Friday, November 28, 2014

Friday, November 28, 2014 10:44 am by Cristina in , , , , , ,    No comments
The Independent looks at a couple of just-released Brontë-related novels (Christmas is coming, fellow Brontëites!):
Spin-offs are my least favourite form of literature – they usually mean that the authors can't produce original work so they just live off other writers' backs – but two offerings from the depths of Brontë gloom certainly warrant retrieval from the junk pile.
Jane Stubbs' Thornfield Hall (Corvus, £7.99) wisely makes no attempt to compete with that finest example of derivation, Jean Rhys's account of the first Mrs Rochester, Wide Sargasso Sea, worthy of iconic status in its own right. Stubbs also takes Jane Eyre as her starting point but the story is told by Mrs Fairfax, second most famous housekeeper in literature (first place surely goes to Mrs Danvers in Rebecca).
Genteel but penniless, Alice Fairfax understands that social class is as vital as virginity in the marriage stakes and is grateful for the protection of her rich relative, Mr Rochester. In the attics, Alice discovers that Thornfield Hall is full of guilty secrets, with a sadly misused Bertha Rochester in urgent need of care, and plays an important role in the machinery of the plot. There is a lengthy prelude to Jane Eyre's arrival, and her presence is fleeting but dramatic, like Helen of Troy shooting across the stage in Marlowe's Faustus: nevertheless, the book is thoroughly enjoyable.
Another worthy off-shoot of the Brontë industry is Robert Edric's Sanctuary (Doubleday, £17.99). Edric takes the viewpoint of that celebrated reprobate brother Branwell, and presents his short, frustrated existence in a sequence of intensely-felt glimpses of life at Haworth and the surrounding moors, where the railways are transforming traditional ways. Here is Branwell's "season of cold debauchery", where he joins an artist spying on local women bathing naked. Here also his self-definition as "one of the great bystanders of literary history", conscious of his sisters' growing successes as he himself slips into drunken failure, describing Charlotte as his "true gaoler". The book succeeds in poetically entering into the destructive world of a young man with modest talent who finds himself born into a household of genius.
Edric notes that the Reverend Brontë refused the offer of a post as chaplain to the Governor of Martinique, surely a great "what if?" of literary history which might prove tempting to yet another spin-off merchant. (Jane Jakeman)
Keighley News features Robert Edric's novel as well:
Award-winning writer Robert Edric has reimagined the story of the Brontë family for his latest novel.
Sanctuary focuses on Branwell Brontë, the tortured brother of the famous writing sisters of Haworth.
The novel is described as a lacerating and moving fictionalised portrait of the self-destruction of one of literary history’s great bystanders.
Edric focuses on Branwell, unexhibited artist, unacknowledged writer, sacked railwayman, disgraced tutor and spurned lover.
Branwell returns to Haworth Parsonage – now the Brontë Parsonage Museum – to the crushing disappointment of his father and sisters.
As the women’s success grows, Branwell’s health is failing rapidly, his circle of friends is shrinking fast, and his own literary aspirations have been abandoned.
Attempting to restore himself to a creative and fulfilling existence, he returns to the drugs, alcohol and morbid-self-delusion of his earlier life.
Robert Edric, born in 1956, has won leading fiction prizes for novels including Winter Garden, A New Ice Age, Peacetime and The Book Of The Heathen.
Gathering The Water was long-listed for the Booker Prize in 2006 and In Zodiac Light was shortlisted for the Dublin Impac (correct) Prize in 2010.
Edric, who lives in Yorkshire, most recently wrote The Monster’s Lament. The Daily Telegraph said his novels constituted “one of the most astonishing bodies of work” to appear from a single author in a generation.
Edric’s latest book is said to shine a penetrating light on one of the most celebrated and perennially fascinating families in Britain’s creative history.
Sanctuary was released this month by leading publisher Doubleday, costing £17.99 in hardback. (David Knights)
That, in our opinion, is the right way of vindicating Branwell but there's always the old Branwell-wrote-Wuthering-Heights 'debate', which is back according to Keighley News too:
The writer of a Brontë-themed conspiracy novel has asked forensic experts to prove his theory about who wrote Wuthering Heights.
Chris Firth wants a team of scholars to use their specialist computer software to analyse Emily Brontë’s writing.
Mr Firth believes that Emily’s notorious brother Branwell Brontë actually wrote the celebrated tale of romance and tragedy.
Mr Firth first made the claim 10 years ago in his novel Branwell Brontë’s Barbers Tale.
The story, a fictionalised account of part of Branwell’s life, has now been re-released in paperback as Branwell Brontë’s Tale.
To mark the book’s 10th anniversary Mr Firth has enlisted the same linguistic and computer experts who revealed that The Cuckoo’s Calling, the debut crime novel by ‘Robert Galbraith’, was really written by Harry Potter creator JK Rowling.
Mr Firth said the academics were awaiting samples of Branwell’s surviving prose writing and chapters of Wuthering Heights, so they could run the same ‘forensic stylometry’ test.
Mr Firth said the Java Graphical Authorship Attribution program would test word frequency, sentence structuring and vocabulary ordering.
He said: “The computer tests could prove one and for all whether Branwell was in fact the author of the classic tale, as his friends at the time of publication of the novel claimed.
“Emily never claimed to have written Wuthering Heights and both she and Branwell died before it became a widespread seller of the time.”
Mr Firth suspects that for reasons unknown, Emily’s straight-laced sister Charlotte demonised Branwell and obscured his input to the creative success of the Brontë family.
He said this potential conspiracy theory provided a vehicle for his own “gripping, fascinating and tragically moving” tale.
He added: “My novel minutely examines Branwell’s hectic creative and social life while working as a portrait painter in the bohemian districts of Bradford in the 1830s.
“The latest large-font edition of the historical thriller rolls in at a whopping 366 pages, but with excitement, adventure and vivid historical detail on every page.”
The book is said to be thoroughly-researched and stylishly-written by a native of Bradford, painting a vivid picture of the city as a busy boom-town in the mid 1800s.
Mr Firth added: “that historical thriller reveals the generous, fun-loving genius that the black sheep of the Brontë family was in his early years, as well as the tragic figure he became before his death at the early age of 31.”
Branwell Brontë’s Tale is available as a paperback from Electraglade Press – by e-mailing – or from Amazon as a paperback and Kindle download. (David Knights)
The fact of whether Emily 'claimed' to have written Wuthering Heights or not is up for debate, and she certainly claimed it as much as Anne did claim her own two novels and those are not being attributed to Branwell. Why some people can't accept that a woman named Emily Brontë wrote a novel as powerful as Wuthering Heights is something we can never really understand.

Speaking of the novel, The Daily Beast reminds us of the fact that it has always been a dividing book,
Virginia Woolf loved Wuthering Heights and considered Emily Brontë superior to her sister Charlotte. George Orwell, however, thought Wuthering Heights was “perverse and morbid,” while Henry James despised “the crude and morbid story of Wuthering Heights.” (Nick Romeo)
Also from Keighley News is this story about some changes that have taken place in the shops in Haworth's Main Street:
A Haworth Main Street business has re-opened in a new premises on the same street.
Cobbles and Clay art cafe has moved up the road to take up residence in the building which used to house Ye Olde Bronte Tea Rooms and Gift Shop.
Jill Ross, who owns and manages Cobbles and Clay, said her cafe opened for business in its new home on Saturday October 25.
"It was half term, nice weather, so we've been really busy, which is great," she said. "I'm thrilled. The new building is beautiful."
She added that Venables book shop, which is also in Main Street, would be leasing her former premises.
Mrs Ross, who lives in Oxenhope, said Cobbles and Clay's new base means it has a bigger kitchen and an upstairs space for children's parties and other functions.
"The shop had been empty for a couple of years," she added. "We started work on it in February. We've knocked down walls revealed all sorts of architectural features such as stone floors and open fires.
"It looks fantastic now. A man came in yesterday and said it looked so beautiful he thought I was managing it on behalf of the National Trust, which I take as a compliment!
"We are still doing pottery painting, children's parties, open mike nights and the same sorts of food. We just have more space to do it in.
"It's bigger and better." (Miran Rahman)
And in view of the fact that Julian Fellowes is fighting 'plans for new housing estate near [the] cottage where Thomas Hardy wrote [his] famous novel[s]', the Daily Mail (and Daily Express) reports him as wondering,
'Can you imagine plans to build almost 100 houses at Chawton (Jane Austen's home) or Haworth (the home of the Bronte sisters)?' (Dan Bloom)
What? Like a wind farm right on the moors that inspired at least one of the Brontë novels? Hmmm...

Business Insider lists '13 Bizarre Sleeping Habits Of Super Successful People'. Emily Brontë is one of them (and can you still be considered 'super successful' if the authorship of your only novel has to be defended 167 years after it was first published?).
Novelist Emily Brontë walked around in circles until she fell asleep.
The 19th century novelist and poet suffered from insomnia, and would walk around her dining room table until she felt tired enough to fall asleep. (Emmie Martin)
She did walk around the dining room table but it was with her sisters while they discussed what they had written during the day.

According to the Daily Herald,
Tucked away in the temperature-controlled vaults of BYU’s L. Tom Perry Special Collections Library sits a vast collection of original Victorian-era periodicals, filled with understudied short fiction by the likes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Charlotte Brontë and their peers. The periodicals have been indexed and secured thanks to the tireless efforts on special collections curator Maggie Kopp. Thorne-Murphy and her students are driven to get these stories into more hands, but know that passing around 19th century journals won’t do the trick. (Barbara Christiansen)
Jane Eyre 2006 makes it onto a list of the top 5 TV adaptations compiled by Le Figaro (France). Les Soeurs Brontë has a post in French about Haworth at the time the Brontës lived there. Fanda Classiclit posts about Jane Eyre.


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