Syrie JAMES : The secret diaries of Charlotte Brontë

"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?" 

After reading certain reviews here and there, let me warn you first that if you're a scholar expecting to read a "serious" Brontë biography filled with notes and references, this is not the book for you. But again, if you're a serious Brontë scholar, of course you will know that this is not a "serious" biography and, of course, that Charlotte Brontë never left any diaries behind her ! Now that I got this off my chest, let's move on with the review.
I'd never heard about this book before I borrowed it online from my library. I was looking for a particular biography of Emily, but I found this instead, so why not read it ? This is a fictionalized biography, once again, but even if it's not as "serious" as some would like, you clearly feel the love the author has for Charlotte Brontë and she certainly has been doing her homework and researches. I also think that she got Charlotte's voice right, even if we know that Charlotte wouldn't have written a diary and wouldn't have mentioned her wedding night, for instance. But she could have thought and lived all this and it doesn't hurt to pretend a while, does it ?

This novel was very enjoyable and entertaining. It contains three volumes, as novels were published back then. I thought the timeline, the flash-backs, the quotes here and there were well placed, everything was well woven. We know that Charlotte extracted a lot from her personal experience to put into her novels, so a quote here and there didn't disturb me even if it's not the gospel truth.
Honestly, this is a good surprise because I didn't expect much at the beginning - I thought it would be more silly, along the lines of a bad historical romance. If you're looking for information about the Brontës, if you're starting to read classics but are afraid to find them dry (they're not !), this is a good place to begin : easy to read, the facts are mostly correct and if you want to read more academic studies once you're done, you can move later to Juliet Barker's work - "the" reference on the subject.


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