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The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of Three Sisters

3.85  ·  Rating details ·  6,015 ratings  ·  243 reviews
In a revised and updated edition, the real story of the Brontë sisters, by distinguished scholar and historian Juliet Barker

The story of the tragic Brontë family is familiar to everyone: we all know about the half-mad, repressive father, the drunken, drug-addicted wastrel of a brother, wildly romantic Emily, unrequited Anne, and “poor Charlotte.” Or do we? These stereotyp
Hardcover, 1158 pages
Published August 1st 2012 by Pegasus Books (first published 1994)
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Average rating 3.85  · 
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Jun 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is very, very long, but well worth the read as it delves deep into the whole family and how they influenced each other and dispels lots of myths that have somehow become ingrained about the Brontes.
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 candle from which s
Dec 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction, biography
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
Oct 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is such an exceptional book. The sheer volume of information, the minute details, the vigorous search for truth, and the length of the biography makes for dizzying, palpable time-travel. After weeks and weeks of immersion, I feel full of Haworth and full of the lives that weren't mine but seemed so close. Barker's prose is elegant and fluid, but what is most engaging and most admirable is the work and rigour and effort that are comprised here. Truly, truly amazing. Above all, there is a sen ...more
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
Jul 27, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It took a full two months to finish this book. After watching the recent biopic about the Bronte siblings, I was excited to read this biography which had been sitting very large and intimidating on my shelves for a few years. However, when I started reading I found out just how incredibly detailed the book is, about every possible aspect of the Brontes' lives, including their father's life, education, and career before the siblings were even born, every plot of their childhood writings, every so ...more
Aug 24, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018
It's a fascinating book, definitely a must read for everyone interested in the Brontes more than just in passing. If the recently published The Bronte Family was just an overview of the Bronte history, Brontes: Wild Genius on the Moors provides the necessary depth and a wealth of information regarding the five key Brontes - the father, Patrick, the three famous sisters, and the wayward son, Branwell.

In fact, at times the book focuses on Branwell with more sympathy than is afforded his sisters.
Mary Ann
Jun 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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 (although I like Gaskell's Victorian novels). It's also very read
Jun 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
For Brontë devotees: I confess to skipping over most of Patrick's letters to local newspapers. Nonetheless, the account of Charlotte's lionization in the literary world following the success of Jane Eyre is fascinating. And Barker's stark descriptions of the deaths of Emily, Anne, and Charlotte are deeply moving. ...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
Sotiris Karaiskos
Mar 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
A very long and detailed biography not only of the Bronte sisters but also of the whole family. The author begins with the humble beginnings of their father in Ireland to reach the era of the writing of their great masterpieces and their premature ending, describing in detail all this way, giving us a picture of their personalities, demolishing many of the myths around this extraordinary family. A book ideal for those who want to learn more about the personalities behind some of the best-known b ...more
Moira Russell




//buys immediately

....ahem. What?
May 13, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Having read one book by each of three sisters (Anne's "The Tenant of Wildfell Hall", Emily's "Wuthering Heights", and Charlotte's "Jane Eyre") I wanted to know how it's possible that after 150+ years, we are still reading books by all three of these sisters. (Has this ever happened in the world of literature? The odds against this happening must be stupendous!)
But the answer comes early in the book: Anne, Emily, Charlotte, and their brother Branwell began writing fiction and poetry very early in
Pam Baddeley
Aug 13, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: misc-non-fiction
This very comprehensive biography of the Bronte family is a very hefty tome and in small print, with many chapter notes at the back, but was well worth the effort of reading. I found it very informative, and it was also a useful corrective of Daphne Du Maurier's short biography of Branwell Bronte, tackled at the same time - plus it will be again when I get round to reading Mrs Gaskell's famous biography of Charlotte.

The book starts with Patrick Bronte, father of the family, as a young man going
David Burton
May 14, 2011 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
Liz Haigney Lynch
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
Big Al
Sep 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2019
A meticulously detailed and well-researched biography that attempts to provide more insight into the lives of multiple members of the Brontë family while also clearing up some of the pervasively false myths. Barker still spills some piping hot tea, but is upfront and honest about whether the material in question is speculation or fact (for example, technically I can’t hate Charlotte forever for burning Emily’s post Wuthering Heights manuscripts because “we can’t say for sure”... BUT WHAT IF SHE ...more
Oct 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An excellent, comprehensive biography. For the most part, this included precisely the kinds of information I wanted. I was especially interested in Barker's speculations about Anne and Charlotte's simultaneous, but secret spiritual struggles. And I thought Barker did well at separating known facts from speculation and being transparent about when she was sharing her opinions. (I say that as someone with what is probably only slightly more than a passing knowledge of the Brontes' lives.) Readable ...more
I visited Brontë Parsonage in September 2018. The woman at the ticket counter asked if it was my first visit. I said "yes" and promptly teared up, thereby endearing myself to the staff: The ticket counter lady ran over to the main house and told the staff there to take good care of me. Inside the house, one of the staff showed me some pictures from this book and told me it was their preferred biography of the family. Now I know why. I will come back to this book just as I come back to the Brontë ...more
Nov 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: i-own-a-copy
A complex, detailed, fair-minded biography of the entire family. Deeply moving at times. I took a long time reading it, mostly because I'm raising two grandchildren, but it was well worth my persistence. I recommend it to you for your emotional and intellectual satisfaction. ...more
Girl with her Head in a Book
For my full review:

I have always felt rather guiltily that I would not count as a true Brontë fan until I had read this book.  I bought a copy of it for my mother for Christmas about eighteen years ago and read various chunks for a school project.  The odd thing is that when re-reading said project now, a Barker influence is quite noticeable, but yet I had never actually read the biography myself.  At one thousand and odd pages, heavily foot-noted, Juliet
Courtney Doss
It is the work of a biographer to present the details of one's life in a way that encompasses the complexity of personhood. To provide an accurate picture a person has to throw away biases and wishful thinking to see a person as they really were, and then use whatever faculties they have at their disposal to display that person in as clear and accurate a light as possible. Juliet Barker, with a painstakingly sourced book on the Brontes, comes as close as possible to providing a clear cut and com ...more
Apr 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biographies
Whew! I finally finished this one! Took me forever (admittedly, with many breaks for quicker fiction reads to clear my brain) but I did it.

This is one tremendously lengthy book, but it's worth it for anyone wanting to satisfy their insatiable curiosity about the eccentric but incredibly talented Bronte family. I had read several biographies about them before, but this one completely blew them all away with its intense level of research and accuracy.

Juliet Barker, the author, goes way beyond th
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It's taken me nearly two months, but I have finally conquered this humongous biography. I loved every minute of it. I have no doubt this will stick with me for a long time to come, and I have no doubt that this will be a book I read again and again and again.

Barker's The Brontës is the first definitive history of the family, actively seeking to destroy the "myth" that shrouds the very nature of this close-knitted group. Images created by the likes of Elizabeth Gaskell, Ellen Nussey, and Harriet
Carl Despriet
Mar 29, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I finished the book in two weeks during the Corona virus quarantine. It was recommended to me by a very friendly guide at the Parsonage in Haworth during our visit last year. And now I have the Brontë -virus!! Harmless and highly enjoyable.
This is indeed a very detailed and extensive biography. Not everything is extremely interesting - the reports on the phantasy stories are boring - but the overall impression is one of admiration for this achievement.
The story of the Brontë family with the tr
Apr 22, 2014 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
Jan 29, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography, nonfiction
OK. I think I'm done with my spontaneous Bronte readings. I think. This time. ...more
May 28, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A definitive and thorough book, based on historic documents and letters. The first half (~500 pages) moves very slowly through a tedious history of Patrick Bronte, but serves to refute the bad reputation that Patrick was assigned by the press and authors in the past, and proves that he was a liberal social activist as well as a good father and a good man.

The book improves in the second half, once we reach the point where the Bronte sisters decide to write and publish novels, as a means of suppor
I am just astounded by this book. The research that went into it and the scope and breadth of it is just, incredible.

This particular biography on this famous family begins with Patrick Bronte, the father of the famous siblings, his journey from Ireland to England and his education. Patrick, unfairly portrayed in Elizabeth Gaskell's biography of her dear friend, Charlotte, was actually a very kind, loving and generous father who took great pains to provide for his children, as well as the people
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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

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