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The Brontės: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of Three Sisters [Kindle Edition]

Juliet Barker
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

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Book Description

In a revised and updated edition, the real story of the Brontë sisters, by distinguished scholar and historian Juliet Barker
The story of the tragic Brontë family is familiar to everyone: we all know about the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel of a brother, wildly romantic Emily, unrequited Anne, and “poor Charlotte.” Or do we? These stereotypes of the popular imagination are precisely that—imaginary—created by amateur biographers like Elizabeth Gaskell who were primarily novelists and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of genius.
Juliet Barker’s landmark book is the first definitive history of the Brontës. It demolishes the myths, yet provides startling new information that is just as compelling—but true. Based on firsthand research among all the Brontë manuscripts and among contemporary historical documents never before used by Brontë biographers, this book is both scholarly and compulsively readable.
The Brontës is a revolutionary picture of the world’s favorite literary family.

Editorial Reviews


“As a work of scholarship it is brilliant. For those with a passion for the Brontës, or for Victoriana, it is a stupendous read.” —The Independent on Sunday

"Barker's updated and enthralling biography of the Brontes carries us deeper into the everyday realities of their strange world, and elicits sympathy for their father, who, alone, lived on to old age and to witness the transformation of his family history into the stuff of lurid legend." —Fresh Air

About the Author

Juliet Barker, author of Agincourt and other critically acclaimed works of history and biography, has a PhD in history from Oxford University and was for six years a curator of the Brontë Parsonage Museum at Haworth. She has been involved with all recent research into the Brontës and has made many major new finds that are revealed for the first time in this book.

Product Details

  • File Size: 2917 KB
  • Print Length: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus Books (August 7, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B008MFH86Y
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #165,859 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
48 of 54 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well done, with some reservations October 28, 2012
Barker puts a lot of energy into righting prior biographers' missteps--certainly an important undertaking, but sometimes her efforts lead her down a less-than-ideal path. (Not having read a Bronte bio before, not even Gaskell's, I had no false impressions to correct.) She seems intent on salvaging the brother's reputation and painting Charlotte as selfish and unkind. She'll say Charlotte was "in a rage" or "hostile" but the letter she quotes as evidence doesn't support that judgment. Unacquainted as I am with Bronte family legend, I don't know if she's making an effort to correct a falsely glowing impression previously painted of Charlotte. She does say that biographers have been unfair to Branwell, the brother, and to Patrick Bronte, the father, both of whom had been painted with jaundiced brushes.

It's quite an accomplishment, bringing together all this information and painstakingly organizing it--I can't imagine the time and effort that went into this book. My primary complaint is that the book teems with far-fetched judgments (though a few seem insightful). It's par for the course for biographers to assume and imagine, but I prefer less reading-between-the-lines when it amounts to mere supposition. For instance, she'll assert that so-and-so "must have been there that night." Well not necessarily, maybe so-and-so was sick or out of town or otherwise indisposed. She'll read a motive into someone's actions when she has no way of knowing how that person was feeling, tending to be sympathetic with some people and surprisingly harsh with others. She goes too far when attacking certain individuals, for instance an old school friend of Charlotte's is pilloried by the end of the book.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, too much irrelevant detail January 12, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I'm disappointed in this book because I expected more insight into the writing lives of the Bronte sisters, however this scholarly book deals more with the life of their father, Patrick and their very early childhood. The author goes into excruciating detail about Patrick's early life, his religious beliefs, where he was assigned as a pastor, what each church looked like, who said what to whom about his assignment etc. The author did a lot of research and used every single bit of it, resulting in an overwhelming amount of detail and distracting information. Much of the book covers the years leading up to Patrick's marriage to the doomed Maria. I didn't see how this related to the development of the Bronte sisters' genius. Many of the quotes from letters and documents could have been left out. The book covers Patrick's marriage to Maria, the birth of their children, her death, and the girls' experience at Cowan Bridge school, which would become the notorious Lowood School in Jane Eyre. Most authorities acknowledge that Cowan Bridge was the basis for Lowood, so that isn't new information.
I was hoping for more insight into the adult lives and creative genius of The Bronte sisters. To be honest I quit about 3/4 of the way through, something I never do, since at that point it was clear the Brontes' writing years were not going to covered in much, if any detail. The author argues successfully with several of the claims of Mrs. Gaskill's book on the Bronte sisters. She does provide details about the Cowan Bridge School to which the girls were sent, and which caused the deaths of young Maria and Elizabeth.

You will like this book if you are interested in the life of a minister in rural England in the early 1800's, but I didn't think that the author made many connections between the Brontes childhood and their adult creative genius.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Juliet Barker's updated biography is over a staggering one thousand pages; all containing impeccable research on The Brontes. Her writing is dense, collegiate, extremely well researched dripping with admiration and respect for this family. Anyone wanting to get to know The Brontes owes Ms. Barker a debt of gratitude! She traces their lineage then writes a chronological retelling of The Bronte Family beginning with clan patriarch Rev. Patrick Bronte through to the entire life and death of all six of his children until the death of Rev. Bronte. The notes section in the back of the book is not to be missed and is most likely the size of a small novel itself! The photographs and sketches are wonderful as well.

I highly recommend this beautifully written biography to any person who has read any Bronte novel and fallen in love with the story and characters, to anyone who wants to visit Yorkshire and walk along the moors, to anyone who wants to satisfy their curiosity about who this talented family were. Please don't be put off by the sheer size of the biography, it is to be savored and lingered over maybe even perhaps kept as a reference book.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous book; Kindle format, ?? October 5, 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read this book in the first edition and am very glad to have an updated version I can get on my Kindle. However the Kindle edition leaves me with a question or two... NO TABLE OF CONTENTS?? In a book this size, why no TOC with clickable links? I was reading it from the library when I decided to buy it, and I can't just go to the TOC and click to the chapter where I was reading. Also since it is a work of scholarship, not just a story, people might want to refer back to something specific and need a TOC and/or an index to get to it, neither of which seem to have made it into this version. And if there are no illustrations in a Kindle edition, this should be disclosed up front before you buy it and find out you can't see the plates. So, if I could give it a 5 for the book and a 3 for the edition I would do that... so average out to 4... Edited to add... Not sure why the print book is called "Story of a Literary Family" and the Kindle book is called "Story of Three Sisters" - this is odd, it's not just the story of the sisters...
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A Masterful Accomplishment and One that Should not be Avoided by...
The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors by Juliet Barker was, in my opinion, a masterful accomplishment and a moving study of, not only, the three Bronte sisters, but the Bronte and... Read more
Published 29 days ago by JRPCPA
5.0 out of 5 stars read this book!
I've only had this book for an hour and I'm already on page 28! Talk about a good read. This book grabbed me from the second I started reading it. Read more
Published 2 months ago by possum
4.0 out of 5 stars Great biography and social history
The definitive Bronte group biography, and a good corrective to Elizabeth Gaskell's, which still gets cited as unbiased, which it is not, as this books makes clear. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Debra Monroe
4.0 out of 5 stars Delicious Detail worth the read with occasional Author opinion
I've just finished reading Juliet Barker's nearly 1,000 page biography on the Bronte Family. I'm exhausted, but then the book is exhaustive on the subject. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Catgirl
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is a product extensive research into the lives and the...
This is a book for English majors and others who enjoy reading the minutia of literary lives and the environment which produced them. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Bookworm
4.0 out of 5 stars IINTERESTING!
E njoyted story of the whole family. It was a little too long and had too many notes at the end. Such a talented family None too soon.
Published 9 months ago by Ann Stephenson
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is wonderful: thoroughly researched and fascinating
This book is wonderful: thoroughly researched and fascinating. It is also sad and also very long. It took me two months of diligent reading to complete. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Sally Morehouse
5.0 out of 5 stars For Bronte lovers
Amazingly comprehensive, yet very readable.
Published 10 months ago by bookgrrl
5.0 out of 5 stars The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors by, Juliet Barker: A Min-Review
The Brontes have fascinated me as both women and writers, ever since I first discovered their writings when I was in my last year of high school, way back when. Read more
Published 11 months ago by M. szymanski
4.0 out of 5 stars The Brontes
I have wanted to read this book since it was first published, and I have to agree with the others who say that this is very tedious reading. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mary Kathryn Wilson
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