FINALLY I have my first Bronte Project review! Reading has been slow going recently (I haven’t even cracked open any of my Christmas books, thanks mainly to picking two quite meaty Bronte books..) This book looked like it would be fairly easy- it’s a book of short(ish) stories written by Charlotte when she was 20 and a young, unhappy teacher at Roe Head School.
This book was HARD WORK. Firstly, I need to point out to you that the Bronte grasp of grammar was notoriously… fluid. It’s the case with all of the Bronte siblings and is evident here. Let’s just say that Charlotte wouldn’t have passed her skills tests to gain qualified teacher status. She also had yet to develop her story writing skills (these would be developed a few years later after a spell in Brussels.) As a result, the stories feel overly long-sometimes more novella length than short story- and all over the place structurally. I had to really concentrate to keep track of what was going on. I even resorted to writing notes sometimes!
Secondly, it’s presented without much context, bar a short bit of family information on the front page and some diary fragments from her time at Roe Head. I think it would have benefitted enormously from a proper introduction and maybe a list of characters. As it was, I knew that the Angria stories were written by Charlotte with her brother Branwell from an early age- and because I was also reading the Juliet Barker biography at the same time, I had more of a handle on the conflicts the two of them had and the arguments that the stories could provoke. These could often lead to characters dying and coming back to life, titles and names being changed and some characters being more important than others at different times. In these stories, it could be hard to tell who was being talked about and there was a certain expectation that the reader would understand and remember past events- not easy when you’re dipping into a vast imaginary world that has been written by two people in close conjunction for many years.
In her book, Barker states the case that Charlotte was clearly in love with her main character, the Duke of Zamorna, and I have to agree. All of the stories lead to him one way or another and he seems a total rake- but he’s never really judged for it, which is interesting in a writer who could be very judgmental.
All in all, it wasn’t my favourite book ever! For me, the best (and most straightforward) story was Mina Laury, about a wife and a mistress who meet. All I can say is that it lulled me into a false sense of security. This book is for hardcore Bronte scholars only…