Sunday, January 15, 2017

Two new reviews of Samantha Ellis's biography of Anne Brontë, Take Courage. The Irish Independent:
Ellis admits right at the start of Take Courage (the title comes from Anne's last words before her death) that she feels a connection with her subject. She herself is just turning 40 as she begins the project, not in the best of health, feeling she's achieved little so far, that everything she's done has been "heartbreakingly ephemeral".
Understanding Anne is as much a voyage of self-discovery as it is biography or literary analysis. That's both this book's strength and weakness. Identifying so strongly with Anne makes her a passionate advocate. At the same time, the book frequently tips over into self-indulgence as a result. She dreams about her subject, "but they don't feel like dreams". Anne sits on the edge of her bed with "a piercing look in her eyes", asking: "Why aren't you writing my book?" (...)
Here, though, the first doubts about Ellis's technique start to form. Talking of Maria, she writes: "I wish she'd told Patrick about the neglect and cruelties of Cowan Bridge. I wish she'd made him bring her sisters home. I wish she'd made him expose the school in the press."
This leads on to some fanciful leaps of supposition. Pondering the reasons for the absence of much of Anne's and Emily's juvenilia, Ellis quickly comes to the conclusion that the sisters probably burned it themselves.
That's simply impossible to know, so it's a worthless observation, something akin to that earlier wishing. Later, she even tries to pinpoint the exact date when Anne might have destroyed her own work.
Take Courage is filled with similarly liberal uses of the words "perhaps" and "maybe", as well as numerous sentences beginning, "Anne must have felt", "Anne must have wondered", and so on. Such speculative biography has become increasingly common, going hand in hand with the rise of what have been dubbed "shelf-help", rather than self-help, books - that is, books which wring fiction for its usefulness as therapy and consolation. (...)
"So what?" exasperated readers might well ask, having come to read a book about a neglected literary figure and finding themselves in a group hug instead. (Eilis O'Hanlon)
The Daily Express says
Much of the book is speculative, but this makes for a lovely and imaginative investigation into a serious and searching woman whose last words were “take courage”. It’s inspiring stuff. (Eithne Farry)
The News on Sunday (Pakistan) publishes not really a review but a vindication of Anne:
Anne Brontë is an interesting and largely overlooked writer, but the tv biopic of the Brontës along with Samantha Ellis’s book on her have now refocused attention on her and her work. As her two novels are read or re-read, it is likely that there will also be some reassessment of the literary importance of this largely forgotten Brontë sister. (Umber Khairi)
The Manchester Evening News announces that the Bolton Octagon Theatre is holding a dog audition for its new production of The Tenant of Wildfell Hall:
Has your hound got what it takes to be in a Brontë play?
That's exactly what the Octagon Theatre in Bolton is asking as it looks for canines who can cut it on the stage in their latest adaptation of Anne Brontë's The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.
The perfect pooch would have to be very disciplined and able to take instructions while surrounded by cast, children, lights, loud noises, and an audience of 400 people.
Dogs will be auditioning for the role of Sancho, the loyal companion of the story's narrator Gilbert Markham.
The show opens this spring and runs from March 30 to April 22, with rehearsals starting on March 2. The dog and their owner must be available for all rehearsal dates and performances. (...)
The theatre is also auditioning for two children to share the role of Arthur - the son of Markham's love interest and the tenant in the story's title, Helen Graham. (Sarah Walters)
Bookriot selects some poetry compilations:
Sylvia Plath- Selected Poems edited by Ted Hughes
I don’t think you can discuss poetry and not talk about Plath. Mired in a historical void of depression, angst and suicide, I think people have a tendency to shy away from Plath when they should be getting ever closer. This collection features, among others, ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘Lady Lazarus’ and contains works from all four of Plath’s poetry collections. (Aisling Twomey)
Lucasta Miller reviews Not Just Jane: Rediscovering Seven Amazing Women Writers Who Transformed British Literature by Shelley DeWees in The Sunday Times:
Shelley DeWees studied ethnomusicology before teaching English in Korea. But her private passion was classic English novels. She became as “addicted” to Jane Austen as Austen’s own Catherine Morland is to reading Ann Radcliffe’s Mysteries of Udolpho. After a detour into the Brontës, DeWees began to wonder about other female writers of English literary history. The result is this series of seven vivacious sketches of lesser-known “ambitious women with inky thumbs”.
Also in The Sunday Times how it is to be a shepherdess and mother of nine in the country:
I strap my five-month-old to my front in my waterproof papoose and head out to the hills. I’m looking forward to getting her into my backpack as that will free me up to use my arms more easily. You can get lost in the monotonous daily grind, but when you look around you, you feel like a character in Wuthering Heights. (Moya Sarner)
The Times of India praises the Indin nineteenth century writer Toru Dutt
British scholar Edward J. Thompson, who was an associate of Tagore, had described Toru as “one of the most astonishing women that ever lived, a woman whose place is with Sappho and Emily Brontë, fiery and unconquerable of soul”. (Priyanka Dasgupta)
MSN has a list of fifty romantic movies, including Jane Eyre 2011:
The film, based on the classic novel by Charlotte Brontë, is directed by Cary Fukunaga and stars Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. The story revolves around a young girl who falls in love with her employer, but with time she realizes that he has some grave secrets.
The Daily Beast tells the inspiring story of NYPD Detective Steven McDonald, recently deceased:
Steven’s sister, Delores, imagined that Steven was now with their mother, running though the moors like in the last scene of Wuthering Heights. (Michael Daly)
Pink Smarties posts about Wuthering Heights. Diminishing Thoughts and Molly's dreams post about Jane Eyre and Shirley respectively.


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