Those Talented Brontës…

What is it about the Brontë sisters?…

Bronte Pillar portrait

In one very small home—a parsonage—at the top of a village in Yorkshire, at the mouth of the windswept moors, there lived a family of immense talent. I would even use the term genius. There is something mystical there, something divine, in the fact that three women could change literature and create powerful works that would question Victorian society’s morals, daily life, and how women were treated. The power and the truth in their works is astounding—and it has resonated throughout time, and throughout my life in particular.

Bronte Parsonage Museum

I read Jane Eyre for the very first time when I was a sophomore in college, enrolled in the course “Women in Literature.” I devoured those pages in Indiana University’s student union, seated on a comfy couch in front of a Gothic-style limestone fireplace that was as tall and as wide as a young woman. I felt the heat of the flames that swallowed up Thornfield Hall; in the marrow of my bones I felt Jane’s desire to be seen as more than poor, plain, little, and obscure. Charlotte Brontë’s work dug into me deeply.

A few years later I read Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights on audiobook. While the audiobook did not do the book justice, my reaction after my first reading was—at least initially, before a good analysis–that those characters are terrible people, and they seem to yell at Top-Withens-Haworth.jpgeach other an awful lot. (I recently finished a re-read of the novel and—while I still didn’t like the characters, or enjoy it as much as Jane Eyre—was wowed by the powerful writing, and the story of those doomed characters… it’s a story that haunts me and perplexes me still, which makes me admire it all the more).

In graduate school I was reading several hundred pages of political science literature a week, but after the tragic NIU school shooting in 2008 I wanted to escape—all I wanted to read was fiction. I read Maeve Binchy, Marisa de los Santos, and other contemporary authors before turning to Jane Austen to re-read my favorites. And then I picked up Anne Brontë’s Agnes Grey. It was so unlike Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, and I absolutely loved it. It was like a Jane Austen novel, yet not; it was realism, yet more than that—it’s clear to me now that Anne Brontë is forever a governess, as her writing seems to teach the reader, and seems to respond to both the complex writing of her sisters’ as well as controversial topics of that time period… This is something I will love to address in future posts… (and Anne’s masterpiece, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall! It’s so often overlooked, and everyone should read it. Seriously).

Fast forward to 2016 when a wonderful novel was released: The Madwoman Upstairs by Catherine Lowell. It’s about Samantha Whipple—the last living Brontë dMadwoman Upstairsescendant. She’s attending Oxford and she has some family mysteries to resolve. This novel immerses the reader in Brontëland, learning obscure details about the family and the works of the three sisters.

That was what re-ignited my passion for those three genius sisters.

After reading that novel I wanted to learn more about the Brontës, and so I discovered the ultimate guide: Juliet Barker’s The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors. It was everything I wanted to learn, everything to satisfy this growing interest, and more. Subsequently the BBC made the film To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters. It was incredible to watch a part of the sisters’ lives play out on the screen and it made me love them more—their battles may not have been so different from our own: having a brother (Branwell) battling mental illness and addiction; going up against gender bias and hoping their work would be judged fairly as they shared it with the world; having a love for writing that was so strong, it was irresistible.

Dear readers, that is the history of my Brontë obsession interest and how it has grown over time. And now across social media I’m excited to find an entire Brontë tribe who is just as obsessed enthusiastic about this incredible family! So enlightening and lively are the discussions taking place about their works and their lives (especially regarding Emily Brontë, as it is the 200th anniversary of her birth), the controversies, and the myths, I’d like to contribute my own voice.
bronte books

Over the following months I plan to share my interpretations of the Brontë sisters’ works, discuss their lives and the historical context, and basically celebrate these incredible women. Won’t you join me on this journey?

Which is your favorite Brontë work? Do you have a favorite Brontë sister?… Comment below or on Twitter/Instagram, and let’s start the discussion!

Happy Reading,
Mariana

Photo credits, respectively: 
https://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/art/art-news/12057053/National-Portrait-Gallery-to-reveal-mysteries-of-shadowy-Bronte-brother.html
https://www.bronte.org.uk/about-us
https://www.visitbradford.com/thedms.aspx?dms=3&venue=2182719
https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/27789644-the-madwoman-upstairs
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Book Review: Don’t You Cry

Alright my fellow readers, I’m back with a book review my fingertips have been eager to type (my two year-old who no longer naps has had different plans for my time!).

Don’t You Cry (coming May 17th) is suspense/thriller writer Mary Kubica‘s third novel. With a tight plot, flowing prose, unpredictable twists, and a satisfying conclusion, this is the suspenseful treat for which you’ve been searching. It stayed with me for weeks after I turned the last page!

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 From publisher’s website:

In downtown Chicago, a young woman named Esther Vaughan disappears from her apartment without a trace. A haunting letter addressed to My Dearest is found among her possessions, leaving her friend and roommate Quinn Collins to wonder where Esther is and whether or not she’s the person she thought she knew.

Meanwhile, in a small Michigan harbor town an hour outside of Chicago, a mysterious woman appears in the quiet coffee shop where eighteen-year-old Alex Gallo works as a dish washer. He is immediately drawn to her charm and beauty, but what starts as an innocent crush quickly spirals into something far more dark and sinister than he ever expected.

As Quinn searches for answers about Esther, and Alex is drawn further under Pearl’s spell, master of suspense Mary Kubica takes readers on a taut and twisted thrill ride that builds to a stunning conclusion and shows that no matter how fast and far we run, the past always catches up with us in the end. (Cover image taken from author’s website)

The first third of the novel feels like a ticking time bomb as the story winds up, the tension builds, and the reader is teased with possible answers to the puzzle—and then the story takes a sudden turn. Everything I thought I’d figured out was completely wrong in such a satisfactory way.

Don’t You Cry is exquisitely written, and Mary’s descriptions are so well done that I sometimes paused after finishing a sentence to let the image settle in. Her characters are drawn vividly and realistically. And of course it offers twists—especially at the end—that I did not see coming.

You will feel aftershocks with this one, my friends; you will think about this novel days after you’ve finished it. This suspense/psychological thriller truly lives up to its genre, and you will love it as much as I did. (I want to write more, but I’m afraid I’ll give something away!)

Now go pre-order your copy!

Book Review: The Forgotten Room

Written by three talented authors of historical fiction (Beatriz Williams, Lauren Willig, and Karen White), The Forgotten Room tells the story of three women in fascinating times: the Gilded Age, the Roaring Twenties, and 1945. (And check out that cover! Beautiful!)

The Forgotten Room

Olive Van Alen, daughter of a famous architect who took his own life, lives during the Gilded Age just before the turn of the century.  She works as a maid at the very mansion her father designed, hoping to unearth the reason for her father’s suicide.  But when she meets one of the household’s sons, her plans take a different turn.

Lucy Young is living life as an independent woman of the 1920’s, working hard as a secretary at a successful law firm.  But her heart is broken after the loss of her mother, and her mind is preoccupied with the mystery her mother’s last words held.

Kate Schuyler is a young doctor working harder than her male counterpart during WWII at the Gilded Age mansion that’s been converted into a hospital.  When a strikingly handsome and severely wounded corporal arrives the steady ground beneath her seems to shift, calling into question everything she thought she knew.

As the authors take us through these riveting times, we slowly discover the connection among these three women–their loves, their sorrows, and their joys.  So profound is the message that one decision can affect generations to come.  I devoured this novel, the mystery unfolding before me in unpredictable ways, unsure of how it would all come together in the end (I love when that happens, don’t you?).  Such an enjoyable read!

The Forgotten Room is being released January 19th! Pre-order your copy now!

Happy Reading!

XO,

Mariana

(NetGalley provided me with an ARC in exchange for an honest review; cover photo from publisher’s website, Penguin Random House)