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The Brontë Project: A Novel of Passion, Desire, and Good PR Hardcover – October 4, 2005

4.1 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vandever's irreverent debut novel dips into Victorian letters for inspiration, dredging up romantic angst to frame and foil a love story set in the age of new media. Sara Frost, a timid Charlotte Brontë scholar at a fictionalized New York university, is dragging her feet on both her engagement and her thesis, rooting around for Charlotte's vanished letters of unrequited love. The staid campus is roiled with the arrival of self-aggrandizing, firebrand Princess Diana scholar Claire Vigee. Sara's restive fiancé Paul, ignited by Claire's exhortations, bids her adieu and heads for Paris. Knocked off balance, Sara finds salvation in New Age narcissist Byrne Eammons, a film producer, who angles to spice up Charlotte's story for modern moviegoers. Drawn to Los Angeles and then Europe, Sara slowly finds her voice—determined not to suffer the fate of the "silent Victorian" she studies. Vandever, a screenwriter, sends up the pretensions of academia and the frippery of "infotainment," with its fast and loose readings of history. As Victorian romance runs up against pop psychology and banal reality, currents of love and longing unite past and present, but Vandever leavens Sara's self-discovery with liberal comic relief in this wickedly clever novel.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School–Sara Frost's life is not exciting, but she is happy with her research into Charlotte Brontë, her teaching assistantships, and her engagement to Paul. That predictability ends when vibrant and brash Claire Vigee joins the faculty of the English department. Suddenly, Paul is off to Europe, unsure of whether he wants the staid life that marriage seems to offer, and Sara is left picking up the pieces of her tattered romantic life. When Claire, bestselling author and self-proclaimed expert on Princess Diana, takes it upon herself to broaden Sara's horizons, Sara meets a slew of quirky characters. From the Hollywood film producer who is enamored with the idea of an upbeat Charlotte Brontë movie to eccentric Mr. Burke and Mr. Ives, who refuse to admit that the 19th century has ended, the young woman finds herself swept into a glossy world of hype and self-promotion. This first novel is a sometimes-sardonic, always-witty look at where scholarship ends and entertainment begins. Vandever's characterization is perceptive and the plot has twists and turns that will engage readers. The inclusion of excerpts from the writer's letters at the beginning of each chapter nicely parallels Sara's story, and the author cleverly weaves enough Brontë history into the plot to give readers a deep appreciation of the life of that literary family. The afterword gives pertinent information for those who seek to delve further.–Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Library System, VA
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 279 pages
  • Publisher: Crown; 1st edition (October 4, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307236919
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307236913
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,179,752 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Sara Frost is a lowly adjunct at an unnamed New York university. Her thoroughly unfashionable research centers on the lost letters of Victorian novelist Charlotte Brontë, a subject dear to Sara's heart that carries little weight among the powers in charge of renewing her fellowship. Sara's fiance Paul is also a literary scholar, but his research centers on masculine authors like George Orwell.

Into Paul and Sara's life tumbles media darling Claire Vigee, recipient of a teaching fellowship at the university, editor of a provocative feminist journal, author of two successful books (one of which features a nude photo of its author), and pioneer in the field of Diana (as in the Princess of Wales) studies. Claire is everything Sara is not --- loud, brash, successful, sexy --- and she successfully engineers Paul's questioning of his stable relationship with Sara and his departure for France, where he is soon dating a swimsuit model with a Fulbright fellowship.

Sara's not sure how she feels about being left behind while Paul pursues his passion, but she doesn't have to wonder for long. An accidental meeting with Hollywood producer Byrne Emmons thrusts Sara into a whirlwind of yoga classes, facials, script meetings, temperamental actresses --- and a thoroughly L.A. relationship with Mr. Emmons himself. It turns out that Hollywood might be interested in a film about Charlotte Brontë's life, but when Sara is hired as a consultant she's hesitant about compromising her scholarly ideals for a good story. What's more, her relationship with Byrne might satisfy her romantic fantasies, but it still leaves her feeling empty inside.
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Format: Hardcover
Really good plot for a novel which borders on chick-lit but has much more depth to it. Sara Frost is a Bronte-expert (lots of interesting tidbits about the Bronte family in book too) whose fiance, Paul (the loser) leaves her to find himself in Paris for a year. In the meanwhile, Sara goes in search of lost Bronte letters and travels herself, in literary circles. I kept being reminded of Dorothy Parker's life of pen as well.

This novel flows and makes the reader want more literature for the soul by the end. Super debut!
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Format: Hardcover
Fans of the Brontes and those who like their chick lit satirical will enjoy screenwriter Vandever's debut, a good-natured spoof of academia, celebrity, Hollywood, and romance.

The novel opens at a fateful academic party, where Bronte scholar Sara Frost and her fiancée Paul are sipping cheap merlot and eyeing the door. Sara's position at a New York university is foundering on the dwindling prospects of her beloved research project - a search for the lost letters of Charlotte Bronte.

The party perks up when the faculty's newest addition, celebrity author Claire Vigee sweeps through the door. Claire, a Princess Di expert, "was like the anti-Sara....Sara favored the practical and the classic in clothing and colors that, as her mother liked to point out, occurred naturally in bruises - blacks, grays, and blues - while Claire went for the blatantly trendy and expensive. On Claire even black looked red."

Sara hates Claire and has ever since she mistakenly appeared on a controversy-seeking panel Claire organized and was dubbed "the silent Victorian," for her dignified reticence. Her enmity only increases when she spies Claire flirting outrageously (the only way she does anything) with Paul.

"Sara had fallen in love with Paul when she was very young. It was difficult, too. Hearts had to be broken for their love to be satisfied. They had been together for six years - most of that living together - and now were going to be married during the winter break, all of which ignored superstition and certain Bronte admonitions regarding (1) living together, (2) long engagements, (3) winter marriages, and (4) falling in love before the wedding, certainly before a half year of marriage.
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Format: Hardcover
What a wonderful book, a perfect respite from flakey and shallow heroines. A perfect mix of literature crossed with chick lit. I wanted more!
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Format: Paperback
I waited about a week after reading the novel to sort my thoughts and write this review. I hold Charlotte Bronte (and her sisters) in high regard. Thus when I received The Bronte Project as a gift and read the chick-lit-sounding cover flap, I shuddered and worried and set the book on a shelf (for a year). While (finally) reading, I was pleasantly surprised that Jennifer Vandever did a great job with her research of the Brontes, did a great job with her plot, and did a great job of telling the story.

Vandever made Sara Frost out to be a sympathetic, wimpy, get-on-with-it-would-you-please kind of doormat at the beginning of the book who goes through a welcome character arc (I won't give it ALL away). She made Paul out to be the kind of idiotic moron you want to emasculate. She made the viper Claire Vigee out to be the shallow sort of feminist-wannabe that too many English departments hire these days in hopes of attracting more students (read: more tuition dollars). Plot twists that you saw coming a mile away twisted back on themselves (Claire's baby's "father", the accident toward the end of the book - again, I won't give it ALL away) to make you say "Aha! Nice twist!"

I enjoyed the jokes. I enjoyed the allusions to literature. I loved the Bronte epigraphs from letters and works, which were well-chosen to fit the theme of the chapters and showed the thought Vandever put into this project. She cared what she was doing when she wrote this novel. And for that, I commend her.

If you're looking for a history lesson on the Bronte family, this isn't it. Charlotte's story is abbreviated and woven in carefully.
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