Monday, June 23, 2008

A Room of Their Own - A Review

A Room of Their Own: 80 Years of the Bronte Parsonage Museum 1928-2008
by Sarah Barrett

  • Paperback: 24 pages
  • Publisher: Currerbell Publications (1 Jun 2008)
  • ISBN-10: 0955932807
  • ISBN-13: 978-0955932809
  • 2008 marks the 80th anniversary of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, thanks to the generosity of a Haworth millionaire who bought it and gave it to the Brontë Society. To commemorate this fateful event, Sarah Barrett has published an interesting little book: A Room of Their Own: 80 Years of the Brontë Parsonage Museum, 1928-2008.

    The book constitutes a unique guide to the Brontë Parsonage Museum through its existence, with particular attention - obviously - to what happened and in which room while their most famous inhabitants resided in it. We are taken from room to room and given very precise and concise accounts of what we know about the room in question. From where Emily Brontë played her piano to which room the Reverend John Wade, who took over after Patrick Brontë's death and Arthur Bell Nicholl's 'dismissal', turned into a breakfast room to where visitors such as Elizabeth Gaskell would have slept.

    Sarah Barrett's commentary on each room is both knowledgeable and easily approachable. She has disentagled from the Brontë saga the most pertinent and lively anecdotes that took place while the Brontës lived there, but she also tells much of what happened there afterwards: who lived there and which marks they left. Apart from the room-to-room sections, the book features an informative introduction, a practical chronology of the building, bibliography and brief biographies of family members, servants and visitors. Unfortunately, Arthur Bell Nicholls didn't seem to fit exactly into any of these categories and he has been sadly left out of the picture, although he does feature in the book.

    Each room's section opens with a relevant quote which makes the room itself figuratively lit up completely in our imagination. Suddenly the Brontës are living there again, it's so vivid. In addition to that, there is also what in our eyes is one of the highlights of the book: each section includes a historical picture of the room in question, more often than not they are never-seen-before pictures or, at any rate, very rarely seen. How did Charlotte's Room look like in 1987? What was in the kitchen during the 1940s? Where was the Bonnell Collection initially displayed? These and other questions will be intringuing both to regular visitors to the Parsonage who believe they know all its nooks and crannies as well as to occasional visitors who, through keeping in touch with the Brontë story in other ways, feel much closer to this literary shrine than they actually are geographically speaking.

    So if you are visiting the Parsonage in this very special year, you would do well to grab a copy of this book at the shop. If you can't make it there but would like to add a copy to your Brontë shelf, you can order it by writing to this email address: cbellpublishers@aol.com. Honestly, this will be as close as it gets to taking the Parsonage - with all its history - home with you.

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