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The Brontës: A Life in Letters

de Juliet Barker

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341674,785 (4.34)41
"Barker's selection of letters reveals the authentic voices of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, as well as their brother, Branwell, and father, Reverend Patrick Bronte. Charlotte was a letter writer of supreme ability, ranging from facetious notes and intimate gossip to artfully composed pages of literary criticism, while Emily and Anne remain tantalizingly evasive, as few of their letters are extant. The letters detail the siblings' strange, self-absorbed childhood, highlighted by wild imaginative games and the years of struggle to earn a living before Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall took the literary world by storm. The letters continue through the final years and the terrible marring of success as one by one Branwell, Emily, and Anne died tragically young and as Charlotte, battling against grief, loneliness and ill-health, emerged from anonymity to take her place in London literary society and, finally, found all too brief happiness in marriage to her father's curate."--BOOK JACKET.… (més)
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Es mostren 1-5 de 6 (següent | mostra-les totes)
Second read, 2022: Reading Charlotte's letters is an Experience, which age cannot wither, nor custom stale (to borrow from Shakespeare). I find myself just as riveted and reflective the second time through, if not more so. So much of what she says goes straight to the heart and resonates there.
It's an odd feeling (and of questionable soundness) to be reading private letters at a remove of nearly 200 years and think, "This person is my friend," and yet that is the power of Charlotte's writing. At least for me. So much so that, paradoxically, I'm even uneasy with the fact that they've been published and that I'm able to read them. Part of me is always like, "She wouldn't like this..."
But I do love these letters so.


Original review from 2018:

I find the Brontes utterly fascinating. And their letters are as captivating as I would expect.
This book is almost entirely made up of letters, with a few editorial asides to explain context as needed. And really, how could one ever learn about them better than through their own words?
Most of the letters are Charlotte's. She's the only one of the sisters who really managed to develop strong friendships outside the home (thus giving her people to write to). There are letters and diary papers giving tantalizing glimpses of Anne and Emily, but they remain mysterious as ever when all is said and done.

If you've ever read Jane Austen's letters, you may have felt as I did that they are a tad... disappointing (though who wants to admit that they found Jane Austen's letters disappointing??!). She is a correspondent who relays mundane facts and sometimes skewers people with her satire, but one doesn't feel that she is opening her heart. Why do I bring that up? Because that is not the case with Charlotte Bronte's letters. She is earnest, thoughtful and passionate, and the words seem to spill from her heart directly to her paper.
(Incidentally, people kept telling her she should read Jane Austen, but they weren't compatible from a literary point of view. Charlotte found Austen's novels well crafted, but felt that her characters were too distant and their emotions too tidy. Her critique needn't offend ardent Austen fans... she isn't dismissive; she merely differs.)

But ANYWAY, this is not about Austen, this is about the Brontes. I'm still no closer to understanding how they learned to write with such power, but Charlotte's letters do make me feel that she would be my friend. As any biography of the Brontes must be, it's by turns tragic or triumphant, but always relatable. ( )
  Alishadt | Feb 25, 2023 |
Anyone interested in the Brontë family will be fascinated by The Brontës: A Life in Letters. I read this book in conjunction with Juliet Barker's other book about the Brontës, The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of Three Sisters, and it was a great pairing. Both books are arranged chronologically so it is easy to read them side by side. Many of the letters in this book are excerpted in the biography where they are given more context, but here you can see their full texts.

I read the Kindle version of the other book because at 1184 pages I thought the physical book would be too unwieldy for me, so it is especially nice to have the paper version of this book with its chronology and list of correspondence pages easily available for a quick reference. ( )
  Jaylia3 | Dec 4, 2013 |
My slow book the last week or so has been this book, read a chapter at a time, until yesterday, when it reached critical mass and I had to continue through unchecked until it was completed. In truth, although long a fan of Jane Eyre and aware of the three sisters as authors and that they had a brother, I had no idea of the tragedy of their lives or the strong autobiographical features of all their novels. This book tells the story almost entirely with the letters of the Brontes themselves, with small bridges to describe connecting events, and is tremendously moving. ( )
1 vota ronincats | Jun 19, 2011 |
A collection of letters that reads like a novel. This is a must-read for anyone intested in the story of the remarkable and tragic Bronte family. Since Charlotte had the most extensive correspondence outside the family, we hear her voice the most, but the letters give insight into her sisters Emily and Anne, brother Branwell, and father Patrick as well. Juliet Barker interjects only enough information to place each letter in context, allowing the letters to tell the story. ( )
1 vota shinyone | May 15, 2008 |
A fantastic (and highly useful) collection for any Bronte or Victorian enthusiast. ( )
  London_StJ | Dec 28, 2007 |
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The Brontes and The Brontes: A Life in Letters are NOT the same work; the former is a biography and the latter is a collection of the sisters' letters. Please do not combine them.
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"Barker's selection of letters reveals the authentic voices of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, as well as their brother, Branwell, and father, Reverend Patrick Bronte. Charlotte was a letter writer of supreme ability, ranging from facetious notes and intimate gossip to artfully composed pages of literary criticism, while Emily and Anne remain tantalizingly evasive, as few of their letters are extant. The letters detail the siblings' strange, self-absorbed childhood, highlighted by wild imaginative games and the years of struggle to earn a living before Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall took the literary world by storm. The letters continue through the final years and the terrible marring of success as one by one Branwell, Emily, and Anne died tragically young and as Charlotte, battling against grief, loneliness and ill-health, emerged from anonymity to take her place in London literary society and, finally, found all too brief happiness in marriage to her father's curate."--BOOK JACKET.

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