Book review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte, 1848

It is quite rare for me to open a classic Victorian novel and have almost no idea what it is going to be about. But that was the case here – I have somehow avoided television and radio adaptations, reviews, blogposts etc – and the kindle edition even removes the clues provided by the blurb and illustrationsContinue reading “Book review: The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, by Anne Bronte, 1848”

Book review: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911

  Francis Hodgson Burnett’s ‘The Secret Garden’ is predominantly a children’s novel, but like all good children’s literature its appeal spreads far beyond this audience. I increasingly found myself admiring the author’s craftsmanship, even if I was able to resist some of the more sentimental aspects of the novel. Set in a soon to disappearContinue reading “Book review: The Secret Garden, by Frances Hodgson Burnett, 1911”

Book review: Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, 1966

“There is always another side, always.” As you may know, Jean Rhys’s ‘Wide Sargasso Sea’ tells the story from ‘Jane Eyre’ of Mr Rochester’s first wife, the ‘mad woman in the attic’, Bertha Mason. The idea of giving a voice to a relatively minor character from a classic work of literature may not have beenContinue reading “Book review: Wide Sargasso Sea, by Jean Rhys, 1966”

Supplementary: Clothing in Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’

It is probably a statement of the obvious that the clothes people wear can tell us a lot about them.  In Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte uses descriptions of her characters’ clothing to give the reader ways of interpreting their roles and their relationships. One example of this is in the description of Jane’s clothing theContinue reading “Supplementary: Clothing in Charlotte Bronte’s ‘Jane Eyre’”

Book review: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, 1847

I think a case can be made for ‘Jane Eyre’ as the definitive nineteenth century novel. It has it all: Romance – the scene in chapter 22 when Rochester teasingly proposes to Jane, and she slowly comes to realise he is serious, is as touching and effective as anything in Austen, and the final reconciliationContinue reading “Book review: Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte, 1847”

Book review: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, 1847

‘Wuthering Heights’ has over 22,000 reviews on Goodreads alone; one has to wonder what else I could possibly add to that overwhelming weight of opinion and consideration? The dark and gothic tale is constructed with a complex variety of framing structures – at one point the narrative is told by Mr Lockwood, the tenant ofContinue reading “Book review: Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, 1847”

Book review: The Professor by Charlotte Bronte (2)

Written in 1846, although not published during her lifetime, The Professor is a largely autobiographical account of Charlotte’s two years teaching in Belgium. Her attempt to narrate the story through a male character is at best a mixed success. There is, as with Villette, a degree of wish fulfillment, as the romance is successfully concludedContinue reading “Book review: The Professor by Charlotte Bronte (2)”

Supplementary: The Professor by Charlotte Bronte – inadvertent smuttiness?

Here’s a fun game for anyone finding 19th century romantic literature just a little too slow – “spot the subconscious sexual metaphor”. These novels invariably put young men and women in the prime of their lives in close proximity, and despite every attempt to restrain their sexual impulses, it just can’t help bursting through. Usually natureContinue reading “Supplementary: The Professor by Charlotte Bronte – inadvertent smuttiness?”

Book review: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte

There’s a Darwinism in play which determines whether novels continue to be read after the author’s death and the passage of a few decades. Authors that were once widely read and popular turn out over time to be of interest to only a very specific audience, and do not translate well into later periods. AsContinue reading “Book review: Agnes Grey by Anne Bronte”