I don’t know if there’s a better assertion of my rediscovered reading freedom than returning to the Victorians.
I’ve had this book in my collection at least a decade, a volume I picked up at the now-defunct annual book sale sponsored by Brandeis University. Tens of thousands of books, such an unfathomable number you owed it to yourself to go several times within the course of the week to see even a small percentage. Each day they cracked open countless boxes, stocking all new delights, priced (mostly) within the budget of the mother of a young family. I could barely contain myself knowing, while I was away, all new books were shifting onto the tables.
It was heaven, and now it is no more.
When I bought this book I guess I didn’t read the jacket flap, or not closely. It was a smash-and-grab: see it, grab it before someone else does, throw it into the shopping cart, RUN. I thought I’d purchased a biography, however It’s actually a novelization of the lives of the Brontës, based on all available biographical information published prior.
Starting it Sunday evening, I was immediately bothered the book’s written in a style approximating what we now call Young Adult. Researching Lynne Reid Banks, I was reminded she’s famous largely for her book for children: The Indian in the Cupboard. But I still wasn’t expecting a book about the Brontës to read like this.
I’ve since adjusted my expectations. Instead of reading it as pure biography, I’m approaching it to brush up on the famous literary family in a conveniently condensed manner, in preparation for reading Claire Harman’s recently published biography of Charlotte:
2016 is the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth, which you’ll have seen all sorts of press about if you’ve been paying attention to what’s hot in the world of Victorian literature.
And yeah, Victorian literature’s still pretty hot.
Charlotte may be my favorite Brontë, though Emily’s a very close second. Her masterpiece Wuthering Heights is dark and brooding and presents a twisted picture of romantic love that’s about as depressing as it gets – precisely why I love it.
It delves into the dark side of the psyche, the part that guards obsession. The love/hate duality fascinates me, and I don’t think enough literature can really dig into that in a way that does it justice. Enter Wuthering Heights, the novel that smashes it out of the park.
As for Charlotte, her writing’s barely less dark than her sister’s; Jane Eyre gives Wuthering Heights a run for its money: huge stone house, torrid passion that’s tamped down and resisted as long as possible, the angst of a horrific childhood, a raving lunatic wife hidden in an attic.
But how did the children of a priest, raised in relative insulated solitude in a Christian household, learn about such deeply held passion? It’s a question I’ve often asked myself.
What is with that family, anyway?
I’d like to re-read Jane Eyre once I’ve finished the Harman biography. It would complete my celebration of Charlotte’s 200th appropriately, bringing my Brontë reading full-circle.
In May and June, I’ll also be reading along with HeavenAli’s delightful blog, for the short fiction segment of her #Woolfalong project. I own The Complete Shorter Fiction and, miraculously, was able to locate it amidst the thousands of books crowding my shelves.
I take this as a sign.
I haven’t read Woolf in far too long, especially considering how much an impact she’s had on my literary life. Reading as many of these short pieces as will fit within the next two months is a step in the right direction. As a bonus, once again I’m participating in reading projects with other bloggers. Another short-term goal begun.
The Brontës and Woolf. I can’t imagine a better way to celebrate reading and the return of spring.