15 March 2016
Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman
A groundbreaking biography that places an obsessive, unrequited love at the heart of the writer's life story, transforming her from the tragic figure we have previously known into a smoldering Jane Eyre.
Famed for her beloved novels, Charlotte Brontë has been known as well for her insular, tragic family life. The genius of this biography is that it delves behind this image to reveal a life in which loss and heartache existed alongside rebellion and fierce ambition. Claire Harman seizes on a crucial moment in the 1840s when Charlotte worked at a girls' school in Brussels and fell hopelessly in love with the husband of the school's headmistress. Her torment spawned her first attempts at writing for publication, and the object of her obsession haunts the pages of every one of her novels--he is Rochester in Jane Eyre, Paul Emanuel in Villette. Another unrequited love--for her publisher--paved the way for Charlotte to enter a marriage that ultimately made her happier than she ever imagined. Drawing on correspondence unavailable to previous biographers, Harman establishes Brontë as the heroine of her own story, one as dramatic and triumphant as one of her own novels.
Charlotte Brontë seems to be having a moment right now. Jane Austen has had the market on fandom for a while but Charlotte's gaining some ground (Re-Jane and Jane Steele are both on Mt. TBR). And this includes a new biography from Claire Harman.
Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart is a very readable biography of Charlotte that concentrates on her intellectual and emotional life and how her experiences translated (sometimes word-for-word) into her novels. And she is one interesting lady, no lie. Harman was allowed access to many letters that had only recently been published for the first time which recasts some events in Charlotte's life, including her death. Even as well-versed as I am in Brontë biography, this was a treat to read. I loved it - and if I Instagram or Litsy (hi, y'all! Have we made Litsy-ing a verb yet?) my annotations you know I am into it.
As a bonus, Harman also included Emily and Anne in the biography since their lives were so closely intertwined with Charlotte's (and Branwell, unfortunately...ugh, that dude should have been dropped in a vat of spiders, what a spoiled brat).
Dear FTC: I received an ARC of this book from the publisher (thank you thank you!)
PS: I haven't read her Jane Austen biography, yet, and now I really want to!