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Showing 1-10 of 74 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 84 reviews
on April 27, 2015
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 Branwell families as a whole and their friends and acquaintances. Regardless of contrary opinions, I believe most people can agree that Ms. Barker is unquestionably one, if not the most, accomplished expert on the Bronte family at the present time. Through her meticulous research and well documented conclusions, Ms. Barker provides aspects of the Bronte family that will help the reader understand them better than anything previously written, including the highly respected biography of Charlotte by Elizabeth Gaskell. In addition, the book is a joy to read, due to its organization and flow. Consequently, in many cases, it reads like a novel, keeping the readers interest piqued throughout almost every aspect and season of the lives of this very interesting family. After reading this very detailed and prodigious volume I may not be an expert on the Brontes, but I feel that I know them better and can hold a much more cultivated discussion regarding them than previously. For anyone who has the curiosity regarding the Bronte family, the desire to know an alternate view of family members than has been previously understood, and the fortitude to read this daunting volume, I highly recommend this book. You will not be sorry.
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on May 9, 2016
Ms Barker's sizeable effort is more than impressive but only takes off around page 600 when the reasons for the Bronte fame are published; up to that point the book is somewhat tabulatory. The story of this family makes one rue the deterioration of literacy since their day but at the same time we can only be grateful for the scientists who have in the interim given us modern health care. How wistfully one reads the literary levels of those far-off heroines but how compassionately one learns of their suffering, with diseases now more or less extinct.
The level of English displayed by the Brontes and their peers (as well as Ms.Barker to be fair) shows how limited our standard of communication has become but then again the fact that old man Bronte outlived all six of his children reminds us stunningly of our physical advantages. The linguistic dexterity of the book’s participants contrasts with their physical discomfort and inconvenience -- I wanted to take all the people in the book home to care for them -- and how I would have loved to have seen the genius in the eyes of the Bronte women, regardless of how pretty they apparently weren’t. What a family. What beings.
But a sad tale overall. The lady’s closeness to God was understandable; their preoccupation with the hereafter figured highly for good reason while ours in more comfortable times has collapsed into just the here and now. We are different people from this quiet, long-lost species of the Nineteenth century.
Ms. Barker is heavy on documentation but light on style – she doesn’t convey too much drama or spectacle in her sterling effort – maybe there wasn’t any in this legendary story but I still think she fails to impart the scale of the Brontes.
Out of the bleak and humdrum came the beauteous and brilliant, out of the inconsequential came the wondrous, out of plain, unnoticed females came novels of insight that reached to the edge of human sensibility, and from the backwater of the drab Yorkshire moors came awarenesses beyond that of the London glitterati. Whoever felt more longingly and unrequitedly than these wonderful girls? The magnitude and histrionics don’t really come across in the book but with an account so comprehensively told it is obviously up to us to infer the wonder of it all. Maybe that’s why it’s Ms. Barker writing about the Brontes rather than the other way round, maybe she leaves all the thunder to them. Or maybe I ask too much, but while I now know a lot more about Charlotte, Emily and Anne they were never quite brought into my living room, tome or no tome. I still miss them though. I really do.
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on October 5, 2012
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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on January 12, 2013
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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on July 21, 2016
Several reviews that I read before purchasing the book questioned Juliet Barker's biography of the Bronte family. They favored the biography of Charlotte written shortly after her death. I'm glad that I chose to make up my own mind about the book for I was impressed by how thoroughly and carefully Barker researched her subjects. I can't even imagine how much time reading all the newspapers must have taken. Her research allows the reader a much fuller knowledge of England in the nineteenth century.

I highly recommend this book to students of literature and to those who are fans of the Brontes' works. I am neither but enjoyed reading it. However it was, at times, not an easy read. I imagine that those who are looking to pass a few days in pleasant reading could become overwhelmed by the amount of information Barker reviews. At times I had to put the book aside and read a lighter one, because I found the accounts of the juvenilia tedious. Nevertheless, for those who are students of the Bronte family's writings I suspect the juvenilia could be fascinating.

The trouble caused by celebrity is well displayed. That portion of the book will probably stick with me long after I have forgotten many of the facts in the book. Similarly, I was touched by Patrick Bronte's life as a clergyman. His zeal to improve the lives of his congregation (especially the poor), his many years of service to the church, and the incredible amount of work required of a clergyman in those days struck me as remarkable .

I found Anne's poetry to be delightful. I will probably try to find a copy of her books to read.

If I had it to do over, I would purchase a hard cover book rather than the kindle book. Since the illustrations are not described until after the end of the book, you miss a lot by not wanting to scroll and scroll and scroll. Also it wasn't clear to me if the plates 1 & 2 are available on the kindle book.
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on January 20, 2017
There is little predictable and just a few surprises here, although, brother Branwell offers some unexpected twists
This is an extremely well researched biography of the Bronte family and their talent for writing novels and poetry. I was concerned about the length but soon found myself turning pages at great speed. Perfect for a Kindle since the book is too heavy to carry anywhere.
Set in early 18th Century rural England it is very descriptive of the life and times of middle class families of that time, none of whom enjoyed the creature comforts we have today. Besides the family we are given a wonderfully detailed synopsis of daily life that will make any reader grateful to be living in the 21st Century. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has enjoyed any of their novels or has ever been curious about any of the Brontes. I think you'll be surprised.
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This mammoth biography explores the Brontes' history in exquisite detail. Barker has dug far beyond the usual surface treatment one expects in a historical biography. I bought the book on Kindle without realizing its size and was more than a little overwhelmed at first, especially during the interminable early chapters about the father Patrick Bronte's early life and loves. But once Charlotte and Co. show up, the depth of Barker's research becomes not only an invaluable tool for understanding these classic authors and the times they lived in, but also fascinating reading. I can't remember the last time I felt so immersed in a historical period and so well-informed about a historical personage.
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on November 26, 2012
Even though this family history is long and full of detail, I can honestly report that it's a page turner, absolutely. Much of the Bronte mythology remains intact - those wild sisters and one even wilder brother wandering the moors thinking up great stories - still the much harder, more mundane facts emerge, some quite startling. Patrick Bronte turns out to have been a scholar and a gentleman, a man of liberal beliefs and great strength of mind. No wonder he had such children!

The benighted Branwell was much more successful as a writer than we knew, possibly because his sisters outshone him. Still, he lived as he died, in trouble all the way.

More than anything, the stunning heroism of the sisters Emily, Anne, and Charlotte really does wring the heart. They saw so much of death and heartbreak, and yet they not only struggled but prevailed. The magnificent Charlotte, alone at the last (except for her father) finally married, and, it would appear, achieved great happiness.

This is a superb book and a great achievement for the author, Juliet Barker.
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on March 14, 2015
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. This is the best book out there for anyone who is interested in learning about the Bronte family, their books, the inspirations for those books or all 3 or even just for an interesting read. I'm just reading this book for fun. It's just like eating junk food......once I start eating a bag of cheese curls I can't put them down and I eat the whole bag! Get this book! It's better to read than to eat a whole bag of cheese curls......who needs to eat cheese curls if they get bored if they have a good book to read?! Whether for school or for fun?! Bravo!
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on September 10, 2012
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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