Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Book Review -- The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Charlotte Bronte wrote prolifically – poetry, juvenilia, fantasy stories, letters, novels – some published, some not, some not finished – but we don’t have her diaries. Whether she kept a diary or not we will never know. But thanks to author, Syrie James, we can imagine what it might be like to read Charlotte’s private thoughts.

Through her “diaries” we learn that Charlotte’s suffered greatly – she lost her mother at 5 to cancer, her older sisters both died when she was 9, her brother was an alcoholic, and her remaining sisters, best friends and confidants -- Anne and Emily -- both died within 6 months of each other, before they turned 30. Charlotte and her father were the only surviving members of her family. She was educated at harsh, bleak boarding schools, she studied abroad in Belgium, was determined to start a school with Anne and Emily, only to have it closed because of no applicants and she had an “affair” with her tutor, who would later become her inspiration for her posthumously published novel, The Professor. Finally, Charlotte reveals to us her great romance with curate, A. B. Nicholls, which was nearly ruined because of her father’s disapproval.

This was a delightful novel. I felt Charlotte’s agony at the loss of her family and I shivered with her when she sought solace in the moor landscape of her English home. Ultimately, I cheered her for preserving against the establishment and succeeding in getting her works published (even if she had to publish them under a male pseudonym).

Additionally, I loved the “extras” at the end of the book – where I could read samples of Charlotte’s actual letters and poems. I’ve been inspired to read (and re-read) all of the Bronte sisters’ books!

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte was recently selected as a “great group read” by the Women’s National Book Association. A well deserved honor for Charlotte’s “diary.”

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