Reading: The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë

Dec 5, 2016 | Comments

I’m extremely fond of Charlotte Brontë. Villette is easily my favourite novel and I hold it very close to my heart. A couple week ago I finally got around to reading Jane Eyre and it did not disappoint. The other members of the Brontë family are not to be overlooked either. I enjoyed Emily’s Wuthering Heights and all of Anne’s books are in my to read list. So when I stumbled upon The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë by Syrie James in the library, I couldn’t resist picking it up.

There’s something about the Brontë family that I find incredibly interesting. I’m a romantic at heart and the family’s strange ability to be surrounded by tragedy is appealing to me. I’ve watched documentaries and read numerous articles about them. I’ve looked at Branwell’s family portrait numerous times and tried to imagine what the Brontë sisters would have looked like. I’ve seen George Richmond’s chalk sketch of Charlotte and built a picture of Charlotte in my head. I gazed at photos of the moors and wondered at what attracted the family to such a dull place. I envied their love for literature and their eagerness to be absorbed in their fictional worlds. Unfortunately, this all worked against my favour while I began to read The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë.

The first couple of pages were disappointing to me. The book claimed to be written by Charlotte’s hand but I (foolishly) despaired at how the style was so unlike Charlotte. Her character in my head did not align with James’ vision. When I pictured the events, I pictured a woman who was not Charlotte. She was more like Jane Austen’s Emma, a beautiful woman with a naive and girlish charm. I could not picture Charlotte’s plain face on this Emma. This is not James’ fault in the slightest. It’s my own expectations that ruined it for me.

However, it got better. I eventually came to accept Emma as Charlotte. In a way, I still don’t 100% see my Charlotte in the pages. I’m not yet half way through the book but I’m very engrossed in it. I appreciate all the references and while not entirely in Charlotte’s style, it is Charlotte-esque in content. It’s hard for it to not reflect any of Charlotte’s essence, since much of her work is modelled after her own life and the novel fully appreciates both her work and her life.

So far, I guess you could say that I like it.

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