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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A Bookshelf Monstrosity said...

Great review! I've always wanted to read this book. I'll have to bump it up a little higher on my reading list.

Nicole Marsh said...

I recently checked this book out from the library but didn't get to it be I had to return it. Now I am really sad. It sounds like it was a really good book. Thanks for the review, I am going to have to check it out again.

Loralee said...

Thanks for the review. This is on my list of books I want to read in the future.

Kim said...

I saw that you were currently reading this book so I've been anxiously awaiting your review. I'm so glad you liked it. It is definitely going on my TBR list. I've only read Jane Eyre. Should I read other Bronte books before reading this one?

Gerbera Daisy Diaries said...

Kim -- good question!
I've only read Jane Eyre as well, but have both Shirley and Villette on my bookshelf. I haven't even read Wuthering Heights! But want to include that and Agnes Grey after reading this.

Syrie James said...

Thanks so much, Daisy Mom, for your lovely review of my novel! "The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë" is a work of my heart.

Kim, you asked if you should read any other Bronte books before reading this one. I truly believe that you don't have to be at all familiar with the works of the Brontes, or know anything about them, to enjoy this novel... but it might pique your interest in reading more about them afterwards. And if you like Jane Eyre, you'll love reading Charlotte's story!

Please stop by my website to read more reviews (it's full of fun Bronte stuff), and do leave a message. Happy reading!

Stephanie said...

I'm so glad I added this book to my Bronte challenge list!