Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Brontes” as Want to Read:
The Brontes
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Brontes

4.15  ·  Rating Details ·  2,449 Ratings  ·  154 Reviews
The Brontës is an engrossing and intimate chronicle of an astonishingly creative family. "Anyone fascinated by the Brontes cannot fail to read this book. It is indispensable to understand them, their world and their uniqueness. . . . Barker has made a massive contribution to Brontë scholarship."--Los Angeles Times. This was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year for 199 ...more
Kindle Edition, 1184 pages
Published November 4th 2010 by Abacus (first published January 1st 1994)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Brontes, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Brontes

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
La Mala ✌
La leyenda literaria de los Brontë empezó con un juego de chicos.
Así lo contaba Charlotte en 1829:

"The play of the Islanders was formed in December 1827 in the following maner. One night about the time when the cold sleet and <?> \dreary/ fogs of November are succeeded by the snow storms & high peircing nightwinds of confirmed <?> winter we where all sitting round the warm blazing kitchen fire having just concluded a quarel with Taby concerning the propriety \of/ lighting a cand
Dec 13, 2010 Jane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
Juliet Barker's The Brontës, published in 1994, is a humungo 830 pages, followed by 170 pages of notes. It is frequently, so it seems, referred to as the "definitive" Brontë biography, which is why I asked my friend The Blond Knitter to buy it for me when I won her blog contest. (I like to think of the writers of definitive biographies crying "Follow that!" as they write the final line. I would.)

The Brontës totally lives up to its billing. Between the text and the notes (which I only dipped into
I've read many books on the Brontes, but this weighty tome has sat on my shelf for years. Now is the time!

Great book, overall. This is definitely THE book for the diehard Bronte enthusiast. It is extremely detailed, and extensive. The author does a fantastic job of recreating the world of the Brontes. Unfortunately, we don't know many details about the Brontes' lives, but the world in which they lived can be revealed through newspaper accounts, diary and journal entries, letters, etc. This book
Aug 15, 2016 Sara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Una lettura imprescindibile per tutti gli amanti della famiglia Brontë. Anche se focalizzata maggiormente sulle figure di Charlotte, Branwell e Patrick - per forza di cose, dal momento che l'autrice ha basato la sua ricostruzione unicamente su documenti scritti, tra cui lettere e "juvenilia", che nel caso di Emily e Anne sono andati in gran parte distrutti - l'opera sfata miti troppo a lungo perpetuati e restituisce un senso logico a molte incongruenze che i biografi fin dai tempi di Elizabeth G ...more
David Burton
May 14, 2011 David Burton rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved this. I tried to read it slowly, just 30 pages or so a day since I was given it for my birthday some six weeks ago, but the joy had to end at some point, and that point was this evening. As a gift, it was a revelation and a eureka moment, as I have never been a Bronte fan, and -I think- only ever read Emily's "Wuthering Heights" (at uni). And yet I was pulled in and removed to the 1800s, to Yorkshire, through the intricate, detailed and interesting retelling of the Family Bronte, from fa ...more
At 830 pages (plus notes,) Juliet Barker's biography "The Brontes" is incredibly comprehensive -- perhaps a little too dense for a more casual reader interested in learning about the life of authors Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte.

The book mostly focuses on Charlotte and her father Patrick, as Anne and Emily died young and had no friends to correspond with, so letters detailing their lives are pretty much non-existent. Charlotte's letters to her friend Ellen chronicled much of her life and Elle
Jul 06, 2015 Julie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bored to senselessness, at times. Exhaustive, comprehensive -- yes. But Barker is not a writer, nor one who can spin an interesting tale out of dust. The writing reminds me of one of those endless droning tour guides who just won't shut up and let you enjoy magic: they insist on analyzing the larva incubating in the corner. The detail is wonderful -- and wondrous to those who love the Brontes, as I do -- but the message is carried by an-oh-so-average medium. Three stars is generous, only for the ...more
Aug 24, 2013 Liz rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thoroughly researched but also immensely readable. A strongly argued and compassionate corrective to the traditional view of Charlotte and her sisters as lonely eccentrics on the moors. Instead, Barker presents an absorbing portrait of a close-knit, creative family in a busy provincial town, and in particular does much to rescue the sisters' father, Patrick, and brother, Bramwell, from the stereotypical views of them in the Bronte legend. Extremely worth reading for anyone with an interest in th ...more
Maria Yohn
This book was fantastic and completely comprehensive. I feel like a Bronte expert now as I learned so much about each member of the family, especially the ones I didn't know as much about, like Branwell(did you know he had his own Mrs. Robinson?-literally). I was almost sad to reach the end because I felt as if I had gotten to know them personally. This is a great book if you have the time to read it-its length is definitely intimidating!
Moira Russell




//buys immediately

....ahem. What?
May 08, 2014 Domhnall rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Juliet Barker needed all 976 pages of text (plus notes) to set out her account of the Bronte family and I found none of it dull. Indeed, her style of writing is excellent. For example, we are introduced to Howarth on page 134 as follows: “Apart from a few short weeks in September, when the moors are covered with the purple bloom of the heather and the air is heavy with its scent, the predominant colours of the landscape are an infinite variety of subtle shades of brown, green and grey. There are ...more
Mar 28, 2011 Stine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm quite in awe of the meticoulous research Juliet Barker has put into this biography of the Brontës, rich in both detail and scope.

The biography begins with the reverend Patrick Brontë, and reveals him, as opposed to popular belief, as an attentive, loving albeit slighty eccentric father, who takes great care of his young children.

The four Brontë children who survived into adulthood, Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne, form a closeknit circle and during their childhood neither of them seem
Aug 12, 2016 J.R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't a book you'll read in a day (or want to drag to the beach).
But, if you have any interesting in this brilliant and creative family, this is a book you'll want to read.
There are a number of differences between this and other biographies of the Brontes, all of them laudable. Among them is an illuminating portrait of the single-parent, Patrick. Presenting documentation for various sources, some never quoted before, she reveals him to have been a hard-pressed but compassionate father rathe
Sean Kennedy
Apr 25, 2010 Sean Kennedy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This gigantic, epic tome about the life of the Brontë family is the definitive biography which seeks to address the myth that has grown around them, address the wrongs of the biography of Charlotte Brontë as written by Elizabeth Gaskell, and bring Branwell, Emily and Anne into sharper relief. The level of research in this book is astounding, and Barker does a very thorough job in deconstructing Charlotte's martyrdom through the years while still doing her no injustice of character. Anne is also ...more
Joan Colby
Nov 04, 2012 Joan Colby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is, to say the least, exhaustive, but readable and debunks quite a few myths. I confess to skimming over some of the childhood sagas of mythical kingdoms that served to sharpen the childrens' narrative skills. Barker casts the family biography in its historical and geographic aspect which is interesting in itself. Involvement in the Brontes fictional land of Angria and Gondal influenced not only the poems of Emily, Anne and Branwell, but Wuthering Heights in particular. The novel also owed a ...more
Christy B
I haven't read any other non-fiction book about the Brontë family, but I can tell you that this is the Brontë biography to start with. Yes, it's a tome, but it's oh so worth it. It completely erases the myths and legends surrounding the family, and relies on fact (or as close as you can get to fact) using letters and other documents.

This book may end up depressing some people who like to believe the embellished sensationalism that are rooted in rumor. However, for someone who wants to know the r
Apr 14, 2013 anna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a really great biography for anyone who loves Jane Eyre. It's a bit slow getting into; the first hundred pages are about Patrick Bronte, who was Irish, came from a poor family, but managed to get a scholarship to study at Cambridge. After another courtship Patrick married Maria Branwell in 1812. They had two girls Mary and Elizabeth, and the other four Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. At the age of thirty eight Maria died of cancer, 1821. Mary and Elizabeth were sent to Cowan bridge ...more
Feb 17, 2013 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I cannot say enough about how much I loved this book. Since I love the Brontes' novels and am fascinated with the authors' lives, this book was like having dessert at the end of every day! Juliet Barker is the former curator of the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and she has painstakingly researched the Bronte family. She has taken it upon herself to debunk the myths surrounding the Brontes that began with Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte in 1857. Sadly these myths have been perpetuated throu ...more
Dec 07, 2013 Jaylia3 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors is long, highly detailed, usually fascinating, often moving, and sometimes heartbreaking. It’s the story of the entire family, from the time Patrick and Maria, parents of Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell, were young adults until the death of Patrick, the last surviving member of this Brontë family. Besides the offspring already mentioned, there were also two older sisters who died while at boarding school, a tragedy Charlotte uses in Jane Eyre.

All four
Barbara Murphy
Feb 26, 2013 Barbara Murphy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a mega read but so pleased I have persevered. The detail is phenomenal and some of it is too much so skimmed over these bits. Mostly the fantasy worlds which the children created and detail about the father's religious duties. Both these were tiresome because of the names. That aside I have been totally absorbed in their lives, the social history of the area and period and their dedication to writing. I blow hot and cold over Charlotte. Sometimes she wins me over. At other times she seem ...more
What a vivid, thorough account of the Brontë family. The time and research that have gone into compiling this book is astounding; it's certainly a labor of love for Juliet Barker. It's a must read for those with a passion for the Brontës.

The book is lengthy and gloriously, minutely detailed. Barker dispels the myth of the Brontës that has been perpetuated since their lifetime thanks to Mrs. Gaskell's famous biography. She illuminates Patrick in particular and recognizes the siblings as much more
Apr 06, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who likes non-fiction
Recommended to Mary by: Netgalley
The story of the tragic Bronte family is well-known to everyone: we are all familiar with the half-mad, repressive patriarch, Patrick Bronte, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel brother, Branwell, wildly romantic Emily, unrequited Anne and "poor Charlotte". Or are we? These stereotypes of the popular imagination are precisely that - imaginary - creations of amateur biographers like Elizabeth Gaskell who were primarily novelists and were attracted by the tale of an apparently doomed family of geni ...more
Ayne Ray
Oct 21, 2012 Ayne Ray rated it it was amazing
A massive, almost certainly definitive biography that both demystifies and restores one of England's most legendary literary families. I found it fascinating and greatly appreciated the fact that it dispels many of the cherished but completely incorrect myths that have circulated about each of the Brontes over the years, particularly after Elizabeth Gaskell's whitewashed and often blatantly incorrect biography of Charlotte. It is also meticulously researched: the author was librarian and curator ...more
Where to begin? This was not an easy book for several reasons but it was so worth the arduous task of reading it. This book is not for everyone but if you have a love for the books written by the Bronte sisters and have a love and interest for the time period, well, then get on with it! At times I thought why must I read oodles and oodles upon oodles of facts and snippets about church law, Branwell's escapes with Mrs. Robinson, the Juvenilia (as it was termed)? After all folks this is THE biogra ...more
Mary Ann
Jul 10, 2016 Mary Ann rated it it was amazing
Shelves: biography-memoir
06/23 16 I'm going to be with this a long time; it's over 1100 pages and far from light reading! You must be seriously interested in the Brontes to take this up.

07/10/16 This is a wonderful example of superb scholarship: meticulous, difficult, and patient research of both known and previously unexamined primary sources. Forget everything you thought you knew about the Brontes, especially Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of Charlotte. (I like her Victorian novels.) It's also very readable and beaut
Nov 05, 2012 Pam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very, very good book for information. Not so good if you want a happy read ...... But then their family's life was not different from other's lives in the early 19th century. Interesting points were that the father came from Ireland and changed his surname several times!!; letters show that Charlotte spoke with a broad Irish accent .......; and also the fact that all the children lived in fantasy worlds in their imaginations, writings and play, which encompassed much of their leisure time. Well, ...more
Jan 27, 2012 Helen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a wonderful book - so good I read it twice - full of anecdote and description as well as an enormous amount of scholarly material. If you are interested in the Brontes, or know nothing about them but simply want to know more about nineteenth century England, you will find enough in this book to keep you happy for two weeks of your holiday! (Highly recommended for reading while on holiday somewhere warm and delightful, as a contrast to the bleakness of Haworth...)
Quite disappointed in this book. The first 200 pages or so were extremely interesting. Unfortunately, the author felt compelled to exhaustively (and I mean exhaustively) recount each and every plot of the Bronte siblings' Angria and Gondal. I realize this was an important aspect of their development as writers, but Juliet Barker takes it to the point of irritation and then boredom. I was reduced to skimming and then I reluctantly decided to bail on this book completely. Tedious and dry.
Lynne Stringer
Oct 19, 2013 Lynne Stringer rated it it was amazing
This biography has to be one of the best I've read on anyone. It is meticulously researched, and the author's claims are backed up with evidence. I can't imagine how long it took Juliet Barker to research and write it all, but if you want to know more about the Bronte family, this is the place to look.
Brenda Clough
Jul 15, 2015 Brenda Clough rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A book like a brisket of beef, so solid and nutritious! I cannot imagine that the Bronte family could be analyzed in any greater detail. Barker has looked into every hole and perused every letter, every document. A monumental effort.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The Brontë Family: The Brontës by Juliet Barker 7 41 Nov 15, 2015 04:40AM  
  • The Brontë Myth
  • Charlotte Brontë: A Passionate Life
  • Elizabeth Gaskell: A Habit of Stories
  • The Life and Death of Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Byron: Life and Legend
  • Young Romantics: The Tangled Lives of English Poetry's Greatest Generation
  • Virginia Woolf
  • The Brontës:  Charlotte Brontë and Her Family
  • The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë
  • Dickens
  • My Wars Are Laid Away in Books: The Life of Emily Dickinson
  • Mary Shelley
  • White Heat: The Friendship of Emily Dickinson and Thomas Wentworth Higginson
  • Shelley: The Pursuit
  • The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
  • Keats
  • Portrait of a Novel: Henry James and the Making of an American Masterpiece
  • Daphne du Maurier
Juliet R. V. Barker (born 1958) is a British historian, specialising in the Middle Ages and literary biography. She is the author of a number of well-regarded works on the Brontës, William Wordsworth, and medieval tournaments. From 1983 to 1989 she was the curator and librarian of the Brontë Parsonage Museum.

Barker was educated at Bradford Girls' Grammar School and St Anne's College, Oxford, where
More about Juliet Barker...

Share This Book