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The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë

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"I have written about the joys of love. I have, in my secret heart, long dreamt of an intimate connection with a man; every Jane, I believe, deserves her Rochester."

Though poor, plain, and unconnected, Charlotte Bronte possesses a deeply passionate side which she reveals only in her writings—creating Jane Eyre and other novels that stand among literature's most beloved works. Living a secluded life in the wilds of Yorkshire with her sisters Emily and Anne, their drug-addicted brother, and an eccentric father who is going blind, Charlotte Bronte dreams of a real love story as fiery as the ones she creates.

But it is in the pages of her diary where Charlotte exposes her deepest feelings and desires—and the truth about her life, its triumphs and shattering disappointments, her family, the inspiration behind her work, her scandalous secret passion for the man she can never have . . . and her intense, dramatic relationship with the man she comes to love, the enigmatic Arthur Bell Nicholls.

"Who is this man who has dared to ask for my hand? Why is my father so dead set against him? Why are half the residents of Haworth determined to lynch him—or shoot him?"

From Syrie James, the acclaimed, bestselling author of The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, comes a powerfully compelling, intensely researched literary feat that blends historical fact and fiction to explore the passionate heart and unquiet soul of Charlotte Bronte. It is Charlotte's story, just as she might have written it herself.

454 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2009

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About the author

Syrie James

16 books937 followers
Syrie James is the USA TODAY and Amazon bestselling author of thirteen novels of historical, contemporary, and young adult fiction and romance, which have been published in 21 languages.

Los Angeles Magazine dubbed Syrie the “queen of nineteenth century re-imaginings.” Syrie’s novel “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen” sold at auction to HarperCollins in a bidding war and became an international bestseller. Her passion for love stories and the paranormal led to her critically acclaimed and award-winning novels “Dracula, My Love,” “Nocturne,” and the popular YA series “Forbidden.” Her love of English historical romance led to her Amazon bestselling Dare to Defy series.

Syrie’s books have won numerous accolades and awards, including the national Audiobook Audie Award for Romance, and the Great Group Read by the Women’s National Book Association (“The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte”); Best New Fiction by Regency World Magazine ( “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen”); Barnes and Noble’s Romantic Read of the Week and Bookbub’s Best Snowbound Romance (“Nocturne”). Her novels have received starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly, hit many Best of the Year lists, and been designated as Library Journal Editor’s Picks of the Year.

Syrie is also an award-winning screenwriter and WGA member who has sold or optioned numerous scripts to film and television. Syrie's successful adaptations of books to screen include the movie based on Danielle Steele’s bestseller “Once in a Lifetime."

In demand as a speaker across the U.S., Syrie is also a playwright whose work has been produced in New York City, California, and Canada.

Find Syrie at:
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 478 reviews
Profile Image for Kathryn.
Author 7 books260 followers
August 27, 2016

I find it unfortunate that certain fictional memoirs choose to call themselves diaries. Just as one can’t quite visualize Jane Austen’s Fitzwilliam Darcy scribbling his growing attraction to Elizabeth Bennet into the pages of a diary like a twelve year-old girl (Mr. Darcy's Diary), neither can one imagine Charlotte Bronte doing the same with her entire life’s story – including a few PG-13 rated details of her wedding night.

But faulty title issues aside, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is a well-crafted book and in many ways a delight for those Charlotte Bronte fans who can never get enough biographical facts of Jane Eyre’s alter ego. James’ novel centers on Bronte's relationship with Arthur Bell Nichols, her father’s curate and the man who she eventually married. At the novel’s outset, Nichols appears on the scene and makes a derogatory comment about Charlotte which she overhears. James’ Charlotte uses this as an excuse to harbor intensely negative feelings for Nichols until his good character – and love for her -- finally wins her over. Their relationship is presented in an almost standard romantic comedy formula, only in this case it is based on fact and generally works.

The earlier years of Charlotte’s life are presented via well-placed flashbacks: her time at the Clergy Daughters School where her sisters Maria and Elizabeth became fatally ill, the years she spent at Roe Head where she met Ellen Nussey, her life-long friend, and Charlotte's time in Brussels where she fell in love with Constantin Heger who later formed the basis of several of her romantic protagonists.

It is a well-known fact that Bronte used biographical material for her novels. Knowing that, however, does not prepare one to encounter scenes and conversations lifted directly from those novels and placed verbatim into James’ fictional memoir, such as this conversation between Bronte and Heger which is taken, word for word (substituting "Monsieur" for "Sir"), from Jane Eyre:

“Here, I have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, and with what I delight in – with an original, a vigorous, an expanded mind. I have come to know you, Monsieur; and it fills me with sadness to contemplate that one day I must leave you . . . “

It is possible that a conversation such as this occured between Charlotte and Heger since Bronte, in portraying Jane Eyre's feelings for Rochester, was giving voice to her own feelings for Heger. But James could have been a little more indirect in implying the connection between fact and fiction with better and more believable results.

However, James is a Bronte enthusiast and as such, she can be forgiven for becoming too susceptible to these fascinating connections; the good far outweighs the questionable in this fictional memoir. The central love story is an appealing one and James has captured Bronte’s voice exactly and precisely (one might say, she’s "hit the nail straight on the head") and in the process, has managed to bring Charlotte Bronte’s biographical facts to life in a very engaging manner.

Profile Image for Sandy Lender.
Author 41 books243 followers
January 17, 2010
Anyone who has studied Charlotte Bronte, as I have, will be appalled by what Syrie James has done to her here. Thank God this isn't "The Secret Diaries of Emily Bronte," or the ghost of Emily Bronte would likely rise from the grave and do great harm to James. Charlotte was a bit less averse to the idea of being "outed" when it came time to reveal her identity to society, but that doesn't mean she was ready to expose her innermost thoughts.

Charlotte Bronte did not leave behind a secret diary, so students and scholars shouldn't get excited by the title or concept of this work of fiction. It's obvious that James has done an enormous amount of research--and has dropped all the appropriate names in the acknowledgments--and it is for that research and its application throughout the novel that I don't drop my rating of the book to a mere 1 star.

I cannot warn scholars strongly enough to take this fictional novel with a grain of salt. The story of Charlotte's life has been told in biographies before without the flowery additions of fictitious people, made-up dialogue, conjecture, inference, and a machinistic wedding night scene that embarrassed me FOR Charlotte. I felt as if the poor woman was watching me read the scene and was trying to tell me, "No! No! It didn't happen that way! He didn't say that! I didn't do that! Stop looking at us that way!"

I felt her watching me as I read the scene of Monsieur Heger "kissing" Charlotte in the garden and felt her saying, "You don't understand! This author wasn't there! That's not what happened!" I felt as if Charlotte wanted to take the book out of my hands a dozen different times because I was reading lies about her.

To Charlotte, I'm sorry to have read this so-called romance novel. I know your life was so much more than what's represented on these pages and held much more emotion. But I had to give it a read-through. I had to know if the author was anywhere close to the mark. To Harper Collins and Avon, while your author has done an exemplary job of research, the execution is a travesty. I would only recommend this book to serious Bronte scholars who can separate in their own minds what is fact and what is fiction. New Bronte readers should not confuse themselves with this jumble of information.

I recommend (and own) instead: The Life of Charlotte Bronte
The Bronte Myth
The Oxford Companion to the Brontës (Oxford Companion To...)
There are a variety of others on my Bronte reference shelf, but these are excellent resources. Also, if you can find it: The Belgian Essays of Charlotte and Emily Bronte

From Sandy Lender
"Some days, you just want the dragon to win."
Profile Image for Staci.
1,403 reviews20 followers
January 24, 2010
I loved every single page of this book and felt like I was walking beside Charlotte Bronte. I honestly understand now why I didn't care for Wuthering Heights- Emily Bronte was a dark and brooding type. I have yet to read Jane Eyre, but after reading this lovely book I know that I will absolutely enjoy my venture into Charlotte Bronte's first novel. I totally understood why she had a crush on a former teacher and how that shaped the way she felt about love. The book portrays her as a kind soul who never gave up hope that one day she and her sister's work would be published. Reading this book gave me a personal insight into her life and one that has left an indelible mark on me.
Profile Image for Annette.
796 reviews382 followers
November 25, 2015
I have truly enjoyed The Missing Manuscript of Jane Austen and The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen by this author, but this story was very dry. It read almost like a biography.

The story was based on real Charlotte Bronte’s diaries, probably hidden by her husband to protect her privacy. Charlotte was a daring woman, not afraid to speak up her mind. She lived during the time, when a woman had two choices to be a teacher or a governess, and she despised both. She despised men viewing women as fit for kitchen and to serve men.

The whole family was of talented writers. Three sisters followed in the footsteps of their brother in writing poetry. Later, Charlotte got an idea of writing a novel from him as well, which was novelty at the time and seen by some as waste of time.

There were parts, which were very interesting. Arthur Bell Nicholls, who she came to love, turned to be the most interesting character in this story, which filled the last pages of the book, making it a very interesting read at the very end.

With her memories, Charlotte drifted to her childhood events good and bad revealing the stories of her two sisters, who died of typhoid, of his brother before he started drinking heavily, how the novel of Jane Eyre got its beginning, and more. Some of those parts were interesting, but most of them were very dry.

There were parts where I questioned if the writing was believable. Emily was very private to a point, when she caught Charlotte reading her poetry she slapped her and became very melodramatic to a point that one started to question if the writing of this was believable.
Profile Image for Josefina Wagner.
474 reviews
September 13, 2020
Bir nevi inceleme derleme roman diyebiliriz bende biraz daha merak uyandırdı Bronte kardeşlerle ilglli yakın zamanda bir inceleme araştırma yapacağım . Yıllar önce "Jane Eyre"yi okuduğum daki etkiyi hâlâ üzerimde taşıyorum.Yazarla ilgili yapılan olumsuz spekülasyonlar oldukça üzücü.
Profile Image for Ash.
42 reviews30 followers
December 27, 2009
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James is a fictional account of the life of Charlotte Bronte. Charlotte grew up with two sisters and a brother under the supervision of her parson father. The book mainly focuses on the love interests of Charlotte Bronte, her teacher Monsieur Heger and her father's curate Arthur Nicholls. It is a brutally honest account of Charlotte's life, including descriptive scenes of Branwell's drunken crazes. James allows Bronte to explore her feelings on every subject, alcohol, love, sex, and family. It also documents the writing of her four novels as well as the writing practices shared between her and her two sisters, Emily and Anne. After the death of Emily and Anne, Charlotte experienced a drastic change in her writing ability and habits. While the novel doesn't come out and say it directly, it is pretty clear that the absence of her sisters contributed to the lower success level of her final two novels.

Since Charlotte Bronte wrote my favorite book I had high expectations to for this novel. It met those expectations, for the most part. I have to admit that I couldn't put this book down. I saw a lot of my own experiences in Charlotte's, even though she lived in a very different world from mine. James does an amazing job making Bronte into a character we can empathize with and understand. Just a few days ago I was telling a friend of mine that if Charlotte Bronte haunted me I would be terrified. I said she would probably be really mean. After reading this book, my entire view of Bronte has changed.

As much as I loved it, I did have a few problems with this novel. Some of the footnotes were annoying and unnecessary, of course I'm assuming that anyone who would read this book would have some prior knowledge about Charlotte Bronte. There were also some language choices that felt a little too contemporary for me. When I came across them I became annoyed, really. James makes up for it with her frequently asked questions section in the back of the book, as well as the inclusion of sections of Bronte's letters. I was pleased that she came out and said what was true and what was false, and also that she mostly stuck to the story of Bronte's life.

This book evoked ever emotion from me. I laughed at Bronte's humor, empathized with her foibles, and cried in grief and joy with her. A must read for any Bronte fan.

Profile Image for Lori.
168 reviews6 followers
March 10, 2016
I read Jane Eyre more than twenty years ago and I have loved and cherished that book as a classic since then. Of Charlotte Bronte and her sisters, I only knew they lived on the moors in England and that they were the daughters of a parson. After reading The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, I have an even greater admiration for their novels and their poetry.

Of course, the main focus of this book is Charlotte Bronte, her devotion to her family, her talent for writing and her search for love. What I take away from this book is a better understanding of who Charlotte Bronte was.

Today's authors have the advantage of being constantly in the press; they speak to us through interviews and communicate to their readers on their blogs. While authors like the Bronte sisters have books that are timeless treasures, now classics in print for more than a century, the authors themselves remain distant to us, separated by time and space. It is delightful to view them as young women in the flesh with hopes and dreams, rather than just portraits hanging in museums and printed onto the dust jackets of their books. This book brought them to life for me, put color in their cheeks, and gave me a glimpse into their hearts.

The story of Charlotte and Arthur is very moving. I never knew she married but I am so happy that she found someone to love. In a letter to a friend, Charlotte declared, "my heart is knit to him." A lovely thought.

To an expert this book may be flawed, but I am merely a fan who smiled when Charlotte acknowledged that she did, indeed, love Arthur. This book gets five stars from me!!

This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Kathleen Flynn.
Author 1 book408 followers
March 16, 2018
Very closely based on the Gaskell biography and other sources, like Charlotte's own letters. I think what I enjoyed the most was how discreetly erotic was the account of her courtship and marriage to Arthur Bell Nicholls. Also the account of Emily's death caused me stealthy weeping on my subway commute.
Profile Image for Christina.
Author 13 books312 followers
March 18, 2012
"...She ruffles her readers by nothing vehement, disturbs him by nothing profound: the Passions are perfectly unknown to her... what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through... this Miss Austen ignores... if this is heresy - I cannot help it." Charlotte Bronte in a letter dated 12 April 1850 to William S.Williams on reading Jane Austen's Emma.

As a staunch fan and defender of anything Jane Austen, this bit of dissidence from one of Charlotte Bronte's letters left me most peevish and not at all curious to know anything more about said author. And, although I enjoyed Miss Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, very much in fact, I have always found myself a bit prejudiced against Miss Bronte for her slight committed against my dear Jane. In fact, when I met author Syrie James at the Jane Austen Society of America's Annual General Meeting (JASNA-AGM: code for national Janeite convention) in October 2010 with a stack of her books for her to autograph, she observed that her book, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte was absent. My bibliophile Pride prohibited me from explaining why I could not possibly be interested in reading anything about Miss Bronte, and probably mumbled something incoherent. Nevertheless, recently I was offered a copy The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, and after reminding myself of how I had shamelessly fallen in love with every other work by Syrie James (The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, Dracula, My Love and Nocturne), I convinced myself to get over this unforgiving, taciturn disposition and just read it!

This supposed lost diary opens shortly after Charlotte Bronte receives an unexpected proposal of marriage from her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. As a maiden spinster and an already accomplished authoress, albeit concealed by the nom de plume Currer Bell, she is conflicted in her answer. Through these memoir pages, Bronte ruminates on her budding friendship with Nicholls, her obsession with her married educator in Brussels, her writing, and her beloved relationships with her now deceased siblings.

Unlike Austen, where fans and historians alike must conjecture about Jane Austen's life and loves by piecing together what few letters were preserved, there is a wealth of meticulous correspondence and writings accessible for research. James herself admits that this novel is based almost entirely on fact. Charlotte Bronte's life reads like a novel... from the sickness and deaths of her older sisters while they were away at the depressing Clergy Daughter's School to her romantic attraction to her un-handsome superior in Brussels, ("it fills me with sadness to contemplate that one day I must leave you" p.204), which surely she drew from and dramatized accounts while writing Jane Eyre. I was charmed by her relationship with the Reverend Arthur Bell Nicholls, who apparently unbeknownst to Bronte, had been in-love with her for over seven years. Almost from the first moments of meeting this seemingly disdainful, dogmatic, stoic yet handsome curate, she disliked him - because, interestingly enough, she overheard, or rather misheard a comment he had made - granted at her expense - and for years her wounded pride festered, tainting all her opinions of him. (Shades of Jane Austen's Pride & Prejudice seem to color Charlotte Bronte's real life -- indeed!)

Like Charlotte Bronte's work, this memoir is a melding of both tragedy and joy. Blurred lines between fact & fiction are so masterfully written I had to remind myself that The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is just the fruit of Syrie James' genius. James not only made me sigh in all the right places, and weep at the tragic losses - James taught me, like Elizabeth Bennet in Pride & Prejudice, to gradually allow my former prejudices to be removed. If you haven't read this book, originally published in 2009, you need to add it to the top of your list!

Added bonus are the helpful Author Insights at the back of the book which include a succinct Q & A, Excerpts from Selected Correspondence of Charlotte Bronte, Selected Poetry by the Bronte sisters, a listing of their Works, and Discussion Points for reading groups.
Profile Image for stephanie suh.
194 reviews3 followers
April 28, 2020
Who would have thought that the woman with a calm and dainty exterior wrapped in an air of impeccable propriety was inwardly a passionate Dido, a willing Ariadne, and a beguiling Cleopatra? Such a popularly conceived false shadow – by default of nature against her will – might have conveniently belied Truth and Nature of her substances to the eyes of the public, but her labors of love in the form of literary works bear the witness to the person of the Author. She is no less a person than Charlotte Bronte herself who created one of the most unforgettably iconic romantic characters of Jane Eyre, laying her innermost feelings and emotions bare to readers of the millennium in this beautiful and truthful The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte by Syrie James.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is neither nonfiction nor fiction eulogizing the greatness of the literary Titaness in the English literature. In fact, it is this mysterious ambit of the genre that gives to the book the status fused with the whimsicality of cross-over nonfiction in the likeness of fiction that reads like an enchanting novel. Drawn on the original diaries, miscellany, and poems written by Charlotte Bronte in frequent collaboration with her equally gifted sisters Emily and Anne, James does a superb job of weaving a tale of her admired literary muse as an admiring votary into one fascinating tribute narrated by Bronte herself as though to render her poetic justice on the truth and beauty of her person which had been largely unrecognized, if not ignored, in the discourse of the tale. In fact, reading this book, you will find yourself reading a posthumously published work of Charlotte Bronte with the style of writing, the tone of the narrative, and the sequence of the story, all of which superbly resurrect the atmospheric ambiance of the 19th Century English province. In this magical craft of writing, you will see Charlotte in the humble personage write in an expense of will and emotions, pages after pages filling them with heartfelt words, producing beautiful melodies of her heart and the soul.

The beauty of this book collapses three centuries, five oceans and seven continents between Charlotte’s lifetime and our reading it, making us intimately acquainted with one of the most celebrated writers in the world. James is excellent in portraying Charlotte Bronte based on the extensive research on the original manuscripts and visitation to the places where she had trodden and lived as authentically as possible, with her immense admiration for the author delicately nuanced in the narrative, thus rendering the story the power of reality and authenticity of truth in the likeness of contemporary memoirs. That said, I am certain that Charlotte Bronte would have given the book the imprimatur willingly and wholeheartedly had she read it for review. And I also believe that her spirit would so love this book that she would bring it to the world beyond in all pleasantness and mirth.
Profile Image for Leslie.
342 reviews13 followers
September 20, 2009
“Would you love me?” asked Jane Eyre at one point in her famous novel. “I am poor and little and plain.”

I quote that line a lot, but it’s not hard to imagine Charlotte Bronte saying the same thing about herself. She was never considered very attractive, and until Jane Eyre was published and became a huge success, her life didn’t account for much in the world. Words like, harsh and cruel, might be used to describe her life, with complete happiness arriving almost too late for her to truly enjoy it. Would we have had her great novels had her genius not been finely tuned by her grief and despair, if her life had been common and usual? Thankfully, the Bronte’s were far from usual in that sense. Their sorrow was our gain.

The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte is a noble concept, for it ventures that Charlotte may have kept a diary of her thoughts; an account of her life, beginning long before Jane Eyre was published, but after her time in Brussels, until her death. We learn of her four marriage proposals, the last of which from a Mr. Arthur Nicholls, a poor curate who worked for her father for 8 years. A man so shy she never knew he was in love with her. Can you imagine if such a diary as this still existed? We are lucky enough to have her biography written by her close friend, Elizabeth Gaskell not long after her death, and we have her poetry and correspondence. It is through the latter that we know how she felt about Jane Austen and her novels:

What sees keenly, speaks softly, moves flexibly, it suits her to study, but what throbs fast and full, though hidden, what the blood rushes through…this Miss Austen ignores…if this is heresy – I can’t help it.
12 april 1850 to William Williams

But a diary, that would be something. James does a good job of including the known facts of the Bronte’s life. She leaves none of the dreaded details out here, and we all know how sad those details were, but at the same time she speculates that there was happiness in that household, as there only could have been between three kindred sisters who loved their wayward brother and their partially blind father.

My only complaints about this book would be that she borrowed lines from the Bronte’s novels, probably using them to mimic styles and patterns of speech familiar with Charlotte and her sisters. (For me, this is a common issue I have with books of this type. It feels like cheating.) Also, the whole Pride and Prejudice feel of the storyline. In the end, knowing her particular thoughts on Austen, I wondered if Charlotte Bronte was rolling over in her grave.

But that aside, my favorite part by far was the inclusion in the Appendix of some of Charlotte’s correspondence, a real treat to read, and some selected poetry by the Bronte sisters. Emily’s especially, was brilliant, passionate, and fascinating. How could anyone doubt she ever wrote one of my all time favorite novels, Wuthering Heights.

Then did I check the tears of useless passion –
Weaned my young soul from yearning after thine;
Sternly denied its burning with to hasten,
Down to that tomb already more than mine.

and -

“O mortal! mortal! let them die;
Let time and tears destroy,
That we may overflow the sky
With universal Joy!

“Let grief distract the sufferer’r breast,
And night obscure his way;
They hasten him to endless rest,
And everlasting day.

“To thee the world is like a tomb,
A desert’s lakes shore’
To us, in unimagined bloom,
To brightens more and more!

“And, could we lift the veil, and give
One brief glimpse to thine eye,
Thou wouldst rejoice for those that live,
Because they live to die.”

Reading those words alone made this book worth the reading.
Profile Image for Susan.
Author 23 books965 followers
July 30, 2009
I admit that I was a little reluctant to pick up The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte, mainly because of the title, because with the exception of Sandra Gulland's Josephine Bonaparte trilogy, I haven't been terribly impressed by most novels that take the form of diaries, secret or otherwise. But pick it up I did, because I wanted a paperback to take to the beach, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

The title of this book is actually somewhat misleading, in fact, because although the narrator (Charlotte, of course) occasionally refers to her writing as a diary, the story is not in the usual day-to-day journal format. "Secret Memoirs" would be a more apt title. So if you're not keen on the diary format, there's no need to avoid this novel.

The event that prompts Charlotte to write about her life is the unexpected proposal she receives from her father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls. As Charlotte wrestles with the question of whether to accept, she reflects about her evolving relationship with Nicholls, her infatuation with a married professor in Brussels, her career as an author, and her life with her siblings, all now deceased.

James has researched her subject thoroughly, and it shows without appearing pedantic. Her portrayals of Charlotte's friends and family are true to life and three-dimensional, and where the author fills in gaps and creates dramatic tension between Charlotte and her suitor, it seems plausible. Having read more than my fair share of feminist critics who treat Charlotte's marriage to Nicholls as a tragic example of a gifted female succumbing to male domination, I was pleased to see that James treats the marriage positively, and even romantically.

Though one might enjoy this book better if one has read Charlotte Bronte's novels (and those of her sisters), it's not necessary. James' book also contains a number of extras: besides the usual afterword, there's a question-and-answer section for the author, excerpts from some of Charlotte's letters, and some poems by the Bronte siblings.

As I liked this book so much, I'll be picking up James' first novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen.
Profile Image for Rowizyx.
341 reviews145 followers
January 7, 2016
Tre stelle, perché l'autrice palesemente è una fan e come tale va a smussare quegli angoli delle sue autrici preferite che potrebbero renderle poco gradite ai lettori... A parte di Emily, ma Emily è fatta a modo suo (e si vede dal suo romanzo, sigh), e tanto muore presto, quindi si rimpiange a prescindere. Non lo so, non conosco benissimo la vita di Charlotte Brontë, tuttavia ogni volta che l'ho incrociata a parlare del lavoro di altre donne, compresa sua sorella minore Anne, l'ho sempre trovata brusca e anche abbastanza superficiale. Stizzita con la Austen perché tutti le suggeriscono di prendere esempio da lei, scazzosa con Anne perché mette in piazza i problemi di alcolismo di suo fratello nel suo secondo romanzo, superficiale con la sua amica Elizabeth Gaskell nel giudicare il suo capolavoro, Nord e Sud. O c'è un complotto di tutti i critici nello scegliere solo citazioni acide di Charlotte, o qualcosa non torna.
Anche i toni del romanzo diventano troppo... da romanzo. È sempre difficile segnare il limite tra l'invenzione e la veridicità storica, qua forse per i miei gusti prendiamo una svolta esageratamente da romanzetto rosa... Non dico che Charlotte non se lo meritasse, con tutte le tragedie della sua vita, dico che sono un po' scettica a riguardo. Anche il voler citare e ricitare situazioni dei suo romanzi, dove addirittura i romanzi ispirano le sue scelte di vita... Sì, la sensazione è di avere davanti il lavoro di una fan troppo zelante.

Un'ottima ricerca storica alle spalle, ma che si perde un po' nella costruzione del romanzo.
Profile Image for Erin.
399 reviews9 followers
August 17, 2010
As someone who had done a fair amount of research on Charlotte and her family prior to reading this novel, I found the story a little lack-luster. James seemed determined not to stray too far from the facts of Charlotte's life, which is commendable when writing about a historical person, but in doing so left the story feeling predictable for readers already familiar with those facts. The parts that James had made up, and her conjectures about incidents that may have impacted on Charlotte's personality and writing, were rarely ground-breaking and too often conformed to an equally predictably romance novel plotline.

Although I was at first most impressed by James' excellent efforts to write in Charlotte Bronte's style, the further into the book I got (especially in the dialogue) I became increasingly aware of jarring lapses into modern usage and style. Overall this was not a terrible book; certainly it is an accessible way for anyone interested in learning a bit more about the Brontes to do so. It was not, however, a brilliant book and left me feeling a bit disappointed by its unrealized potential.
Profile Image for Jennifer Zimny.
456 reviews6 followers
February 8, 2014
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Anyone who knows me knows I read everything on the Brontes, so I am well versed in their story. I found this book a compelling and engrossing account of their lives. Is every incident true? No. James switches around some incidents and adds some drastic flair, but much of this novel is based on fact. I loved her angle of fleshing out the story of Charlotte and Arthur Bell Nicholls. He was a man I never paid much attention to in Charlotte's life, but James' account of him gives me a new found interest into who he really was. I've been fortunate enough to visit Haworth, the Bronte Parsonage Museum, and hiked the moors behind her home. It was wonderful to revisit those beautiful places in my head.
Profile Image for Shannon Winslow.
Author 22 books128 followers
November 22, 2015
I appreciated this well-written book so much, partly as a way to learn about Charlotte Bronte's life - something I knew very little about before. It does a good job of taking a true story and filling in the blanks to make it feel more like a novel. Unfortunately, the author could do nothing to overcome the tragic course the lives of the Bronte family members took, one after the other. If this were a work of pure fiction, I would find fault with the ending, but that's what happened.
Profile Image for Christina.
57 reviews1 follower
October 24, 2013
I enjoyed it very much! It took me a bit to get into it, but that's likely because of other home distractions & not the book! It helped take care of my Downton Abbey withdrawal with a good dose of historical fiction set in England, with a touch of Ireland & Belgium thrown in for good measure. I liked that most of the story is based on her real life and what actually happened.
Profile Image for Geetanjali Mukherjee.
Author 18 books27 followers
August 20, 2017
I had to stop reading this book several times to have a good cry. I am one of the few who were never obliged to read the work of the Brontes in school and never managed yet to do so...I must rectify that as soon as possible. This book is brilliantly researched and very well-written, but is heartbreaking in the tragic details of the life of the Brontes.
Profile Image for Dana Loo.
719 reviews6 followers
January 28, 2018
Bellissima biografia romanzata, narrata in prima persona con uno stile fluidissimo, atmosfere catturate perfettamente, a tratti struggente...Davvero una splendida lettura che ci fa amare e comprendere ancor di più il vissuto e le opere delle sorelle Bronte.
Profile Image for Georgiana 1792.
1,913 reviews118 followers
October 16, 2013
Syrie James nel suo romanzo ha immaginato come avrebbe potuto essere il diario di Charlotte Brontë, quali sentimenti vi potessero essere espressi, e ha cercato di ricamare, laddove la storia vera lasciava lo spazio all’immaginazione, con punti fioriti e precisi, la sua storia sentimentale, soprattutto il suo matrimonio con il curato del padre, il reverendo Arthur Bell Nicholls, che ha sempre costituito un punto oscuro nella biografia della scrittrice. Perché, infatti, pur essendole vissuto accanto per tanto tempo, Charlotte lo sposò solo otto anni dopo il suo arrivo ad Haworth? Quali sentimenti provò per lui? La James mette addirittura in dubbio il loro matrimonio (che però è certo: il certificato di matrimonio è esposto in una bacheca nella chiesa di Haworth).

L’autrice ha immaginato tuttavia che la Brontë non tenesse un diario vero e proprio, ma che lo avesse scritto sotto forma di romanzo, esattamente come li scriveva lei, in tre libri, raccontando gli episodi della sua vita partendo da un evento cruciale – la proposta di matrimonio del reverendo Nicholls – e dipanando gli eventi a partire dall’arrivo ad Haworth del reverendo, con capitoli interi dedicati a flashback sulla sua infanzia e sulla sua giovinezza. È proprio grazie a questo espediente la James risulta molto fedele alla Brontë, perché ne conserva lo stile. Effettivamente ci si trova davanti ad una narrazione molto simile a quella di Jane Eyre, che differisce solo della narratrice – in questo caso Charlotte – sebbene molti episodi siano ispirati proprio al romanzo. Ma in realtà, la James, che ha fatto ricerche accuratissime, studiando tutte le biografie disponibili e rileggendo più e più volte i romanzi, ha confermato che numerosissimi episodi dei libri delle sorelle Brontë sono ispirati ad episodi di vita reale.

La storia inizia con l’arrivo del reverendo Nicholls ad Haworth, con l’ostilità che Charlotte prova subito nei suoi confronti, a causa delle sue vedute ristrette – soprattutto nei confronti delle donne – e delle differenze fra le loro preferenze religiose.

“Essere chiamata ‘zitella’ a ventinove anni… e da un uomo che si considera troppo superiore per mettere piede nella nostra cucina!” esclamai in tono sprezzante. “E poi, un attimo dopo, si aspetta che lo serva e gli imburri la sua fetta di pane… È davvero troppo da sopportare!”

Charlotte Brontë e le sue sorelle, infatti, portano avanti la loro personale lotta contro la società che vuole che la migliore, anzi l’unica soluzione per una donna di non ritrovarsi ridotta in miseria e mendicare la generosità dei parenti, sia quella di sposarsi. Le tre sorelle vedono le loro conoscenti affannarsi per non restare ‘zitelle’ (venendo anche prese in giro per questo) e vogliono solo poter essere un po’ più indipendenti. Per questo si sono prestate a fare da istitutrici (esperienze che le hanno segnate e che hanno ispirato Jane Eyre, ma soprattutto Agnes Grey) e hanno nutrito per un po’ il sogno di aprire una loro scuola. Infine è stata la scrittura che ha dato loro un minimo di autonomia, ma per farlo sono dovute ricorrere agli pseudonimi maschili di Currer, Ellis ed Acton Bell.

Ero perfettamente al corrente delle idee di papà a proposito delle donne; io e le mie sorelle avevamo trascorso tutta la vita a discutere con lui su questo argomento, cercando, senza successo, di convincerlo che le donne avevano capacità intellettuali pari a quelle degli uomini e si doveva consentire loro di allargare le proprie ali oltre la porta della cucina. Lui aveva ceduto nella pratica - permettendo alla fine che noi studiassimo la storia e i classici insieme a nostro fratello - ma non nella teoria, restando fermamente convinto che il nostro apprendere il latino e il greco, leggendo Virgilio e Omero, fosse un'assoluta perdita di tempo.
“Non ci è concesso nessun impiego che non siano i lavori di casa e il cucito, nessuna distrazione che non sia un inutile ‘fare visite’, e non abbiamo alcuna speranza in tutta la nostra vita di diventare qualcosa di meglio. Gli uomini si aspettano che ci accontentiamo di un simile destino noioso e privo di scopo, sempre uguale, giorno dopo giorno, e oltretutto senza lamentarci, come se non avessimo neppure un briciolo di capacità di fare altro. Allora vi chiedo: potrebbero gli uomini vivere così? Non si annoierebbero a morte?”

I flashback si riferiscono agli anni che Charlotte trascorre nei tre istituti scolastici che frequenta: la Clergy Dauughter’s School, la Roe Head School, dove allaccia amicizie che dureranno per tutta la sua vita (come quella con Ellen Nussey) ed il Pensionnat Héger in Belgio, nel quale Charlotte incontrerà il Professor Héger, suo primo amore, ispiratore dei suoi romanzi Il Professore e Villette. Riguardo alla storia d’amore fra Charlotte ed il professore si può dire che questo è stato uno degli episodi su cui la James ha potuto far fiorire la sua fantasia, dato che Elizabeth Gaskell, autrice della prima biografia di Charlotte Brontë, dopo aver fatto numerose ricerche, ed essersi addirittura recata in Belgio, non ha sbandierato i risultati ottenuti per preservare la reputazione dell’amica. Tutto quello che si sa riguardo a questa esperienza deriva dunque dai suoi romanzi.

Attraverso questo libro conosciamo non soloCharlotte, la sua forza e il suo coraggio, ma anche Emily, riservata e timidissima, Anne, dolce e tranquilla e Branwell passionale e impulsivo, con i suoi problemi di alcol e droga. Conosciamo anche le due sorelle morte prematuramente di consunzione alla Clergy Dauughter’s School, Maria ed Elizabeth, ed il profondo legame fra tutte le sorelle Brontë. Possiamo sognare dei mondi fantastici di Angria e Northangerland, dove i quattro fratelli ambientavano i loro racconti avventurosi, con i loro meravigliosi eroi. E possiamo vedere quasi davanti ai nostri occhi l’onnipresente brughiera dello Yorkshire. Possiamo inoltre conoscere l’ambiente letterario dell’epoca, non solo la Gaskell, che diventa amica di Charlotte, ma Dickens e Thackeray; un ambiente nel quale la Brontë si muove a fatica, preferendo restare seduta in un cantuccio ad osservare, esattamente come farebbe la sua Jane Eyre.

Due momenti assolutamente emozionanti nel libro sono l’attimo cruciale nel quale Charlotte Brontë trova l’ispirazione per scrivere Jane Eyre – e la James ha confessato di aver avuto i brividi lungo la schiena mentre lo scriveva – e la proposta di matrimonio di Mr Nicholls; anche se le parole che la James fa pronunciare al curato non sono esattamente fedeli alla realtà, sono state comunque rielaborate da una lettera che Charlotte scrisse all’amica Ellen subito dopo aver ricevuto la proposta.

Dunque, un testo molto attendibile, e nello stesso tempo appassionante. I puristi potranno storcere il naso per la sua forma romanzata, ma il vasto pubblico ne rimarrà affascinato. Come l’appassionata bronteiana Annarita Verzola dichiara, non ci sono grosse incongruenze rispetto alle biografie ‘ufficiali’ delle sorelle Brontë, ma solo alcune debolezze stilistiche, cioè un linguaggio a volte un po' improbabile per Charlotte. Quello che viene contestato alla James dagli appassionati puristi bronteiani, infatti, è l’avere talvolta dipinto una Charlotte Brontë inattendibile, che sembra più un’adolescente problematica piuttosto che l’autrice di Jane Eyre. In realtà credo personalmente che le persone, messe di fronte a sentimenti reali e coinvolgenti, sono spesso portate a comportarsi da adolescenti, quindi questa versione di Charlotte potrebbe essere assolutamente attendibile.

Una volta appurato che i fatti narrati sono realmente accaduti e che la James ha spaziato con la fantasia solo quando ne aveva la possibilità, c'è da aggiungere solo che la sua forma romanzata dà a questa biografia una marcia in più, perché fa emozionare esattamente come farebbe un romanzo delle sorelle Brontë narrando però episodi reali. E questo in una fredda biografia senza sentimento non potrebbe accadere.

Un libro che attira l’attenzione di chiunque abbia amato Jane Eyre o Cime Tempestose; e non solo, perché la famiglia Brontë, con il suo concentrato di talento artistico in tutti i suoi membri, desta comunque un’enorme curiosità. E nello stesso tempo una storia d’amore appassionante, che rende Arthur Nicholls alla stregua di qualsiasi indimenticabile protagonista maschile.

Per leggere la recensione completa di elenco di sequel e spin-off dei romanzi delle sorelle Brontë:

61 reviews36 followers
July 27, 2020
So good!
I recommend it.
It was fascinating to read about the creation of Jane Eyre and Villette. Jane Eyre is one of my all-time favorite novels.
I found the book very interesting
Profile Image for Anne.
502 reviews507 followers
November 12, 2014
Alright. The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte. There is so much that I wanted to say about this book, but I can't even recall half of what I meant to write.
This was the book that I chanced to bring with me during my recent move trip, from Canada to the States. I must admit that it helped me a great deal, because I was feeling very stressed, but upon entering into the lives of the Brontë family, it made me momentarily forget my worries and anxieties. I owe Syrie James many hours of delight with this book.

Can I truly consider myself a Brontë fan?

Prior to starting this novel, the only work that I had ever read by a Brontë was Jane Eyre, which I loved, and the only thing I knew about the author was that she and Emily and Anne were sisters. I also knew of Wuthering Heights's existence, as well as The Tenant of Wildfell-Hall's, but that's it. I knew nothing about them.

Now after reading The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, I feel as though I know a great deal more about them, and am thoroughly eager to read all their works and biographies. If Syrie James hoped to give the Brontë sisters more fans with her book, she definitely succeeded with me!

This novel was absolutely wonderful. Charlotte was an amazing heroine and Mr. Nicholls no doubt became my new obsession of the moment. Their love story was just beautiful. I felt a great deal of respect and awe for Mr. Nicholls towards the end, when it is revealed that he has been in love so long with Charlotte, and that he had had to wait almost 10 years before marrying her! First she hated him, then he learned that she was a famous author and felt unworthy to be with her, and then, just when she begins to warm up to the idea of being his wife, he is cruelly rejected by her friends and family! I felt incredibly bad for him, especially since his reward of finally getting Charlotte was so short-lived.

Although this book is incredibly sad (I've lost count of how many people pass away!!), it is very well-written, deeply intriguing and well worth reading. It gives an excellent insight of the hard life that women of lower classes led during the 19th century.

I enjoyed the fact that, although a little modernly written, James had her characters act true to the period. She did not include graphic details of marital life, to which I was immensely grateful for. I hate it so when contemporary authors include sex scenes in period novels! Of course I know people had intercourse back then too, but to write it in a novel was extremely out of place. Just think, Jane Eyre was considered a shocking novel at the time of its publication, because of the allusions to Mr. Rochester's past mistresses!

There was a little wedding night scene, but it wasn't detailed enough (only what leads to the act is described, aka, the brushing of the hair) to make me uncomfortable, and though it made me blush, I thought that it was very beautiful.

My only complaint with this book was with all the mistakes in French. I did not mind that French sentences were woven throughout the story, but as a speaker of the language it was extremely annoying to encounter error upon error every time something was written in French. It's like if someone published a book in a foreign language and had English parts here and there, and instead of writing "you're" when it's supposed to be, would write "your" instead. How many of you would go nuts?!
Right. It's annoying. If you're going to include another language in the book, it must be done properly or not at all.

But besides that minor annoyance, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë was an incredible read and I am so looking forward to reading The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen!!!
Profile Image for Meredith (Austenesque Reviews).
939 reviews315 followers
January 3, 2010
It is well known that Charlotte Bronte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate, in 1854 at the age of 38. In addition, it is also understood that Charlotte Bronte had a strong attachment for Constantin Heger, a Belgian professor whom she studied and taught with. But which of these two men did Charlotte really love? Did she marry for love or to escape being labeled an “old maid?” Were any of her heroes modeled after these men?

“The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte” by Syrie James is so much more than a daily record, biography, or a mere glimpse into the life of Charlotte Bronte. It is an in-depth account of the most important and momentous years of this famous author's life. This biographical fiction novel is an excellent combination of truth and conjecture that is a gratifying and magnetizing read! I have had the wonderful pleasure of reading Syrie Jame's first book, “The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen,”and in both books I find myself very impressed by the author's extensive research and knowledge about these two literary figures. In addition, I felt she captured an accurate and distinct voice and personality for both Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte. As you can already tell, I am now a big admirer of Syrie James.

“The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte” begins with Charlotte the shocked and bewildered recipient of Arther Bell Nicholls' addresses. The book then departs from present time and travels back eight years to when Charlotte first meets Mr. Nicholls. During the time of her first encounter with Mr. Nicholls and his marriage proposal is a very eventful time in Charlotte's life. It is within these eight years that Charlotte and her sisters attempt to publish their poems and embark upon writing individual novels. Furthermore, Charlotte's home life goes through a lot of changes and complications during this time.

I was delighted to learn more about all the Brontes (not just Charlotte) and I enjoyed the many flashbacks of Charlotte's childhood, experiences in boarding school, and relationship with Constantin Heger. All the Bronte's were truly fascinating people and it was interesting to see how many of the experiences and people from their lives were used in their novels. In the back of the novel a lot of interesting extras are included such as a Q&A with Syrie James (in which she imparts which parts of the story or fact or fiction), excerpts from the Correspondence of Charlotte Bronte, and suggested discussion questions for a book club or group read.

Ms. James depicted very integral and descriptive portrayal that leads to a greater understanding and appreciation of Charlotte Bronte. I dearly hope she continues to write more in this vein, I love her reverent and precise representation of these beloved authors. In addition, her graceful story telling is seamless and entertaining. I highly recommend this novel for Bronte admires who are interested in learning more about the Brontes and enjoy reading historical fiction or bio-fiction novels.

Austenesque Reviews
Profile Image for Laura Martinelli.
Author 16 books27 followers
April 10, 2009
Picked this up in the advance copy pile at work, as the title looked interesting, and I felt like I needed to get into more historical literature.

The Secret Diaries... covers a good bit of Charlotte Bronte's life- specifically, her relationship with her husband, Arthur Nicholls and how they met and fell in love. This also includes the years she spent publishing with her sisters.

I'll be honest, the narrative doesn't pick up until Anne, Charlotte and Emily decide to start writing and publishing their work. The first ten or so chapters cover Charlotte's childhood and education, and her first impression of Mr. Nicholls, who has arrived as her father's curate. However, after the sisters Bronte (or siblings Bell, as it were), begin their writing career, it really picked up for me.

However, once Mr. Nicholls and Charlotte begin returning the other's affections, every other character in the book- who have been highly supportive of Mr. Nicholls- does a 180 and starts accusing him of wanting Charlotte for her fame and fortune. I was also saddened to see James appropriate Jane Eyre's famous declaration; it made the lead-up of events seem cheapened and just a nod to Bronte fans. On the other hand, the reading group copy does include several published poems by the Bronte family, which does add to the story, seeing as the poems are discussed in great detail.

Overall, if you enjoy anything by the Brontes- or historical fiction/interpretation- this is for you.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
1,111 reviews
February 19, 2014
This book got me interested (again) in reading Jane Eyre and other books by Charlotte Bronte and her sisters. This book and others about the Bronte family are very interesting to read, but also sad to read. All three sisters were such great writers and to have them die so young and have had a very hard life is tough to continue to read about (with anything about them).

However, Charlotte tried to continue on after the death of her sisters and finally found happiness in her marriage.

Mostly when I read about them or read their novels I try to understand their lives and what it was like. They intrigue me and yet repulse me by the sorrow of their professional writing lives and their personal woes.
Profile Image for Lisa's book adventures.
139 reviews12 followers
February 12, 2016
I rated this book 4 stars, but only when viewing it as a work of fiction. It is a very romanticized re telling of her life. And I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Although I expected there to be more about her writing, but I guess there is only a limited amount of material to work with.

I do recommend this book, but don't expect it to reflect what her life actually looked like.
Profile Image for Abby.
850 reviews142 followers
April 28, 2021
A fictionalization of Charlotte Bronte's life, Syrie James takes her history and puts it into a diary that Charlotte might have kept. I read an actual biography shortly before this book and there were a lot of similarities. Of course, with the diary, we get a lot of what Charlotte may have been thinking. I think this a fantastic way to provide biographical information without boring the reader. I was totally hooked and loved following along with Charlotte's short life. What an inspirational woman she was, writing books secretly as a man and then surprising everyone once she was successful that she's actually a woman. Amazing.
Profile Image for Carolynn Markey.
295 reviews1 follower
May 1, 2019
I absolutely loved this book!! It was so well researched and well done!!! Hilarious. I didn’t know half as much about her life as I thought I did and reading this brought her books so much closer to me.

I wish religion was written as more important in the book as I know it was during that time.
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