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The Brontës are, on the other hand, a phenomenal tale, often told, but never better than in this week’s offering from Sally Wainwright.Matt Rudd in The Sunday Times also praises the production:
It still staggers me, their story. Quite how one chilly Yorkshire parsonage bred three sisters who would upend the world of books remains a transformative tale. Lynne Reid Banks, in her book Dark Quartet, told it ridiculously well, but in Wainwright’s version, To Walk Invisible, we get to see the cold red knees, the chilblains, the anger, the sorrow; we get to feel every icy gust of bitterness, every rare zephyr of hope.
The sorrow is reserved mainly, of course, for brother Branwell, historically branded the reprobate boozer-loser flop of the clan. Adam Nagaitis bravely played him as a whey ugly nightmare with a ginger rat’s-nest of hair and whiskers: he played him, in fact, like a man with a constant pendulous drip at the end of his nose, waiting throughout to plop. If Branwell has been miserably served by history, it’s quite possibly justified: his antics, his debts, even his death, held his vaultingly more talented sisters in cruel thrall for most of their too-short lives.
Chloe Pirrie as Emily bestrode the moors with seven-league boots and dominated every frame with her presence, her anger, her tenderness, as she did in the bittersweet 2013 movie Shell. Finn Atkins was Charlotte, all of a fiercely bespectacled five-foot-nought even in her Holly-Hobbie boots, but arguably the righteous steel and brains behind the outfit. The scenes at the London publishers, where she reluctantly reveals herself as Currer Bell, author of Jane Eyre, retain the ability to make one simultaneously laugh, cry and want to punch most men in the face.
Wisely, Wainwright doesn’t follow every single publication success. In lesser hands, we would have had obligatory acceptance letters for each sister – for Wuthering Heights, for Agnes Grey – to the backdrop of father Jonathan Pryce being all a-dither and Branwell spewing up drunken blood next door. Instead, and better, it is left to Charlotte to tremulously inform the father of the sisters’ financial independence, and reveal their noms de plume, by carrying through a few handsome bound volumes currently lionising literary London. Few of us surely get to see such quiet, shocked, heartbreaking pride in a father’s face. It’s a tale that cannot be told often enough, and the utter standout in a week not devoid of sharp writing and acting.
There was another Christmas present, To Walk Invisible, a BBC period drama that was quite unlike all the other BBC period dramas. As a dramatisation of the lives of the Brontë family, it could have been a Hovis ad of Christmassy nostalgia, which would have made easier viewing, but would have rather missed the point. Instead, the writer, Sally Wainwright, her of Last Tango in Halifax, focused on the sisters’ relationships with their alcoholic brother, his decline and, in spite of everything, their eventual rise to literary greatness. There were moments of great darkness and light, shot beautifully, written with some confidence in its audience (take note, Call the Midwife). Chloe Pirrie was another standout star as Emily, hardened to life, frustrated by circumstance and set in quiet opposition to the patriarchal sentimentality of the age.New 2017 books are presented in The Irish Independent:
This month also sees the publication of a long-overdue appraisal of the third Brontë sister, Anne. Take Courage (Chatto), by How To be a Heroine author Samantha Ellis, is being released on January 12, ahead of Anne's birthday on January 17. (Hilary A. White)Lucasta Miller reviews the biography in The Sunday Times:
Anne is the Cinderella of the Brontë sisters, the youngest, least recognised and, by all accounts, the prettiest. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre and Emily’s Wuthering Heights subsequently became Hollywood classics. After Anne died, her novel The Tenant of Wildfell Hall was publicly dismissed by Charlotte as an “entire mistake”.The Detroit Free Press publishes a cultural summary of the year. Talking about the Bob Dylan's Nobel Prize of Literature something that we didn't know about is mentioned:
Anne’s book was, however, far more radical than anything her more famous sisters ever wrote. In its coruscating portrait of an abusive marriage it bypassed the romanticism of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights to “get” feminism in a way that Charlotte and Emily never did. Although generally considered as the quiet and docile one, Anne was, in fact, the secret firebrand of the family.
The effort to reclaim her has been going on for some time. Winifred Gérin’s biography of Anne was published in 1959. However, the dominance of the two elder sisters means that there remains a need to bring her out of the shadows. In Take Courage, Samantha Ellis has risen to the challenge. (...)
Take Courage is almost as much about Ellis’s vicarious relationship with her subject as it is about Anne Brontë. If scholarly footnotes are your thing, it isn’t for you. But if you want to share in a biographer’s emotional journey, you will find insights aplenty here. The account of Anne’s death from TB at the age of 29 is truly moving.
I last saw Bob a few months ago at the Toledo Zoo Amphitheatre and particularly enjoyed the version of “High Water (For Charley Patton),” a song originally from his 2001 masterwork “Love and Theft.” Ostensibly dealing with an apocalyptic flood, the lyrics also reference bluesman Big Joe Turner, Charles Darwin, Bertha Mason – a character from Charlotte Brönte’s (sic) novel "Jane Eyre" – and lustful activities in a "hopped-up Mustang Ford." Classic kaleidoscopic – and Nobel-worthy – Dylan lyrics. 2l (Ashley Zlatopolsky)Via Google Play Music, here are the lyrics:
High water risin', the shacks are slidin' downDamien Love is decidedly not a fan of either Tom Hardy or Wuthering Heights 2009 in The Sunday Herald:
Folks lose their possessions and folks are leaving town
Bertha Mason shook, it broke it
Then she hung it on a wall
Says, "You're dancin' with whom they tell you to
Or you don't dance at all"
It's tough out there
High water everywhere
My own theory is that Hardy might not be a great actor – I base this on having seen his performance as Heathcliffe in ITV’s 2009 version of Wuthering Heights, an experience that was like watching ham grow hair – but that he’s covered it up by leaping straight to the “eccentric” stage Marlon Brando lapsed into late in his career, when he would insist on playing scenes dressed as a grandmother, or turn up bald without telling anyone.2017 thoughts in The Telegraph:
Change, actually, is a rare thing in humans. There is a received notion that human beings are inspired by change, that our mythical and fictional heroes are those who seek, and achieve, transformation. But, actually, Hamlet, Heathcliff, Huckleberry Finn – just to choose a letter at random – move and entertain and educate us because they consistently remain their messed up selves in changing worlds. (Chris Moss)Inspirational characters for the new year on If Mermaids Wore Suspenders:
2. Jane EyreAuthorlink interviews the writer Samantha Hunt:
Where to begin? She is kind enough to visit her dying aunt when she begs her to come, despite the aunt’s cruelty to Jane as a child. Yet Jane isn’t a pushover; she stands up for what she knows to be right by leaving Thornfield and Mr. Rochester after…well, if you’ve read the book then you know, and if you haven’t I won’t spoil it for you. All in all she shows incredible kindness and removes herself from an environment which she knows will be a temptation. (Aubrey Leaman)
Hunt: I visited a medium in hopes of getting a blurb from Charlotte Brontë. I felt a bit guilty, deceitful, since I don’t really believe in mediums. But what happened was, that right there on the spot, the medium produced a Charlotte Brontë blurb (it’s a bit rambling and less eloquent than Bronte was in life) and she also spontaneously told me that I was Emily Brontë in a past life. Imagine that? In that moment, I realized that, like me, the medium is a storyteller, a dealer in fiction. I have never discounted fiction as untrue.AnaVerbaniaZeBlog (in French) reviews Wuthering Heights.