I really enjoyed this book, and I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say this is probably one of the best biographies I've read in years.
Before starting Gaskell's book, I only knew the bare bones of the Bronte family's story as well as a few anecdotes told to me by a couple of English teachers back in school. So it was quite an nice eyeopener to have some the knowledge gaps filled in as it were.
The book is quite a hefty read and Gaskell spends quite a lot time in the beginning of the biography talking about the local history of the village where the Bronte's lived. Gaskell's skill as a writer is clearly shown here, as she painted a very vivid and colourful picture of every day life that didn't seem to drag in the least.
Of particular interest was the inclusion of letters that Bronte had written to friends, family and other assorted acquaintances over the years. I felt that while reading them, I gained a far better understanding of Charlotte than through Gaskell's almost saintly descriptions of her.
I think the main problem with The Life of Charlotte Bronte, is that it is essentially a nineteenth century public relations exercise. Certainly, if this book came out today I would probably slate it for its biases and inaccuracies. However, part of its charm is that it is very much a book of its time and I think I can easily excuse Gaskell for wanting to show her friend in the best possible light.
Anyway, I'm definitely going to look out more of Gaskell's scribblings as a result of reading this, and possibly look out another Bronte biography just to have something to compare this with.