Classic NonFiction Review: The Life of Charlotte Bronte

The Life of Charlotte Bronte by Elizabeth Gaskell

The Life of Charlotte Bronte
by Elizabeth GaskellAlan Shelston
5 out of 5 stars

Charlotte Bronte was truly an extraordinary individual. This biography written by her friend Elizabeth Gaskell is a powerful history of the tragic life the Bronte sisters led. Their strong personalities and steady faith drew them closer together, and provided the genius for their incredible writing.

I loved reading about the eccentric Bronte family, and the close relationships between the siblings. Their isolated home among the moors of Yorkshire inspired similar vigorous settings for many of their books. It was interesting to see how their personal experiences led to fictional creations like the terrible Lowood School in ‘Jane Eyre’ or the awful governess situation in ‘Agnes Grey’. There are many parallels from their real lives to their writing.

The writing is really gripping and easy to read, and I loved that so much of the text is excerpts from Charlotte’s own letters. I especially like this edition with the extensive notes and appendices that elaborate on more of the history, and also explain Mrs. Gaskell’s decisions to leave out certain aspects of the Bronte’s lives to protect other people’s privacy.

I cried several times while reading this book, especially at the tragic death scenes. It really is emotional to read about such a close and fierce love between the Bronte sisters, and then when Emily and Anne die within a few months of each other, and Charlotte is left all alone… it’s depressing to read about. That’s just how powerful the writing is, and how compelling these characters from history were.

I loved all the little details about their everyday lives, their servants, their home, their father’s religious work in the parish, and their habit of walking on the moors. They had such mighty brains and energetic thoughts, but were trapped in weak bodies that were often ill. Their personalities in public were shy and retiring, and yet their inner lives were so colorful and dynamic.

This book has helped me to dive a little deeper into the people behind the books, and I will never read their writing quite the same way again now that I know the authors a little better.

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