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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Novel Of The Gifted Bronte Siblings, May 17, 2005
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This review is from: Dark Quartet: The Story of the Brontes (Hardcover)
"Dark Quartet" is a well written, insightful, fictional biography of Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne Bronte. The lives of these gifted and creative siblings can easily compete in drama, and intensity, with those of the characters in their gothic novels. Raised on the bleak Pennine moors of West Yorkshire, their home at Haworth Parsonage could be the setting for "Jane Eyre," "Wuthering Heights" or "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall." Indeed, their beloved moors had much to do with the formation of their very characters. In beautiful weather, the dun and purple heathered countryside, with its vast spaces, is beautiful and dramatic. However, this is a place where the sun rarely shines, and there is a dark, brooding, almost sinister quality about the landscape. The almost total silence is occasionally broken by the song of the skylark or the call of the curlew. This solitary, raw, harsher beauty is spectacular in it own way, and has inspired many artists and writers. It is a setting that Emily never wanted to leave. In fact it grieved her so much to be elsewhere, that she was not able to complete her studies away from home. She would walk the countryside in all weather, with her dogs, and seemed to find sustenance there.

Their's is a tragic story, so many lives and so much talent snuffed out so soon. Branwell, aged 31, Emily, 30, and Anne, 29. died within a year of each other. One can only imagine Charlotte's grief at being the last living child of Patrick and Maria Branwell Bronte. They were all frail, fey children, who tended to be extremely introverted, although vivacious and exuberant amongst themselves. The four spent much of their childhood and adolescence creating plays, writing epic poems and stories about fantasy worlds which seemed more real to them, at times, than everyday life.

Their mother died when Anne was just a baby and her sister, a harsh disciplinarian, came North to live and raise the six children. I can see something of this woman's character in Aunt Reed of "Jane Eyre." Maria, and Elizabeth, the oldest daughters, were sent away to school at the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge. A poor parson, Mr. Bronte thought the inexpensive school for girls was a Godsend. In fact, it was a miserable institute where the girls endured unbelievable privations. Maria died of tuberculosis as a result of her stay there, as did Elizabeth, a short time later.

Author Lynne Reid Banks, ("The L-Shaped Room"), paints an intimate and fascinating portrait of the remaining siblings, "The Dark Quartet." Much of their dialogue is taken from letters, which adds to the novel's richness and realism. The three young women were all published writers, and supported their family as such, using the noms de plume Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell. They wrote prolifically throughout their lifetimes. Their heroines were uniquely strong-willed and independent, unusual in an age when the law and society defined a married woman as a husband's property. Women were totally dependant upon their mates, or fathers, during this period, and could actually be locked away in asylums at a man's whim and convenience. Their heroes were inclined to be intense, brooding, often cruel - perhaps modeled after Branwell. The Bronte sisters were not afraid to write about violence, nor coarse, unacceptable behavior. Again, this candid, direct approach to literature was unusual, especially from female authors. Unfortunately, Branwell did not fare as well as his sisters. Indulged as a boy because of seizures and/or tantrums, he did show great promise as a writer and painter. However, his unfortunate life was cut short by dissipation due to drinking, drugs and severe depression.

I became interested in the biography of the Bronte's after reading Anne's "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall." Although I have long been a fan of Charlotte's and Emily's, I had no idea that there was a third such talent in the family. It amazes me that these three very young women, homebodies all, were able to probe the human drama so deeply, and with such sympathy.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating reading, July 18, 2000
LuAnn O'Connell (Pennsylvania, United States) - See all my reviews
Even if you had little interest in the Brontes, Lynn Reid Bank's story of their lives and relationships is compelling reading of a family and their sorrows and joys, successes and failures. By creating dialogue from letters they had written, the book makes them come to life. She gets into the heart of soul characters and protrays their differing personalities, ambitions and struggles. I heartily recommend this book, especially to fans of any of the Brontes.
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Dark Quartet: The Story of the Brontes
Dark Quartet: The Story of the Brontes by Lynne Reid Banks (Hardcover - Mar. 1977)
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