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Fact based Bronte Bio drags and darts
on 7 August 2010
Unless you have been living under a rock for your whole life, you've heard of Charlotte Bronte's 'Jane Eyre' and sister Emily's 'Wuthering Heights'. You might even know that youngest sister Anne published a couple of novels too, which not being on the GCSE English Lit reading list, tend to get forgotten about.
True to the harrowing content of their known works, they all suffered lives filled with tragedy including the untimely loss of loved ones (Charlotte actually twice watching siblings die within months of one another), so Jude Morgan seeks to build on that true story in his book 'The Taste of Sorrow', which is really a prose-written biography of the 3 sisters.
Although the story is worth telling, and he has no doubt thoroughly researched every facet of the book, the prose is clunky and often moves nowhere for pages and pages, especially at the beginning of the book. Charlotte herself covered the horrible experience of boarding school in the early chapters of Jane Eyre, and Morgan seems to spend far too long on the subject here. The chapters throughout are overly long, so be warned that you will have to break from reading in the middle of the chapter unless you have the luxury of being able to sit and read a near 400 page book in one sitting!
By trying to cover all 3 sisters (plus other family members and supporting cast), Morgan skips the POV frequently, sometimes it feels like it skips mid-paragraph. Coupled with the fact that all 3 sisters are painted with a similar temperament and associated mental foibles, it does become difficult to decipher whose voice is speaking at times. As the book progresses and Charlotte's voice is the prominent one, the book seems to gather pace and the story actually becomes much more readable.
Clearly a labour of love for Morgan, too much is made of the encapsulated world the Brontes chose to inhabit, cutting themselves off from anyone else. None of them are particularly likeable, which isn't really the point, but with their story it should be possible to at least invoke some empathy in the reader. To be honest, the book left me cold, but sort of wanting to re-read Jane Eyre!