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The Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family Paperback – June 1, 2013


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 1184 pages
  • Publisher: Pegasus; 1 edition (June 1, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1605984590
  • ISBN-13: 978-1605984599
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6.4 x 2.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (54 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #460,958 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

“Barker’s updated and enthralling biography of the Brontës carries us deeper into the everyday realities of their strange world. The stuff of lurid legend.” (Maureen Corrigan, NPR's "Fresh Air")

“Definitive. Barker’s greatest service is to rescue the family of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne from myth, who were provided particularly hideous stereotypes by Charlotte’s first biographer, Elizabeth Gaskell. The doom and tragedy are there.” (The Daily Beat)

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 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.

Customer Reviews

So I found the book boring and did not finish reading it.
Avid Reader
In addition, she gives a fascinating historical perspective of life in early 19th century England.
Penny Barker
Suppositions are logical and the research and writing style nearly perfect.
FridaysChild

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

45 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Chris K.M. on October 28, 2012
Format: Hardcover
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 By CF on 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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Briochegal on 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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17 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Kimberly Eve on September 10, 2012
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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