Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall…these fictional masterpieces are all recognised as landmarks of English Literature. Still inspirational and challenging to readers today, upon release in the mid-nineteenth century they caused a veritable sensation, chiefly due to their subject matter and unconventional styles. But the greatest sensation of all came when these books were revealed to be the creations of women.
This is the story of those women and of the forces that shaped them into trailblazing writers.
From early childhood, literature and the world of books held the attention and sparked the fertile imaginations of the emotionally intense and fascinating Bronte siblings. Beset by tragedy, three outlets existed for their grief and their creative talents; they escaped into books, into the wild moorlands surrounding their home and into their own rich inner lives and an intricate play-world born of their collective imaginations.
In this new study, Catherine Rayner offers a full and fascinating exploration of the formative years of these bright children, taking us on a journey from their earliest years to their tragically early deaths. The Bronte girls grew into women who were unafraid to write themselves into territories previously only visited by male authors. In addition, they tackled all the taboo subjects of their time; divorce, child abuse, bigamy, domestic violence, class, female depression and mental illness. Nothing was beyond their scope and it is especially for this ability and determination to speak for women, the marginalised and the disadvantaged that they are remembered and celebrated today, two hundred years after their births in the quiet Yorkshire village of Haworth.
This timely release offers a fresh perspective on a fascinating family and a unique trio of talented and trailblazing sisters whose books will doubtless continue to haunt and inspire for generations to come.
Catherine Rayner sets before us the cultural, societal and family background which gave birth to three writing sisters. She looks at each and considers how they helped shape the lives and minds of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë and how they helped shape their writing which in turn reflected their lives and thinking.
The hardship of life in the times to which they were born may only have touched them indirectly here and there but the hierarchy of society was felt directly, especially as women, this and the heartbreak of loss suffered throughout their relatively short lives was so strongly imprinted in them that it could not but influence their writing. Catherine Rayner explores how this manifests in their youth and as adults.
I would say that the author goes into a fair bit of detail when considering the writing of the sisters so, if you haven’t read one of their books, perhaps skip that section until you do.
Much has been written about the Brontë sisters, indeed the family, and this will be a fine addition to them.
With thanks to Pen and Sword Ltd via NetGalley for an eARC of this book in return for an honest opinion.
Publisher: Pen and Sword Ltd
Paperback Published: 28th February 2018
Social History / Women of History
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Trailblazing Women
Author: Catherine Rayner is a Life Member of The Bronte Society, a Trustee on the Council of the Bronte Society and the Chair of its Conference and Publications Committee. She studied at Hull and Leeds Universities and has degrees in English and Philosophy with Social History, Health and Social Care, and an MA in Victorian Literature. She has studied and researched the lives of the Brontë family for over forty years, and has previously written two theses on Emily Brontë, as well as various articles. Alongside this, she is a qualified nurse and has studied the effects of childhood on the development and psychology of adults.
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