Friday, March 04, 2016

Chicago Tribune reviews the US edition of Claire Harman's biography of Charlotte Brontë.
And now here is Claire Harman's "Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart," a well-researched, wonderfully lucid, pleasingly written treatment of a most extraordinary woman. [...]
What makes this biography such a rewarding work is the poise and easy confidence with which Harman summons character and creative imagination, not only Charlotte's, but her sisters' too, showing, most crucially, how Charlotte's reading of their work unleashed a bold, hitherto absent "emotional force" in her own writing. Harmon follows the storms of passion that tore through the dreary parsonage at Haworth: Charlotte's fierce literary ambition; her deep-rooted attachment to Anne and Emily; her devastating grief at their deaths; her growing disgust with her dissipated, wastrel brother; her thralldom to her selfish, self-regarding father; and her anguished, humiliating passion for the Belgian schoolmaster, Constantin Heger, which found literary form in "The Professor," and, more piercingly and successfully, in "Villette."
Harman moves Charlotte's life and her writing along together with assurance, demonstrating the influence of one upon the other without a lot of heavy lifting. She also shows what a revolutionary writer Charlotte actually was in "Jane Eyre," with its first-person narrator and unholy passion, and, even more, in "Villette," which, "forged from such personal and painful material, reached psychological depths never attempted in fiction before and became, unwittingly, a landmark in the depiction of states of mind and self-perception, a thoroughly, peculiarly and disturbingly Modernist novel."
Harman is sympathetic to Charlotte — who is not? — but, socially awkward, intolerant, and frankly quite crabby, she was, without doubt, a difficult person. Harman, for instance, brings an astute, somewhat dismayed eye to Charlotte's later, increasingly demanding infatuation for Charles Smith, one of her publishers, a young man who liked her as a friend, but who became distant — possibly appalled — once he picked up on her sentiments. Still, Harman shows how this disappointment led to Charlotte's accepting the marriage proposal of her father's curate, the devoted Arthur Bell Nicholls (an offer which her jealous, self-serving father referred to as "dangerous designs")and notes how Charlotte's feelings for Nicholls evolved into real love. [...]
Who can say at this point which is the best biography of Charlotte Brontë, but Harman's is among them and perhaps the most engaging of all. (Katherine A. Powers)
The Seattle Times reviews it too.
Claire Harman’s “Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart” is the latest in a line of books about the reclusive and, yes, mysterious author of “Jane Eyre,” whose short, quiet life spent mostly in a North Country parsonage has always seemed at odds with her uncannily bold narrative voice.
But, just as “Jane Eyre” happily survives multiple readings (I’ve lost count on how many afternoons I’ve spent revisiting Thornfield Hall), so does the story of Charlotte Brontë — particularly when in the hands of a gifted teller. Just in time for the bicentennial anniversary of Brontë’s birth (April 21, 1816), “A Fiery Heart” is an engrossing, almost novelistic tale of a woman who since childhood embraced an uncanny ability “to enter trance-like into her own imaginary world” and find everlasting stories there.
Harman, author of several biographies, acknowledges her debt to previous Brontë research, particularly the groundbreaking 1994 “The Brontës” by Juliet Barker. The recent publication of Brontë’s letters, over the time period of 1994-2004, greatly informs Harman’s book. Throughout it, we hear Brontë’s voice, with Harman’s chiming in alongside. Quite rightly for a work on Charlotte Brontë, one gets the sense of a sisterly collaboration. [...]
I found myself quite happily lost in “A Fiery Heart,” though little of it was unfamiliar; the details of life at Haworth (particularly strange, brooding Emily, whose wild shadow falls enticingly across the pages) are told with an almost cinematic vividness. And a touching anecdote lingered, after the book was done: Brontë, first seeing her famous portrait drawn by the artist George Richmond, was reduced to tears, explaining that the image looked so like her sister. “When one stands in front of Richmond’s portrait in the National Portrait Gallery today,” writes Harman, “ it is strange to think of the subject seeing dead Emily or dead Anne there, rather than herself.” (Moira Macdonald)
The Atlantic discusses 'Jane Eyre and the Invention of the Self' in a highly recommended article.
Perhaps the first novel to best express the modern idea of the self was Jane Eyre, written in 1847 by Charlotte Brontë, born 200 years ago this year.
Those who remember Jane Eyre solely as required reading in high-school English class likely recall most vividly its over-the-top Gothic tropes: a childhood banishment to a death-haunted room, a mysterious presence in the attic, a Byronic hero, and a cold mansion going up in flames. It’s more seemingly the stuff of Lifetime television, not revolutions. But as unbelievable as many of the events of the novel are, even today, Brontë’s biggest accomplishment wasn’t in plot devices. It was the narrative voice of Jane—who so openly expressed her desire for identity, definition, meaning, and agency—that rang powerfully true to its 19th-century audience. In fact, many early readers mistakenly believed Jane Eyre was a true account (in a clever marketing scheme, the novel was subtitled, “An Autobiography”), perhaps a validation of her character’s authenticity. (Karen Swallow Prior) (Read more)
Express considers that Wuthering Heights is one of '10 books to read before you die'.
5. Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë
Wild passions and desolate landscapes fill Wuthering Heights, which tells the story of the intense love between Cathy and Heathcliff.
Emily Brontë grew up with her talented sisters Charlotte and Anne in the North Yorkshire village of Haworth. (Alice Foster)
And also in Express, actress Debra Stephenson picks the same novel as one of her six favourite books.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë Vintage Classics, £7.99
In my teenage years I was totally lost in the romance. I studied it with a fantastic teacher so got to grips with every nuance. Then I got to play Nelly Dean at drama school. I really wanted to play Cathy but they felt Nelly would help to give gravitas to my acting and it did. (Caroline Rees)
And more book selections as So Feminine thinks that Wide Sargasso Sea is a book 'All Twenty-Somethings Should Read'.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
You know what? Mad women in the attic are SO eighteenth century [sic]. For a fresh take on the life and times of that crazy lady who temporarily ruined Jane Eyre's chance at happiness, Jean Rhys writes from the POV of Edward Rhocester's [sic] first wife Antoinette, who leaves her home country of Jamaica to enter into an arranged marriage. (Emmy Griffiths)
Writer Jonathan Kellerman jokes about Jane Eyre in The New York Times.
What’s your favorite love story in literature? “Jane Eyre.” When my wife’s out of town, I find myself wandering around the house in a silk dressing gown, engaged in Rochester fantasies. Though we do have smoke alarms.
El País's Babelia (Spain) reviews the novel Rosy & John by Pierre Lemaitre.
Bautiza con nombres propios de mujer las novelas de la tetralogía de su estrafalario detective de metro cuarenta y cinco, el comandante Camille Verhoeven, Irène, Alex, Rosy & John y Camille: un guiño a la tradición del realismo de Emma (Bovary), Eugenie (Grandet) o Jane (Eyre). (Javier Aparicio Maydeu) (Translation)
On the screen front, Bustle recommends '11 Sexy Movies On Netflix — With No Sex Scenes', the first of which is
1. Jane Eyre
The 2011 retelling of this gothic romance stars Michael Fassbender and Mia Wasikowska as the complicated characters at the center. Throughout the film, there are religious nuts, delayed kisses, moments of deceit, marriage proposals, and all of the eerie elements you'd expect from a Brontë adaptation, creating a rich environment for the relationship between Jane and Rochester to unfold. (KT Hawbaker-Krohn)
What's On TV interviews Sally Wainwright, who mentions her Brontë project for later this year.
And will there be more Last Tango in Halifax"I’m working on it now and I am looking forward to it but I’ve got to do it while I am prepping for the Brontë drama [BBC1's To Walk Invisible], so that is a bit nerve-wracking. People keep saying, 'Is that it now for Last Tango?' But absolutely not, we are all dead keen to carry on doing Last Tango forever!"
Music Feeds reports that singer-songwriter St Vincent picks Wuthering Heights as her karaoke song.
Meanwhile, St Vincent chooses the appropriately weird Wuthering Heights by Kate Bush: “It’s such a hard song to sing, there are key-changes and bars that drop beats and stuff, so if you can nail it, it’s awesome,” she says. (Indre McGlinn)
On Facebook, the Brontë Parsonage shares a lovely, snowy picture while warning potential visitors about the icy roads. Eric Ruijssenaars continues looking at translations of Villette on the Brussels Brontë Blog. laurenvictoria posts about Wuthering Heights.

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