4 Don't Miss Things for Every Brontë Fan

Joelle Nealy
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A lot of research goes into each Poesie collection, and the Thornfield collection was no exception. Immersing myself in the story I'm trying to capture inspires new scents and creates the overall feel of things. Although I did revisit the book, having read Jane Eyre countless times, I wanted to delve deeper and find outside sources to complete the picture of Charlotte Brontë and the environs in which the lives of her characters played out. I know I'm not alone in finding the elusive author to be a source of endless fascination, so whether the subject has recently captured your imagination or you have also found Jane Eyre to be a faithful companion through the years, enjoy a few of the best things I discovered in my exploration. 

Set of the  Brontë sisters' works from Juniper Books

Set of the Brontë sisters' works from Juniper Books

I watch a lot of documentaries on YouTube, and when this one popped up in my feed, of course I was in. Although I had (and really, still have) no idea who Sheila Hancock is -- Wikipedia lists her as an actress and author -- her love for the Brontës makes her a compelling narrator, and she treats the subject as a very personal matter. There will not be a lot of surprises for those who are already Brontë obsessed, but the scholarship is solid and it’s a more modern take on the three women, painting them not as stunted children or sheltered virgins whose writings were strange anomalies, but as intelligent, passionate women whose works belie their narrow world experience.

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I read Elizabeth Gaskell’s biography before picking this one up. The Gaskell version was the first Charlotte Brontë biography, written during the lifetime of her husband and father by the author who was a personal friend. Although I love Gaskell’s fiction and found the excerpts of Charlotte’s letters to be very moving, overall that book was a disappointment. A Fiery Heart is the biography I was hoping to read, one which conveys the passionate woman who brought us Jane Eyre. Charlotte and the Brontë household come to life vividly through Harman’s prose, and I found myself both laughing and crying. Mostly crying, though. The Brontë’s lives were sad AF.

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I subscribed to PBS just to watch this, and maybe my expectations were a bit too high. It covers a fairly narrow scope of the Brontë’s lives, focusing on Charlotte, Emily, and Anne at the time they were writing and publishing their best known works, while simultaneously dealing with the decline and eventual death of their brother, Branwell. It was not quite the expansive biographical work I had hoped to watch. To Brontë aficionados, however, seeing the household brought to life, glimpsing the landscapes that pervade their writing, and getting a more substantial understanding of the distinct personalities will be irresistible. The script, heavily based  on Charlotte’s letters, is at times bleak, heartwrenching, and triumphant. Don’t watch it if you’re looking for a feel-good period drama, but if you can’t get enough of the Brontës, it will be worth your time.

As many times as I have read Jane Eyre, I didn’t expect the audiobook to live up to the well established narrative voice in my head, but I was happy to be so wrong! Thandie Newton’s performance is absolutely captivating. The words come to life, feeling conversational in a way that most narrators could not manage with a midcentury Victorian novel. She creates such believable voices for all of the characters that when she channels Rochester, you forget that you’re actually hearing a woman speak. This version would make a great introduction for readers intimidated by reading the novel in print, and anyone who has loved and re-read Jane Eyre multiple times should give it a chance to let them experience the story in a new way.