I own a greeting card that depicts three happy, smiling young ladies who appear to be thinking slyly, all with brown eyes and middle-parted hair. TheI own a greeting card that depicts three happy, smiling young ladies who appear to be thinking slyly, all with brown eyes and middle-parted hair. The words "Bronte Sisters" are lettered into the pastel rose background of the card, and I have mounted it on the wall above this very computer where I pen--er, type--these lines to you. They smile down, but never make eye contact.
Yet I must report that, according to this biography of Charlotte by Mrs. Elizabeth Gaskell, my card and its merriness? Lies. For the Brontes in this book are ill-mooded, always coughing, often beleaguered with aching heads and low fevers and an incredible propensity to avoid personal contact with others unless absolutely necessary, and then only when they are so starved for company or wanting to bestow benevolence on villagers worse off than they are.
They live at the foot of an old musty graveyard where tainted rain runs down to their house and causes them all unending misery, from both health and psychological perspectives. Mrs. Gaskell paints Charlotte as so righteous and self-sacrificing that no doubt her friends might have rolled their eyes as she protested their praise, scolded them for suggesting she and her kin were novelists, and in general, was insistently morose, if not brilliant.
I am hesitant to give this books a judgment of stars. Gaskell is a wonderful writer, but she elides so many details of what might make these sisters more than saints, more than martyrs, more than scolds. So I will withhold my praise or dismay, and leave you with the declaration that I might be willing to give Wuthering Heights a second chance, knowing now that malnourished, stubbornly pious, and grieving sisters were at the wild story's root....more
This book took a while for me to adjust to, and in those early chapters, I might have given up because I didn't know what kind of novel it is and howThis book took a while for me to adjust to, and in those early chapters, I might have given up because I didn't know what kind of novel it is and how it would come together. But, especially the chapters set in Africa, I connected to the character and her "shadow" life. And Smith's writing, though sometimes clinical and detached from emotion, builds a believable world. ...more
The past/present stories are engaging, but the writing is riddled with cliches and the author's note at the back admits that the mental health treatmeThe past/present stories are engaging, but the writing is riddled with cliches and the author's note at the back admits that the mental health treatments described in the novel are not historically accurate in terms of a real-life medical timeline. Like "The Language of Flowers," which tried to express what challenges aging out of foster care presents to young people without any concrete research and with an oddly stubborn insistence on not setting the story in a particular time, What She Left Behind would have benefited from more attention to history by elevating the stakes to more than just a pot-boiler/teen romance. Yet with all that said, I did want to know what happened to the characters, so that kept me going....more