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Charlotte Bronte : A Fiery Heart
by Claire Harman


Overview - On the two hundredth anniversary of her birth, a landmark biography transforms Charlotte Bronte from a tragic figure into a modern heroine.

Charlotte Bronte famously lived her entire life in an isolated parsonage on a remote English moor with a demanding father and siblings whose astonishing childhood creativity was a closely held secret.  Read more...


 
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More About Charlotte Bronte by Claire Harman
 
 
 
Overview
On the two hundredth anniversary of her birth, a landmark biography transforms Charlotte Bronte from a tragic figure into a modern heroine.

Charlotte Bronte famously lived her entire life in an isolated parsonage on a remote English moor with a demanding father and siblings whose astonishing childhood creativity was a closely held secret. The genius of Claire Harman's biography is that it transcends these melancholy facts to reveal a woman for whom duty and piety gave way to quiet rebellion and fierce ambition.

Drawing on letters unavailable to previous biographers, Harman depicts Charlotte's inner life with absorbing, almost novelistic intensity. She seizes upon a moment in Charlotte's adolescence that ignited her determination to reject poverty and obscurity: While working at a girls' school in Brussels, Charlotte fell in love with her married professor, Constantin Heger, a man who treated her as "nothing special to him at all." She channeled her torment into her first attempts at a novel and resolved to bring it to the world's attention.

Charlotte helped power her sisters' work to publication, too. But Emily's Wuthering Heights was eclipsed by Jane Eyre, which set London abuzz with speculation: Who was this fiery author demanding love and justice for her plain and insignificant heroine? Charlotte Bronte's blazingly intelligent women brimming with hidden passions would transform English literature. And she savored her literary success even as a heartrending series of personal losses followed.

Charlotte Bronte
is a groundbreaking view of the beloved writer as a young woman ahead of her time. Shaped by Charlotte's lifelong struggle to claim love and art for herself, Harman's richly insightful biography offers readers many of the pleasures of Bronte's own work.

 
Details
  • ISBN-13: 9780307962089
  • ISBN-10: 0307962083
  • Publisher: Alfred a Knopf Inc
  • Publish Date: March 2016
  • Page Count: 462
  • Dimensions: 1.5 x 6.75 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.9 pounds


Related Categories

Books > Biography & Autobiography > Literary
Books > Biography & Autobiography > Women
Books > Literary Criticism > Women Authors

 
BookPage Reviews

Well Read: Charlotte's Passion

Does the world need another biography of Charlotte Brontë? The life stories of the genius behind Jane Eyre and her eccentric siblings have been told many times before, most recently in Juliet Barker’s massive The Brontës. In the case of Claire Harman’s Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, which arrives in conjunction with the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth, the answer is a resounding yes. Harman has written a lively, compulsively readable biography that illuminates the eldest surviving Brontë sister in a new light. Humanizing Brontë by exploring her rich inner life, as well as her interactions with her family and the world, this welcome book recasts the writer not as “poor Charlotte” but as an intelligent, passionate woman.

Charlotte’s story is inseparable from her singular family’s, so it is inevitable that her father, Patrick, her brother, Branwell, and her younger sisters, Emily and Anne, share much of the narrative (her mother died when Charlotte was 5, and her two older sisters a few years after that, leaving Charlotte the sometimes unenviable role of eldest). Indeed, Harman suggests that it was the intensely close relationship between the four children, played out in near isolation, which spurred their imaginative storytelling abilities. Their father, a parson, indulged his children’s peculiarities, and none of them was particularly suited to functioning in the wider world beyond the parsonage. Charlotte would prove the most adept at making a living, although she seems to have despised every moment spent working as a teacher or a governess. This disenchantment, of course, would provide much of the narrative fuel for Jane Eyre.

Not unexpectedly, Brontë’s greatest and most beloved novel, autobiographical in many ways, permeates the life story that Harman reconstructs here, and she also offers sharp insights into the real-life origins of Emily’s Wuthering Heights, Anne’s Agnes Grey and Charlotte’s three other novels as well. Harman celebrates the eldest Brontë’s achievement as a writer, pointing out that she was the first novelist to use a first-person child narrator and to dramatize the injustices of childhood. Contemporary readers were bowled over by this innovation, Harman says. Readers almost two centuries later are no less enraptured. The love story at the heart of Jane Eyre has its parallel in Charlotte’s own life. While teaching at a girl’s school in Brussels, the 26-year-old avowed spinster fell in love with a married professor. It was unrequited, and certainly nothing on the grand scale of passion that would simmer between the fictional Jane and Rochester, but Charlotte transformed this raw material into one of the most enduring, complicated love stories of all time, because that is what geniuses do.

In researching and writing Charlotte Brontë, Harman had access to letters never before available, and she has drawn on previous scholarship with a fresh eye. Harman is herself a gifted story-teller, writing with a congenial flair and eschewing the syntactical convolutions that many literary biographers employ. The result is a sparkling biography that reads with the ease of a novel and will compel the reader to return not only to Charlotte’s masterwork, but to those singular works of genius the other Brontës left us, too.

 

This article was originally published in the March 2016 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

 
BAM Customer Reviews