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The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte Paperback – June 30, 2009
"Neverworld Wake" by Marisha Pessl
Read the absorbing new psychological suspense thriller from acclaimed New York Times bestselling author Marisha Pessl. Learn more
“I DID NOT WANT THIS STORY TO END. For fans of biographical tales and romance, Syrie’s story of Charlotte offers it all: longing and yearning, struggle and success, the searing pain of immeasurable loss, and the happiness of a love that came unbidden and unsought.” (Jane Austens World)
“Faithful to the writer’s language, time, and place. This is BOUND TO FASCINATE admirers of the doomed Brontës.” (Library Journal)
“James takes the biography of Brontë and sketches it into a work of art … The availability of specific, passionate details is what gives the book its main pull … A CAN’T-MISS NOVEL for Brontë fans and historical fiction buffs alike.” (Sacramento Book Review)
“AN ENCHANTING LOVE STORY FOR CHARLOTTE BRONTE … 5 stars. An excellent combination of truth and conjecture that is a gratifying and magnetizing read! … I love [James’s] reverent and precise representation of these beloved authors. Her graceful story telling is seamless and entertaining. I highly recommend this novel.” (Austenesque Reviews)
“You will never look at the Brontë sisters as mere writers again. The passion, intelligence, mystery, and perfection that these minds shared was astounding. Talk about a gifted family... you’ll love it.” (Once Upon A Romance)
5 STARS. A meticulously researched account of Charlotte Bronte’s life. The author … brought Charlotte to life as an intelligent, feisty, passionate woman. Charlotte’s romance with Arthur Nicholls was also convincing. I liked how the author showed the source of many scenes and Rochester himself from Jane Eyre.” (Library Thing)
“James’s extensive research . . . shows all throughout the book. . . ?The style imitates Charlotte Brontë‘s . . . [James’s] non-linear structure works surprisingly well, as she places each flashback at the precise relevant moment … READERS WILL BE GLUED TO ITS PAGES FROM START TO FINISH.” (Bronte Blog)
“This reconstruction of Ms. Brontë‘s life is done with such creativity and realism that it’s hard to imagine this is “not” what happened. . . By the end, the reader feels a real kinship with not only Charlotte, but all of the Brontës... A MUST BUY for Brontë-ites!” (Romance Junkies)
“I REALLY THOROUGHLY, HEARTILY ENJOYED THIS CELEBRATION OF BRONTE’S LIFE and developing romance with Arthur Bell Nichols. Anyone who’s ever peeked at a Bronte letter, or stole into Charlotte’s Juvenalia, or re-read those parts in Jane Eyre, will find in this work not a stranger, but a welcoming friend.” (A Fair Substitute For Heaven)
“WRITTEN VERY MUCH IN THE STYLE OF THE HEROINE’S NOVELS... The story is well researched and closely follows the events of Charlotte’s life, subtly interweaving her personalized view of the situations … Captures all the heartache and triumphs of the independent and creative spirit Charlotte Bronte must have been.” (Romance Reviews Today)
About the Author
Syrie James is the bestselling author of the critically acclaimed Nocturne; Dracula, My Love; The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Great Group Read, Women's National Book Association; Audie Romance Award, 2011), and the international bestseller The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen (Best First Novel 2008, Library Journal.) Translation rights for Syrie's books have been sold in sixteen languages. An admitted Anglophile, Syrie loves paranormal romance and all things 19th century. She lives in Los Angeles and is a member of the Writer's Guild of America.
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Syrie James gave life, once more, to Charlotte Bronte by expertly combining her correspondence, journal entries and verified facts with barely adding fictional twists. Thus, revealing Charlotte’s private and intimate life. The story is narrated in first person which enhanced the reading experience. It’s, as if, Charlotte herself had written her own memoir because it’s from her own perspective. Her sensibility is palpable all along the novel.
"The story you are about to read is true. Charlotte’s life story is so fascinating, that I was able to spin the tale based almost entirely on fact, conjecturing only where I deemed necessary to enhance dramatic conflict or to fill in gaps in the history, and adding selected comments and footnotes for clarification."
James, Syrie (2009-06-23). The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Kindle Locations 114-117). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
In "The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte", we witness, at first, the close and special family bond among the Bronte sisters (Emily, Anne and Charlotte). Even though, at the beginning, they were reserved of each other personal turmoils, deceptions in life and even kept secrets from each other; they became closer and united, specially, in their writing endeavors. Thus publishing their compilation of poems together :
"Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell, 1846"
James, Syrie (2009-06-23). The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Kindle Locations 7873-7874). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
We also follow along how each of the sisters grew in their writing and what influenced them in their own novels. The Bronte sisters had a wonderful collaboration. Charlotte became the most successful of the Bronte sisters. One, due to the immediate success of "Jane Eyre" and second, because Charlotte survived longer despite dying at the young age of 39. Moreover, Charlotte was devoted to her father since her mother passed away at a young age. Her brother Branwell’ alcoholic problems were discussed here and we witnessed the suffering it brought to the family. Prior to the worsening of his battle against alcoholism, Branwell had a significant impact in building Charlotte’s confidence about writing. He believed in her and encouraged her to write.
Apart from the Bronte family, one of my favorite storyline of the entire novel, was Charlotte’s relationship with her father’s curate, Mr. Nicholls. This is the main event that got me totally immersed and which caught me by surprise. The tension, Mr. Nicholls’ longing and Charlotte’s indecision was palpable all along. Charlotte’s writing of her feelings on marriage and about her solitude are feelings anyone can relate to. Mr. Nicholls represented the ideal husband, at least, for me.
"aware that I was doubly blest: not only was I married to one of the best of men—a loving partner with whom I could share all the joys and concerns of everyday life—but I knew now that I would never again be alone where my writing was concerned."
James, Syrie (2009-06-23). The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte (Kindle Locations 7315-7316). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.
My least favorite part was her relationship with Monsieur Heger. I don’t want to give away any more specifics but suffice to say that I could not stand him. We can all attest of his influence on Charlotte’ affections for those who have already read "Jane Eyre". This leads to the only aversion I had in this novel. I felt that Charlotte never addressed the wrongdoing of her feelings but rather was caught up in the shame. I think there is a big gap from recognizing one’s fault versus one seeking refuge in our disappointments. Again, I don’t want to say any more. You have to read the novel.
In addition, we come to the knowledge of the limitations of opportunities for women at that time. Marriage was the primary vocation for women. Universities were not accepting women yet. There were not many publications done by women which influenced the Bronte sisters to publish under pseudonyms. Charlotte was an independent woman for her times and despite all, accomplished a lot. However, I don’t view her as a feminist.
Charlotte’s life story was tragic and it saddened me for all they went though and how it all ended. I was surprised to see how much their life experiences influenced their writing. Even though I strongly recommend the audio because the talent of this narrator is outstanding in the performance of all the characters, I also recommend the novel. It includes a set of extra materials ( letters of Charlotte, selection of poems). "The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte" has convinced me to read all the novels of the Bronte sisters that I have not read yet. In terms of reading this novel, I think it’s best if you read, at least, two of their most famous novels: "Wuthering Heights" and "Jane Eyre". Otherwise you will know some of the plot without having read their novels.
The author firmly keeps her stride as we read along, the pace picks up and the conversations are more intimate, often more heartbreaking. At Roe Head School where she is sent at age thirteen, Charlotte has trouble fitting in with the more affluent pupils and is called ugly right to her face. Charlotte with her old fashioned clothes, her naturally beautiful brown hair primped up, her great near-sighted eyes which could not see the ball in any games always hovering over a book held in front of her nose, became admired as a story teller. The girls hide in the dark after hours to hear her spin her scary tales. She also walks away with every scholastic prize offered. Charlotte makes three life-long friends at Roe Head: Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor and Margaret Wooler.
Charlotte's diaries are particularly effective in her descriptions of her disintegrating brother Branwell, who drunk and doped with opium, bewails his fate in not being able to marry his love, Mrs. Robinson, in whose household he served as tutor for several years. Charlotte, especially, is disgusted with Branwell for giving in to an impossible, illicit relationship.
The second part of the diaries concerns Charlotte's and Emily's sojourn in Brussels where the girls will study French and teach English at the Pensionnat Heger, a finishing school for young ladies. The character of M. Heger is closely patterned after that of M. Paul Emmanuel in "Villette" which comes as close as anything Charlotte wrote to an autobiography. In "Villette" M. Heger is M. Paul, and author James carries on that tradition and does it well. When their Aunt Branwell dies back in Haworth, the girls are obliged to leave, but Charlotte returns to the Pensionnat alone. She falls deeply in love with the married Constantin Heger. Madam Heger eventually realizes Charlotte loves her husband and things get so unpleasant, Charlotte is forced to leave for Haworth again.
Poor Charlotte remains in thrall two years in unrequited love for the professor and haunts the mail, praying for letters from him. He writes her five very proper letters and these become a shrine. Charlotte suffers terribly, trying to suppress her emotions while hiding them from her family. A consummated affair is unthinkable and besides Heger is not in love with Charlotte, which compounds the agony. Charlotte's sufferings break the surface of her reserve in her diaries where she can speak frankly. Author James handles Charlotte's infatuation with great skill. It is, of course a classic case of unrequited love but Charlotte manages to plow her feelings under, and nobody, not Emily, not Anne, not Papa, not her friends, are aware of what Constantin Heger means to Charlotte Bronte.
Charlotte has to sweat it out alone but perhaps even she does not realize that Heger, a superb teacher who believed in her genius, is the catalyst that launched forth the stream of words and ideas that form themselves into her great novels. Charlotte knows what love is and her experiences fashion the characters of Mr. Rochester and M. Paul Emmanuel.
The Diaries become intensely sad but Charlotte is never lugubrious or self-pitying as Branwell, Emily and Anne all die. Slowly, slowly Charlotte begins to realize her salvation lives right next door. Mr. Nicholls has loved her for years and he has been waiting a long time for her. Papa objects, but true love will always find a way through thicket and thistles. Charlotte must exorcize a demon- the five letters of Constantin Heger. She screws them up and tucks them into a jar, closing the lid tightly over them. She carries the jar out on the moors to the base of an old tree. Peeling back the moss that covers the roots, she plunges the jar deep down into a hole in the trunk then carefully rearranges the moss over the grave. She is emotionally free. She is now a world famous author and although she doesn't yet know it, her heart is about to soar.
"Diary, I married him" as author James mischievously starts the final chapters. We feel happiness for Charlotte who has finally found bliss. It will not last - only nine months of married life are allotted her. Arthur Bell Nicholls gives Charlotte happiness, and that is a big thing. "Diaries" will tug at your heartstrings and plop you right on the moors to witness the extraordinary life of Charlotte Bronte. Highly recommended.