The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte
by Syrie James
In the same vein as James’ novel on Jane Austen comes this take on Bronte’s life. She flows easily back and forth between known fact and conjecture about the author’s thoughts and romantic feelings. For me, the romance didn’t feel central to the story. Instead it’s more about the bond of the Bronte sisters and their struggle to find their voices despite their circumstances. James clearly did a lot of excellent research about Charlotte’s life and an afterward even clarifies the few bits that aren’t factual.
I loved it because I was able to learn more of the facts of Charlotte Bronte’s life in an accessible way. I knew the general story, but this clarified quite a few things about her family for me. I cared less about the romantic relationship, though that was part of the true story as well. The book really made me want to read Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography of Bronte. The two authors’ friendship added such a sweet aspect to Charlotte Bronte’s life, especially after all of her sisters had passed away and she had no one left to talk about her writing. I can’t imagine that kind of loneliness. Not only did she lose her family, she also lost her community of fellow writers.
BOTTOM LINE: A great one to pick up after reading Charlotte Bronte’s work. It’s not an earthshattering book, but if you love the Brontes, and I do, this novel is a wonderful way to see what their lives were like. It makes their bodies of work even more impressive when you take into account all the obstacles they overcame to get published.
“One man cannot be everything to a woman, nor should he be expected to be.”
“It’s not easy, but a clever woman can find time to do the things that matter to her.”