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Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart

4.25  ·  Rating details ·  1,193 ratings  ·  251 reviews
A groundbreaking biography that places an obsessive, unrequited love at the heart of the writer's life story, transforming her from the tragic figure we have previously known into a smoldering Jane Eyre.

Famed for her beloved novels, Charlotte Brontë has been known as well for her insular, tragic family life. The genius of this biography is that it delves behind this image
Hardcover, 462 pages
Published March 1st 2016 by Knopf (first published October 29th 2015)
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4.25  · 
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 ·  1,193 ratings  ·  251 reviews

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April (Aprilius Maximus)
Reading this biography was like being punched in the gut over and over. Charlotte was a revolutionary, a catalyst for change, not only in fiction, but also in how people perceive others. I am so moved by the Brontë's story that I feel I have been forever changed. I swear I will visit you one day Charlotte and weep at your grave, my soul sister. <3 (okay, that was a little dramatic, but GUYS SRSLY).
I suppose I'd be a sucker for anything about Charlotte Brontë, who has been My Hero since I was around nine or ten. But as it happens, even after reading the breathlessly starry-eyed Girl With A Pen: Charlotte Bronte and the far more worthy, but slightly sniffy The Brontës, this biography really made Charlotte into a completely believable person, one that you could imagine beavering away at her writing determinedly if very short-sightedly, handling expertly a difficult father and demanding sibli ...more
May 18, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Teresa by: ·Karen·
Even if you know the life of Charlotte Bronte (the facts of her life were not new to me), there are insights here for you. This account of her too-short life, heartbreaking at times due to the famous tragedies that beset the family, is gripping and engrossing: I hated that it had to end.


At first I was a bit disconcerted at the way the notes at the back of the book were handled, but I quickly became attuned to them.
What a strange, isolated and yet amazing life! The sheer volume of intense emotion simmering beneath the reserved, Victorian surface of Charlotte Brontë is simply staggering. It’s a wonder that she lived as long as she did while repressing that ocean of feeling.

And oh how the Brontës hated having to go to work and earn a living! They were a family of huge egos, every one of them convinced that they were geniuses and that such trivialities as going to work and dealing with regular people were far
Joanne Harris
Terrific biography of Charlotte Brontë. Filled with fascinating insights and details into the lives and interactions of the inhabitants of the Brontë Parsonage. Moving, thought-provoking, detailed and profoundly erudite, yet thrilling and accessible. One of the best biographies I've read in recent years...
Oct 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners

Description: Hattie Morahan reads Claire Harman's new and intimate biography of Charlotte Bronte, one of the nation's greatest novelists. This vivid and complex portrait is published ahead of the two hundredth anniversary of the writer's birth in April 2016.

The events of Charlotte Bronte's life - her motherless childhood on the Yorkshire moors, the early and tragic deaths of her beloved siblings and a great and unrequited love - all found their way int
With her bicentennial approaching in April 2016, it is the perfect time to revisit Charlotte Brontë’s timeless stories. One of the things Harman’s wonderful biography does best is to trace how the Brontës’ childhood experiences found later expression in their fiction. A chapter on the publication of Jane Eyre (1847) is a highlight. Diehard fans might not encounter lots of new material, but Harman does make a revelation concerning Charlotte’s cause of death – not TB, as previously believed, but h ...more
Jan 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2016
Moving, hard-to-put-down, sometimes heartbreaking, and utterly fascinating, Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart is less massive than Juliet Barker’s The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors, but it’s a good choice for someone not ready to dive into the delights of Barker’s thorough, 1,000+ page tome. In spite of the title, Charlotte is the main but not only focus this new biography, because it also covers the lives of Emily, Anne, Branwell and their father--they were such a close family it would be imp ...more
Feb 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites, nonfiction
Some life stories are so canonical that they don’t bear retelling, so much as demand it. That’s why every 20 years or so, we get a new biography of Charlotte Brontë, the patron saint of every bookish brown mouse who has ever screamed silently to the world, “One day you will notice me and be dazzled by my sun!"

“Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart” is by turns charming, devastating, heartbreaking, and exciting. Claire Harman has meticulously researched the life of the Brontë family, and of Charlotte i
Aug 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I'm probably easily pleased, but I was very excited earlier this year when I read that Claire Harman would be publishing a new biography of Charlotte Brontë and I made sure I got my hands on a copy as soon as I could.
Harman is a great writer and I hoped she'd make a success of the biography- and she most certainly has.

The book starts off, cleverly I thought, with an absolutely pivotal moment in Charlotte's life. It's a Sunday afternoon in 1843 and she is in Brussels, lonely and alone. The school
Apr 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, classics
Such an enjoyable biography and audiobook experience. Does contain spoilers for the Brontë sisters’ seven novels. Loved the mix of primary sources and narrative by Harman.
Beth Bonini
I read Jane Eyre for the first time when I was 10 years old. My 4th grade teacher didn't it think it was an appropriate choice for my book report; she recommended something by Beverly Cleary instead. I was highly indignant at the time, but I can see her point now. But there will always be some children who pay no attention to what is developmentally appropriate, and instead choose to race ahead into uncharted intellectual and emotional territory - looking for information about the world, or perh ...more
This book offers a good recap of what is known about the Brontë family - the three authors Charlotte, Emily and Anne, the two oldest sisters Maria and Elizabeth that died before their teens, their brother Branwell and the father Patrick. The focus is on Charlotte. She lived the longest of the six children. She died at the age of 38 in 1855! Their mother, Maria, died when Charlotte, the third oldest child, was five years old. Patrick was the perpetual curate of the parsonage in Haworth, West York ...more
Melissa I
Jan 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers of Biographies, Classics and most Definitely Jane Eyre/Bronte fans
Recommended to Melissa by: Goodreads First Reads
This book is a stunning gem. I'm dying to share so many of the quotes and poems from it, however I can't if I'm to follow the publishers wishes to not quote from the unfinished proof without checking it against the finished and there is no question that this will be a book I'll be buying a finished copy of. Even at 400+, nearly 500 pages it physically has a quality to it which is just the first realization of the depth of love and care that went into it. The writing and research, the depth of de ...more
Carol Douglas
Jan 10, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This is a moving and thorough biography of Charlotte Bronte. It also contains some discussion of her books, though not as much as I would have liked. But then it would have been 1,000 pages long.
Harman explains why Jane Eyre has magnetized so many readers: Its predominant emotion is anger. I hadn't thought of that before, but I see that Harman is right. Far from being a romance, it's a cry in the wilderness, an act of rebellion.
I learned things about Charlotte and her family that I hadn't k
This was a very intimate look into Charlotte Bronte's life. I LOVED the copies of the letters and other real pieces of history that were thrown in, along with anecdotes that may not have been found elsewhere. I did enjoy the set up of the book, but it did get a bit dry in places Overall, it was apparent that the Author was a major fan of Charlotte and wanted to try to show her as raw of a persona s she could. If you are a Charlotte Bronte fan than this is definitely worth the read. 4 Stars
Jul 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I found this a lot more illuminating than I expected to. I've read a fair bit about the Brontes, but I still learned a lot of new information. Although the focus was on Charlotte, all the family were well documented here. It's a big book, but a breeze to read. Highly recommend for Bronte fans.
This biography is so well written, in my opinion, it felt like a story itself, it was so easy to read and incredibly informative. I've not read a lot about the Brontes, but I've read a few of their main books, such as Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, so this was a very interesting read into the life of Charlotte, but also about the relationships with her family, and how this translated into her fiction. In a way, this book is almost like a story in that Charlotte Bronte is such an interesting in ...more
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2016
I never really intended to read this book, just kind of peruse it, but once I started I couldn't stop. The writing is very novelistic, descriptive, and straightforward. The Brontes were a fascinating lot for being quite sheltered and reserved. I admire that the author never assumed anything about Charlotte that wasn't backed up with evidence. She clearly did her research and thought very carefully about how to present it. If you're into the Brontes I would say this is a must read, but it's also ...more
Janille N G
Mar 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
~I’ve just finished Claire Harman’s biography of my most favourite and idolized author, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart, and I am almost stunned into silence by just how beautiful, tragic and haunting Charlotte’s life was.

Harman’s biography is not altogether touching and memorable because of its articulation of facts and details about Charlotte’s life – that sort of information can be easily found on the internet, and I was aware of most of it from my extensive reading about Charlotte’s life in
Kathleen Flynn
This is an excellent, comprehensive and well-written biography, and a good counterbalance to Juliet Barker's sometimes acerbic take on Charlotte Bronte in Wild Genius on the Moors. Though I also admire Barker's book very much and don't suppose either biographer -- or any biographer -- to have a monopoly on truth. People are complicated, and no one is a better example of that than Charlotte Bronte.
Ghost of the Library
After all these years, the books, the movies, the plays, the documentaries, the reviews and the endless discussions, one would think all has been said and written about these remarkable sisters...boy was i wrong in that assumption!

First of all, anyone who loves and knows Charlotte and her work, knows just how impossible it is to separate her life from that of her siblings - truly her center and her source of support her whole life, until their deaths.
So yes this is indeed a biography of Charlot
PennsyLady (Bev)
Apr 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Claire Harmon presents Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Heart on the 200th anniversary of Charlotte’s birth.
I was fortunate to receive, for review, the audiobook narrated by Corrie James.

The characters are well defined and the narration so precise that I lingered over the discs, savoring every nuance.

I was aware that Charlotte's life and observations contributed to the drama and tragedy of her Gothic novels.
I was however inclined to think of Elizabeth Gaskell's 1857 portrayal as the epitome of Victoria
Laurel Hicks
Apr 29, 2016 rated it really liked it
This is a fascinating biography of the author of Jane Eyre. It certainly helps to explain Villette!
I listened to 6 of the 16 hours of this audio book from the library. The narrator is excellent and the writing is engaging. However, I will not be finishing this book. I have read a lot about the Brontes and I know their story very well. The facts do not change but with each new biography, the interpretation can change and I didn't agree with some of the implications of this author-- they seemed rather simplistic and 21st century in their conclusions for my taste.
Alyssa  McNaughton
This book was PHENOMENAL. Though inundated with so much information & a heavier read/ took me longer than expected to finish, I am soooo happy I stuck with it. I learned so much about Charlotte that I wouldn’t have known otherwise & now have so many more books I want to read that were mentioned by the author & places of significance to her story that I want to visit!!
Oct 29, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Laura by: Bettie
From BBC Radio 4 - Book of the Week:
Hattie Morahan reads Claire Harman's new and intimate biography of Charlotte Bronte, one of the nation's greatest novelists. This vivid and complex portrait is published ahead of the two hundredth anniversary of the writer's birth in April 2016.

The events of Charlotte Bronte's life - her motherless childhood on the Yorkshire moors, the early and tragic deaths of her beloved siblings and a great and unrequited love - all found their way into her novels. Claire
Mar 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Hold on to your hairpins Bronte lovers! Beautifully heart wrenching, psychologically thrilling, and unforgettably juicy and enjoyable. I want to hug Claire Harman for this gift to us. If you love Jane Eyre or any of the Bronte literature, you will love it times 10 after reading this and connecting the dots of the autobiographical roots of most of the characters (Helen Burns in Jane Eyre is a portrait of her oldest sister, Maria) and events (page 213 outlines the real mad woman who lived in a pad ...more
This was a really excellent biography which I thoroughly enjoyed. I definitely learnt a lot more about the Brontes as a family, particularly in areas which I didn't know much about before, such as Charlotte's trips to London and her and Emily's time spent in Brussels. Would highly recommend if you're interested in the family, and would also recommend the audiobook which was narrated wonderfully by Claire Harman herself!
Jul 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is the first biography I have read about Charlotte Bronte. I watched the very good BBC program and that lead me to this. It is a good read. The Bronte family is such an interesting study in talent. Such a sorrow that they all died so young and how Charlotte died ,according to this writer, is especially sad.
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The Brontë Family: New(ish) Charlotte Bio 1 7 Jul 21, 2016 11:44AM  

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Claire Harman began her career in publishing, at Carcanet Press and the poetry magazine PN Review, where she was co-ordinating editor.

Her first book, a biography of the writer Sylvia Townsend Warner, was published in 1989 and won the John Llewellyn Rhys Prize for ‘a writer of growing stature’ under the age of 35. She has since published biographies of Fanny Burney and Robert Louis Stevenson and ed
“The thought came over me: am I to spend all the best part of my life in this wretched bondage, forcibly suppressing my rage at the idleness, the apathy and the hyperbolical & most asinine stupidity of those fat-headed oafs, and on compulsion assuming an air of kindness, patience & assiduity? Must I from day to day sit chained to this chair, prisoned with in these four bare walls, while these glorious summer suns are burning in heaven & the year is revolving in its richest glow & declaring at the close of every summer day [that] the time I am losing will never come again?” 5 likes
“Healing, "recovering," from a death is also a form of estrangement, a further loss.” 3 likes
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