Saturday, July 2, 2011

Charlotte and Emily by Jude Morgan: A Review + GIVEAWAY

Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of The Brontës

By Jude Morgan

ISBN: 0312642733

Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin

Source: Library

The historical facts about the lives of the Brontës to tell a fictional story were great. The story of the Brontës is an extremely sad one. First, their Mother dies leaving behind five daughters and a son with a staunchly religious Father. The two eldest daughters, Elizabeth and Maria die of consumption after being away at what was supposed to be a school of opportunities for poorer children. They were sixteen or seventeen upon their deaths.

Later on Branwell, the only son, dies of a combination of alcoholism, laudanum addiction and consumption.

Then Emily dies followed later by Anne, both of consumption.

The deaths of Branwell, Emily and Anne all happened within months of each other.

Charlotte is the only one left beside her father Mr. Brontë. Charlotte marries Arthur Nicholls, her father’s curate, but less than a year into marriage she dies of what is speculated to have been complications from pregnancy.

In this book we are given a glimpse into how Charlotte, Emily and Anne write their novels. The end result was timeless tales such as Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Jane Eyre, The Professor, Shirley and Villette. The Brontë’s were all prolific writers in their own right, but they also where staunchly shaped by their experiences as reflected in their works. Morgan shows this very well.

In fact reading this and remembering the Brontë works I have read I could see the shades of their experiences in their writing. The incidents in Agnes Grey are real events that happened to Anne while she was a governess. Jane Eyre’s terrible time at school are shadows of Charlotte’s time at the school which ultimately killed her sisters Elizabeth and Maria. The Yorkshire moors of Emily’s Wuthering Heights are a reflection of the environment she lived in. One has a greater appreciation for their work when one understands the life they lived.

Jude Morgan does an excellent job of weaving the facts with a good story and while I already knew much of the Brontë’s I learned some more about them through this work. This is a good way for people who may not like biographies to learn about the lives of people they want to know more about. I cannot fault the author with his ability to tell a story because he does it so well.

I had some issues with this book however!

First, it is difficult to read. Morgan’s writing style is blunt, awkward and hard to get through. In a way it almost took away from the story and it wasn’t till I was almost finished with the book that I sort of adjusted to the writing. I don’t know if the way Morgan wrote this book was typical of his usual style, but in my opinion it was doing no favors to the book, but then in a way it was just like the sad, dismal lives of the Brontë’s and perhaps that was Morgan’s point.

Finally, the original title of the book was The Taste of Sorrow, but for the US publication the title was changed to Charlotte and Emily, which makes me upset. Just liked when Anne Brontë was alive she if overshadowed and pushed to the corner. This is a book about the Brontës which means Anne is a member too. It is unfortunate that Anne did not seem to warrant the same recognition as her sisters Charlotte and Emily. The published should have retained the original title as it was aptly reflective of the novel itself, but I digress.

Final Recommendation: Despite my major gripes with this book I would suggest reading it as the storytelling prose which Jude Morgan exhibits is really masterful…if you can get through Morgan’s writing style that is.


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Open to US residents only. (Sorry my international friends.)


Nancy Kelley said...

It is too bad that we tend to forget Anne. I read a funny Mental Floss piece on how to fail at being a genius. #1 was something like, "Become an addict. Remember, the only way to be a Bronte and not be successful was to be addicted to drugs." It made me laugh, because it was so true.

If Mental Floss can recognize Anne's genius, why can't a mainstream publisher?

Ann Marie said...

I am very excited about the book giveaway and that I now know where your blog is!I'm on Twitter @AnnieVickery

Kerri said...

Thanks for the review and letting us know about the book. (After being disgusted by _Branwell: A Novel of the Bronte Brother_ (2006) I'm nervous when people try to write a fictional account of someone's life -- that fiction runs the danger of being remembered as a "truth".

Don't need to enter me in the raffle -- I own multiple copies of _Jane Eyre_.

Will now look for _The Taste of Sorrow_/_Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of The Brontës_ now that I know it is "safe" (though imperfect)

Jessica said...

My only copy of Jane Eyre was "borrowed" and never returned by a friend, so I'd love to win :D Great review.

Irene said...

I loved reading Jane Eyre as a teenager in high school. Thanks for having a contest to win these wonderful them!

eclairre said...

I'd love to win!