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The Brontë Sisters (Paperback)

Life, Loss and Literature

Social History Women of History

By Catherine Rayner
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Series: Trailblazing Women
Pages: 248
ISBN: 9781526703125
Published: 19th February 2018


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Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall...these fictional masterpieces are all recognised as landmarks of English Literature. Still inspirational and challenging to readers today, upon release in the mid-nineteenth century they caused a veritable sensation, chiefly due to their subject matter and unconventional styles. But the greatest sensation of all came when these books were revealed to be the creations of women.
This is the story of those women and of the forces that shaped them into trailblazing writers.

From early childhood, literature and the world of books held the attention and sparked the fertile imaginations of the emotionally intense and fascinating Bronte siblings. Beset by tragedy, three outlets existed for their grief and their creative talents; they escaped into books, into the wild moorlands surrounding their home and into their own rich inner lives and an intricate play-world born of their collective imaginations.

In this new study, Catherine Rayner offers a full and fascinating exploration of the formative years of these bright children, taking us on a journey from their earliest years to their tragically early deaths. The Bronte girls grew into women who were unafraid to write themselves into territories previously only visited by male authors. In addition, they tackled all the taboo subjects of their time; divorce, child abuse, bigamy, domestic violence, class, female depression and mental illness. Nothing was beyond their scope and it is especially for this ability and determination to speak for women, the marginalised and the disadvantaged that they are remembered and celebrated today, two hundred years after their births in the quiet Yorkshire village of Haworth.

This timely release offers a fresh perspective on a fascinating family and a unique trio of talented and trailblazing sisters whose books will doubtless continue to haunt and inspire for generations to come.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Since Wuthering Heights has been my favorite book since my university days, I was immediately attracted to this book. And, of course, Jane Eyre is deservedly revered. I knew very little beyond the basics of their lives so gaining further insight here was fascinating. It seems quite amazing to me that they were able to succeed as they did given the difficult family,social and cultural times in which they lived. On top of everything else of course there were significant money constraints. Given this milieu, it seems quite incredible not only that they produced such great fiction but they tackled such strong, "indelicate " (for the time) subject matter. The author has produced a very fine book, well-written and insightful. I am sure to reread it.

NetGalley, reviewed by Janice Bell

It was very interesting to get a wider context to the lives and works of Charlotte, Emily and Anne, and I enjoyed reading about the enigmatic sisters. The writer succeeds in painting a picture of their lives, their characters and the circumstances in which their works of literature came into being.

NetGalley, reviewed by Lola James

I am fascinated by the Brontes so am always interested in any new books about them but at times it can feel like everything has already been said. This is an interesting take on the Bronte myths and realities and I really enjoyed reading it.

Highly recommended for anyone who loves the Brontes and the novels. The author does a great job of linking all the various strands of novels, reality and family together and it will be a great addition to the Bronte study canon.

NetGalley, reviewed by Louise Mackin

The author uses an acculturated, fluid, winding, meditative tone to describe the lives, works, and repeated themes (including the Great Glasstown Confederacy) of each of the Brontë sisters.

NetGalley, reviewed by Kristine Fisher

I was lucky enough to get my wish granted by Netgalley and get this fascinating book about the Bronte sisters. Having a thorough understanding about the sisters, their lives, their experiences just made me appreciate their books so much more! This is perfect for those who love the Bronte sisters!

NetGalley, reviewed by Susan Amiri

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Historically vivid, written well. For any one who is a history and literature buff this will be right up their alley. I enjoyed it, having never read much about the Bronte sisters. I liked the authors style of writing and though it was a biography, it read smoothly like a fiction novel. Curious about The Bronte sisters? Looking to read a biography but don't know what to read? This book is an excellent place to start.

NetGalley, reviewed by Holly Senecal

Much has been written about the Brontë sisters, indeed the family, and this will be a fine addition to them.

NetGalley, reviewed by J Fearnley

There are many books and biographies about the Brontë family, and one may wonder if there is anything new to say on the subject. This was an enjoyable read for me, the author doesn't just relay by now well-known biographical facts, but examines the societal and cultural world the sisters grew up in, and how this influenced their literary success. Personally, I don't think I can ever read enough about the lives of these remarkable women.

NetGalley, reviewed by Gayle Noble

I recommend it to those who approach the complex and fascinating world of an extraordinary family.

NetGalley, reviewed by Sara Piras

About Catherine Rayner

Catherine Rayner is a Life Member of The Bronte Society, a Trustee on the Council of the Bronte Society and the Chair of its Conference and Publications Committee. She studied at Hull and Leeds Universities and has degrees in English and Philosophy with Social History, Health and Social Care, and an MA in Victorian Literature. She has studied and researched the lives of the Bronte family for over forty years, and has previously written two theses on Emily Bronte, as well as various articles. Alongside this, she is a qualified nurse and has studied the effects of childhood on the development and psychology of adults.

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