Vena's Reviews > Bronte

Bronte by Glyn Hughes
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's review
Dec 25, 2008

liked it
bookshelves: novels, historical-novels, victorian-setting-historical, based-on-real-life-incidents, 19th-century-lit-set-pre-victoria, 2000s, brontes
Recommended for: Bronte fans
Read in March, 2009

Glyn Hughes certainly knows the biographies of the Brontes thoroughly. In this novel he managed to weave the various famous anecdotes, and what is known of all the family members and the people in their lives, into a narrative context of 'how things might have come about'. Sometimes his research is a little too obvious, in my opinion, because he tried to include so much. It surprised me when he did not include something.

I think Hughes's use of foreshadowing is a bit heavy-handed, but perhaps that's because I, too, am so familiar with the Brontes' story. Still, about the third time, say, Aunt Branwell's bowel problems -- or Anne's asthma, among others -- was mentioned, I thought enough already: I get the warning.

I will give Hughes credit for trying to include all the Bronte children into his story, even the little-known, second-oldest Bronte sister, Elizabeth. But naturally enough it is Charlotte's perspective that Hughes relies on most. He seldom gets wildly speculative, trying to stay true to what is known, but unfortunately I think it makes for a rather staid treatment. If I wanted to read a straight biography, I would have done so; but with fiction I think he could have been a little more imaginative.

It's the nature of the beast of biographical fiction, I'm afraid, that writers either treat their subjects a little too gingerly -- becoming pedantic in the process -- or, at the other extreme, they reinterpret and project too much onto their historical subjects of what they, themselves, wish these people had been; thus making the story unbelievable. I think Hughes walked a fine line and chose to remain safe, if a bit dull. However, Hughes's writing did maintain my interest throughout, and I wound up enjoying the retelling of the Brontes' lives.
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