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The Brontes (Phoenix Giants)

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9781857990690: The Brontes (Phoenix Giants)
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Juliet Barker has a D.Phil in history from Oxford University, and was for six years librarian/curator of the Bronte Parsonage Museum at Haworth. She has been involved with all recent research into the Brontes, and has made many major new finds which are revealed for the first time in this book.

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Neither Charlotte, Emily, Anne, nor Branwell Brontelived past the age of 38, yet they left an impression on English literature that has fully occupied biographers, many of whom have portrayed the Brontes as doomed romantics, held captive for all of their adult years by a cruel, widowed curate father in the wasteland of the Yorkshire moors. But Barker, a past curator of the BronteParsonage Museum, tells a different tale with admirable objectivity; her extensively documented alternative view is based on new material, including family letters. Convincingly, she portrays Haworth, the town where the Brontes passed their lives, not as the traditional barrens, but as a fairly active agricultural and mercantile locale, subject to clerical, political, and economic struggles. (Her accounts of bad sanitary conditions and rife disease are especially compelling.) Patrick Bronte, in her perspective, emerges as an impressively rational and steadfastly affectionate father, not the egregiously high-minded belligerent of lore. As for the four siblings, Barker takes care not to presume or sentimentalize. She methodically outlines Branwell's notorious decline into drug and alcohol addiction, suggesting its consequences for other family members; offers Anne, the least appreciated of the writers, as, in some respects, the most adventurous in her pursuit of realism; and considers Charlotte critically yet sympathetically as an imperious, often manipulative literary majordomo whose unrequited love for her Belgian language teacher ran parallel in its self-destructive energy to her brother's dangerous liaison with an opportunistic married woman. Despite the book's saturation in period detail, the cumulative effect of Barker's 800-odd pages is oddly contemporary: a legendary literary quartet steps out of the storybooks with a distinctly welcome, unemotional clarity. Molly McQuade

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9781605984599: The Brontes

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ISBN 10: 1605984590 ISBN 13: 9781605984599
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