Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Bradford Review reports the schedule of events of the Brontë200 anniversary:
A new exhibition is being held at the Brontë Parsonage Museum, the former home of the family, curated by writer and Brontë Fan Tracy Chevalier, the museum’s creative partner for 2016. The exhibition, entitled Charlotte Great And Small will include exhibits from her life, with several new acquisitions. Chevalier has also edited a collection of short stories written by international women writers and inspired by Charlotte Brontë called Reader, I Married Him.
“I have long loved Charlotte Brontë and am thrilled to be involved in the celebration of her bicentenary,” revealed Chevalier, “The Parsonage is a unique house; it’s incredible to see the place where so much creativity arose. I’m hoping to sprinkle some surprises in amongst the dresses and writing desks – including a Twitter tour of the house and exhibition, and even a knitted Jane Eyre!”
Chevalier is joined by novelist Grace McCleen as this year’s writer in residence and children’s author Jacqueline Wilson as an Ambassador for Charlotte in 2016, and both will visit the Parsonage Museum later in the year.
Celebrations of the bicentenary will focus around the 200th anniversary of her birth with talks on Charlotte’s life at the museum with displays of letters, manuscripts and personal possessions from the collection. There will also be talks throughout the celebratory year, including support for GCSE students studying Charlotte’s novel Jane Eyre with talks, hands-on activities and more.
There’ll be a birthday party with tea, cake, and promised surprises art the Old School Room where Charlotte once taught, and a wreath laying ceremony for invited guests the day after at Westminster Abbey.
Later in the year there will be lectures in May from Brontë biographers Juliet Barker and Claire Harman, the Great Charlotte Brontë Debate in June, including contributions from writer Maggie O’Farrell, and a Bicentenary Conference in Manchester in August with a keynote speech from Germaine Greer.
The University of Bradford will also be launching a free eBook version of Jane Eyre in April as part of their Diversity Festival which will include a special cover designed by one lucky staff or student member who won the competition to submit their photos and designs.
Further afield there are elements of the Museum’s collection on display at the National Portrait Gallery until April, which will then move over to New York and  a version of Jane Eyre performed by the National Ballet in May, plus a televised Brontë-themed drama To Walk Invisible on the BBC in autumn.
Further Brontë celebrations will continue over the next few years as part of Brontë200 with the bicentenary of Branwell in 2017, Emily in 2018 and Anne in 2020, with 2019 given over to Patrick Bronte, their father, 200 years after he became the parson at Haworth.
“The bicentenaries of the Brontë siblings provide a tremendous opportunity for the Society to celebrate the legacy of the Brontës across the globe,” said John Thirlwell of the Brontë Society Council.  “We recognise that arts organisations, museums and individuals will want to help us mark these special anniversaries and are excited about building new partnerships and reaching new audiences during the five-year programme.  We look forward to welcoming the world to Haworth during 2016.” (Philip Lickley)
Tracy Chevalier is interviewed by The Yorkshire Post:
 Novelist Tracy Chevalier was approached 18 months ago by the Brontë Parsonage Museum with a special request. “I think I said ‘yes’ by return email – I didn’t even have to think about it, I knew I wanted to do it,” she says. (...)
he says she immediately came up with lots of suggestions, admitting that she had to be reined in a little. “I had about a million ideas,” she laughs. “And some of them have happened.”
The exhibition Charlotte Great and Small, curated by Chevalier, opened at the museum earlier this month and contrasts Charlotte’s relatively closeted domestic life with her huge ambition and the boundless possibilities of her intellect and literary imagination.
“I first came up to look around the Parsonage on a rainy day in November 2014,” says Chevalier when we meet at the Parsonage shortly before the opening. “And I have been up several times since. It is wonderful to be here – I’ve spent time walking on the moors and around town. I’ve really immersed myself in the world of the Brontës, reading biographies where I found out more about Charlotte and the family – Anne was the quiet one, Emily the strange one and Charlotte the serious one – and I spent a whole year re-reading the novels.”
She has also had time to look through the museum’s precious collection of objects and artefacts. On her initial visit to the Parsonage, Chevalier says there was one thing that immediately struck her – and it was to do with scale. “What I noticed right away was how small the house felt and the rooms within the house,” she says. “When you think that there was their father Patrick, their aunt, the four children and two servants all living in this relatively small house. Then I discovered that Charlotte herself was physically really tiny and, of course, the miniscule books that the siblings created as children, which we are all so fascinated by. I responded to all that and it gave me the idea to focus on those small things, but also to look at opening up Charlotte’s emotional and intellectual landscape, which was huge. You notice that in Jane Eyre – Jane is small but she has this incredible passion.” (Read more)
Have you checked your attic lately? Batley & Birstall News publishes an appeal to look for a copy or info of the 1921 film adaptation of Shirley:
 The big-screen adaptation of Charlotte’s book Shirley was filmed around Oakwell Hall in 1921 and the silent black-and-white movie released in cinemas the following year.
Now staff from the modern-day museum at the Birstall stately home are hoping to track down a copy as they prepare to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the author’s birth.
So far, they have been unable to find a recording of the film, which was directed by A V Bramble and starred Clive Brook, one of the leading British actors of the day who later became a Hollywood star with Paramount Pictures.
Other cast members were Carlotta Breese, Elizabeth Irving and Mabel Terry-Lewis.
Shirley, published in 1849, was set in the Spen Valley and tells the story of the Luddite uprising in the local textile mills.
Oakwell Hall is the fictional Fieldhead, home of the book’s main character, and Red House in Gomersal also features.
The work was inspired by Charlotte’s father’s time spent as the vicar of nearby Hartshead Church, as well as her own friendships in the area.
At the time, local residents were recruited as extras to appear in the film, and Joanne Catlow from Kirklees Museums and Galleries is hoping that some of their relatives may still be living locally.
“We have many events planned to commemorate the bicentenary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth and it would be wonderful if we could find some information about the film version of Shirley,” she said.
“Despite many searches, we have been unable to trace a copy of the film, however, we know that many local people acted as extras in the film and therefore there may be photographs, letters, diary records or even a script still in existence somewhere.
If anyone has any information about the film, we would love to hear from them.”
If anyone can provide any information about the 1921 film version of Shirley, has a relative that took part in it or can help trace any remaining copies they can contact Joanne by email on joanne.catlow@kirklees.gov.uk or contact 01484 221000.
A couple of reviews of the upcoming The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell:
Brontë. One word conjures up so many images. Cathy and Heathcliff roaming the Yorkshire moors in the twisted tale of love and revenge that is Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre's passion for Mr Rochester in the eponymous gothic classic.
Emily and Charlotte are the Brontë sisters revered by so many for their masterpieces. This year, thousands more words will be written about two of the daughters of Patrick, an Anglican clergyman from Co Down, because 2016 is the 200th anniversary of Charlotte's birth and so is being celebrated as the year of the Brontës.
But what of their younger sibling, Anne, the third author in this talented family? To the unenlightened, she seems pale, colourless even, compared to her siblings with their passionate outpourings. But in her entertaining debut novel, The Madwoman Upstairs, Catherine Lowell casts Anne in a very different light. (...)
Lowell researched the Brontës as part of her thesis and she has fallen under their intoxicating spell, interspersing her novel with homages to their work. But it is equally clear that she feels sorry for poor, neglected Anne, overshadowed by her brilliant, creative sisters.
The Madwoman in the Attic is an intriguing, entertaining debut, which doesn't easily fit into any one genre, thanks to Lowell's somewhat sarcastic style. Samantha could be a Brontë heroine, the lonely girl hoping that understanding her illustrious ancestors will fill the gap in her heart - and bring back her father.
Ironically, though, for a book that focuses so much on what authors really mean and how to read a novel - both Samantha's father and her tutor try to teach her this skill - it is best enjoyed without delving too deeply. There are no hidden meanings here, just a reminder of the brilliance of the Brontës. (Rowena Walsh in The Irish Independent )
Like generations of young girls, I read Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre" and sister Emily Brontë's "Wuthering Heights" and fell in love with Jane's Mr. Rochester and Cathy's Heathcliff. So, with great anticipation, I began reading debut novelist Catherine Lowell's "The Madwoman Upstairs," whose title refers to Bertha Mason, the crazed wife whom Mr. Rochester kept hidden in his attic. It's also a nod to the book's brooding protagonist, who resides in a tower room at the University of Oxford.
Lowell delivers a smart, clever and properly Gothic novel about American Samantha Whipple, who at 20 is the only surviving relative of Patrick Brontë, the father of Charlotte, Emily, Anne and, of course, their bad boy brother, Branwell.
"The Madwoman Upstairs" takes place mostly in modern-day Oxford, where Samantha is studying literature.
Employing her vast knowledge of the works of the Brontë sisters and her superb storytelling skills, Lowell creates in Samantha a woman as lonely and alone in the world as Jane Eyre. (...)
Among the joys of this book — and there are many — are the discussions Samantha has with herself and with James about the Brontë canon, particularly "Jane Eyre," "Wuthering Heights" and, surprisingly and delightfully, the lesser works of Anne Brontë, "Agnes Grey" and "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall." (...)
Deftly, Lowell combines a rollicking treasure hunt with a wickedly dark story of what it means to feel alone in the world.
It's Lowell's voice of authenticity in all matters Brontë that empowers "The Madwoman Upstairs." She does such a magnificent job evoking the sisters' lives and writings that, like me, you may pluck that dusty copy of "Jane Eyre" off the bookshelf and begin falling in love with Mr. Rochester all over again. (Carol Memmott in the Minnesota Star Tribune)
The Star Tribune reviews the US edition of Claire Harman's Charlotte Brontë biography:
 More than 150 years after the publication of Charlotte Brontë's "Jane Eyre," popular culture is still fascinated with the novel's heroine. The plain yet passionate governess born of Brontë's imagination has spawned films, parodies, spinoffs, sequels, T-shirts, scented candles, jewelry and at least one board book. But how much is known about the author herself?
Biographer Claire Harman ("Jane's Fame: How Jane Austen Conquered the World") takes on the story of the multi­talented and tragic Charlotte Brontë and her extended family in a meticulous history beginning with the early origins of the Brontë name and ending with the 20th-century dissolution of the Brontës' possessions.
Harman utilizes a chronological format, tracing the Brontë family's growth and, as they lost children and the Brontë mother, decline throughout Charlotte's early years. (...)
"Do you … find it easy when you sit down to write," Brontë wrote to fellow author Elizabeth Gaskell, "to isolate yourself from all those ties and their sweet associations — [so] as to be quite your own woman — uninfluenced, unswayed by the consciousness of how your work may affect other minds?" While it may not be necessary for every fan of "Jane Eyre" to read Harman's biography of its famous author, it does bring a better understanding of the woman behind the girl who has captured so many hearts. (Meganne Fabrega)
The Irish Independent also explores our ongoing fascination with Jane Eyre:
And then, 200 years ago this April, one of the world's first proto-feminists was born and, by extension, one of the feistiest and independent literary heroines. At the age of 31, Charlotte Brontë published her most enduring work, Jane Eyre, under the name Currer Bell. The novel would birth a most "intemperate and unpaved chaste" heroine in the form if its titular character. History would deem the book, which chronicles the emotions and experiences of a women on the cusp of moral and spiritual awakening, as a revolutionary work of fiction. Brontë, in turn, has been called "the first historian of the private consciousness" and a literary fore-sister of the likes of James Joyce and Marcel Proust.
Jane Eyre swims against the tide in a number of ways - after a brutal and loveless childhood, she is principled and sceptical. It also quickly becomes clear that she has not blossomed into a stirring beauty. Initially, she fights for Mr Rochester's affections alongside his fiancee Blanche Ingram, who is beautiful and talented (if unkind) in ways that Jane isn't. Jane's plainness becomes a sizeable obstacle in her life as she is denied compassion, affection and sympathy time and time again. Her lack of beauty keeps her in a lowly place that she needs to fight her way out of. It doesn't take much imagination to look at the portrait of Brontë and see the image of Jane herself, and it's impossible not to see Brontë's own ideas of inner beauty and self-perception peer through. (...)
Brontë and Austen may have gone against the tide with heroines that weren't immediately pleasing to the eye, but it quickly becomes clear that there was indeed a method to their madness. Beauty may well be a literary staple as old as the hills, but those with much more lurking beneath the surface will easily last through the ages. (Tanya Sweeney)
More Irish newspapers, the Irish Examiner reviews Sam Baker's The Woman Who Ran:
The Woman Who Ran is a clever modernisation of Anne Brontë’s feminist classic The Tenant Of Wildfell Hall, that is intriguing to start and utterly gripping towards the end.
Helen is without a doubt the standout feature of the novel; multi-dimensional and resilient, she makes the ideal feminist heroine for the modern-day reader.
Sam Baker manages to masterfully unravel a story of trauma, abuse, and devastation to expose the need to confront painful truths in order to rebuild and survive. (Erin Bateman)
Lindsay Faye talks about her upcoming Jane Steele in Publishers Weekly:
When I set out to write Jane Steele, it was out of a profound respect for Jane Eyre. The fact that the protagonist has to survive a wretched boarding school becomes much more resonant when you understand that Charlotte Brontë lost two sisters whose health was ruined by a similar establishment. She didn’t sit down and sip a cup of tea about it. She didn’t take a turn in her garden about it. She wrote a novel about it, invented a pen name so that her gender could be masked, and captured many, many hearts with her fearlessness and wild Gothic prose.
The Telegraph has already found a 'new' E.L. James, L.S. Hilton:
Certainly she is no innocent, submissive Anastasia Steele, the heroine of Grey. Instead, Judith is an assertive self-made woman, with an Oxbridge degree and an upmarket job in a prestigious London auction house (think Sotheby’s or Bonham’s) who knows what she wants – socially, sexually, financially – and sets out to get it. If Anastasia nods back to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, Judith is William Thackeray’s Becky Sharp reborn. (Victoria Lambert)
The Express Tribune interviews the children author Rukhsana Khan:
She recalled Lord of the Rings and Daughter of the Nile as some of her best reads. “I got into fantasy reading, then came across some really bad fantasy, which made me just hate it,” she said, making a face at the mention. Jane Eyre, Jane Austen novels and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain remain her favourite novels from childhood.
And Caixin Online talks about another author, Lijia Zhang:
Lijia Zhang burst onto the international literary scene in 2008 with a memoir about her rebellious journey from disillusioned factory worker who spearheaded a walkout in support of the Tiananmen Square demonstrators in 1989 to becoming a writer and journalist. Her first book, Socialism is Great! A Worker's Memoir of the New China, published by Atlas & Co., describes how she dreamed of escaping the stultifying routine of factory life, while reading Jane Eyre hidden within the folds of The People's Daily. The book has since been translated into seven languages. (Catherine Sutherland)
Wilmslow.co.uk announces an upcoming performance of Publick Transport's We Are Brontë. Operation100books posts about Jane Eyre.

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