is an orphan, living with relations who abuse her. She is reading a book and trying to hide from her cousins who frequently mock and bully her.

In creating my own fiction and critiquing fiction by other writers, I have learned that the story question is the most important question that is not only asked by the writer, but by the reader. In my experience, if the question is not asked properly and early on, it is likely to be lost in the narrative. If it is lost in the narrative, the reader or audience may never find it and walk away.

That is the last thing any writer wants.

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Filed under Books, Charlotte Bronte, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice, Writing

Happy Birthday Anne Bronte

Sometimes, when we make the decision to walk the path that is not walked by everyone else, we make history, even if we don’t know it at the time.

Anne Bronte was born on this day in 1820. The youngest of Patrick and Maria Bronte’s six children, she died at the young age of 29. In her lifetime, she completed two novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall.

While she is often not given the respect and name recognition that goes to her elder sisters, Charlotte and Emily, her writing is on par with her sisters. Writing about every day life in Victorian England, her writing stands out because she spoke of the truth of what it was to be a woman in the period. In Agnes Grey, she wrote about a woman whose respectable career choices were severely limited and must work as a governess to support herself and her family. Agnes’s charges are spoiled and their parents are apathetic to their children’s behavior. In Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, a woman arrives in a small rural town, presenting herself as a widow with a young son. The truth about her identity made a small, but important dent in the worldwide women’s movement that is still being felt today.

As a writer and a proto-feminist, Anne Bronte, along with her sisters, helped to pave the way for women and women writers that continues to be felt a century and a half after her untimely passing.

Wherever you are, Anne Bronte, happy birthday.

 

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Filed under Anne Bronte, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Feminism, History, Writing

Top Ten Book Reviews Of 2017

2017 was a good year for the publishing industry, at least from my perspective. Below are top ten books for 2017.

  1. The Genius Of Jane AustenJane Austen was a genius, this book explains why.
  2. Growing Up Fisher: Joely Fisher’s unconventional autobiography is a look into her very unique Hollywood family.
  3. What HappenedHillary Clinton’s brutally honest reminiscence of the 2016 Presidential Election is one for the ages.
  4. Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman: This must read book examines how female celebrities are questioning what is acceptable for a woman.
  5. The Making Of Jane AustenJane Austen was not born a writer, she made herself into one.
  6. Journey to Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Leia, Princess of AlderaanThe book tells the story of Princess Leia two years before the events of A New Hope.
  7. Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman’s Awakening: Saudi Arabia is known the world over for its oppressive laws against its women. Manal Al-Sharif is fighting to change that.
  8. Mr. Rochester: Written from the point of view of Edward Rochester, Charlotte Bronte’s most famous hero, the book is an eye-opening story on the man readers thought they knew.
  9. You Can’t Spell America Without Me: The Really Tremendous Inside Story of My Fantastic First Year as President Donald J. Trump (A So-Called Parody): Alec Baldwin co wrote this hilarious book from the mind of you know who. Ridiculously funny.
  10. The Great Gasbag: An A-to-Z Study Guide to Surviving Trump World: Written by The View co-host Joy Behar, this novel is for anyone who needs a laugh, especially considering what has come out of D.C. this year.

Honorable Mentions

 

This will be my last blog post for 2017. Wherever you are, have a safe and happy new year. See you in 2018.

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Filed under Book Review, Books, Charlotte Bronte, Feminism, History, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Movies, Star Wars, Television, Writing

Thug Notes-Emma

*The videos below contain spoilers. Read and watch at your own risk if you have not read the books or watched any of the dramatizations. 

One of my favorite things about Jane Austen’s novels is that her narratives and characters are universal. Despite being set in a specific time and place, it doesn’t take much to grasp the worlds she created in her books.

One of the more unique examinations of classic literature is the video series Thug Notes. Their latest video is an examination of Emma.

The thing that I take away every time I see one of these videos is that I am reminded why certain books are still read and cherished. These videos are also very funny, illuminating and well worth watching.

P.S. if you liked the video above, you should check out their Jane Eyre and Pride And Prejudice videos.

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Filed under Books, Charlotte Bronte, Emma, Jane Austen, Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice