This week, as you may perhaps have noticed, I’m taking part in the Brooding About the Brontës event hosted by Girl With Her Head In A Book. It’s a vertiable Brontextravaganza, with multiple daily reviews, guest posts, discussions and more (see the schedule here). Instead of answering the daily discussion questions individually, I’ve taken a cue from Charlene of Bookish Whimsy and answered them all in one post.
What would be your answers? Be sure to hop over to GWHHIAB and join in the fun!
Why do you love the Brontës?
I was slow to appreciate the classics; I think that I was too young for many of them when I was made to read them in school (including Wuthering Heights at age 14), and developed the idea that they were impenetrable and remote from my experience. But when I read Jane Eyre in college, I was completely drawn in by the brilliant storytelling, dreamlike images, and complex array of characters. The book formed a bridge from the fantasy literature I loved as a child into the world of nineteenth-century fiction and literary criticism; I ended up writing my senior project on it (“The Interpreting Mirror: The Fantasy of Realism and the Novels of Charlotte Brontë”) and moving on from all the Brontës to Dickens, Eliot, Gaskell, Trollope, Thackeray, etc… I’m not sure I would have gotten there without Jane.
Pick your favourite Brontë novel
Jane Eyre — I still find it the most compulsively readable, though I appreciate all the novels for different reasons.
Do you have a ‘favourite sister’?
I think the dynamics within the whole family are what fascinate me the most. Charlotte had perhaps the dominant personality, and I feel I know her best, but what would she have been without the others?
Pick your favourite Brontë-related book (fiction or non-fiction)
This is not exactly a book, but years ago I saw a British production of Jane Eyre as a play at the Brooklyn Academy of Music that I found brilliant; it had the “madwoman” on stage all the time, accompanying Jane and expressing her inner state. It brought out something latent in the text, without wordy critical discussion, and I found it quite convincing.
Are the Brontës being forgotten?
I think they are more popular than ever — look at all the retellings and biographies that have been produced in the last few years! I think the sisters would be stunned if they knew how their literary reputation has endured and blossomed.
Which Brontë fictional heroine (or indeed leading man) do you most closely identify with?
I would like to have as much courage and integrity as Jane, but that’s something I can only aspire to. Sometimes I feel as contrary and selfish as Cathy, and I have the occasional wild impulse to run about on the moors. I can also feel as coldly analytical as Lucy, and I would like to be as generous and brave as Shirley. There’s an amazing range of human emotion and experience represented by the Brontë characters, and I think at least something of them lives in each one of us.