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3.9 out of 5 stars63
3.9 out of 5 stars
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on 4 November 2009
It's difficult to put into words just how much I loved this novel! Jude Morgan writes beautifully, and his portrayal of these doyennes of English literature is so perceptive, so intimate, that I found myself instantly absorbed by these very real, if extraordinary, women. Each Brontë sister feels restricted, not just by nineteenth-century society and the low expectations of their father, but also by their own fears. As Emily becomes increasingly detached and Anne more introspective, Charlotte's heartbreak and frustrations drive her on, and it is her passion and need for expression that ultimately saves them all. This fascinating family of geniuses is brought spectacularly to life in a masterpiece of historical fiction, and whether you're a Brontëphile or not, I defy you not to be both moved and gripped by it.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 14 April 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Wow! What a fantastic book this is. True the subject matter is enduringly fascinating, but this brings the stories to life in a totally gripping and encompassing way. It's a sumptuous Brontë-fest.

The Brontës' first biographer was, of course, a novelist, and in the wake of Mrs Gaskell - who confessed, as a writer of fiction, to finding it hard to stick to the facts - their story has been adapted, ad infinitum, for stage and screen as well as in books. The Taste of Sorrow is a very welcome addition to that genre and, unlike Mrs Gaskell, Jude Morgan comfortably takes the route of fiction, albeit using vast amounts of what is known to be historical fact. The result is to really bring this remarkable family to life - and indeed to death as early death was a feature both of the times and their upbringing. The novel starts off with the death of their mother, including a suggestion that may raise some hackles that she may have made a pact with the devil for her daughters' future.

The rich style of writing may not be to all modern tastes, but I loved it. I was instantly taken back 150 years - staggering to think that it really was not that long ago - to Haworth and the newly industrialising villages, together with the restrictions on the opportunities for young girls and the horrors of their limited education.

I came to this book with a fair degree of familiarity with the story - but absolutely none is needed. Indeed, you don't even need to know the novels of the Brontës to enjoy this book, although some knowledge undoubtedly helps you to pick up on some of Morgan's themes which were to re-appear in the girls' books (for example, there are several references to madness and attics in Charlotte's musings - which feature heavily in Jane Eyre, Emily stumbles on a dead bird that will feature in Wuthering Hieghts etc). Picking up on these will undoubtedly deepen your enjoyment, but it's absolutely not necessary - this story stands on its own perfectly well.

And don't expect too much to soon about the actual writing of the books - which was eventful in itself given that they felt the need to write under assumed (male) names. Their tentative steps into publishing don't feature until quite late on in the book.

Each sister is clearly defined - as is the relationship between each of them and their brother Branwell. Emily has always been my favourite - but then Wuthering Heights is one of my favourite books! - and this book did nothing to trample on that image. Neither does Morgan take liberties or trample on the facts - as often happens in some historical fiction - but rather he enlivens the facts and brings the story alive.

Great stuff.
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on 19 June 2009
I don't know how Jude Morgan does it! Having read the fantastic 'Passion' and 'Symphony' based on the lives of real historical figures, I was very excited to see this book about the Brontes. Once again, this extremely clever writer has pulled all the epic strands together, and created another masterpiece of atmosphere, storytelling and historical research. This is a fine introduction into the early lives of the sisters - not forgetting Branwell, too, and that rare class of book that you just don't want to end. Even given the grim times in which they lived, wrote and died, Morgan manages to derive some humour and hope. The subject matter may be a path well trodden, but Morgan invests such attention-to-detail in the psychological aspects of the 'characters,' that you feel like you actually know them, and experience genuine grief and admiration by the end of the book.
It's such a travesty not to see Jude Morgan on the bestseller lists. I hope this book wins this talented author many more fans.
I would recommend 'The Taste of Sorrow' without reservation.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The dust jacket of the hardback edition of The Taste of Sorrow is black - and suggests far more fittingly the depth and power of this wonderful book, and its sources, than the rather prettified 3 maidens in nighties which will be the cover of the paperback.

The lives of the Brontes have given rise to almost as many plays, books and films as the books themselves particularly Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights. The Brontes, by modern reckoning, had wretched, unfulfilled, bleak and narrow lives. Even within their time they were seen to be socially inept and to be pitied.

It is extraordinary that from the events of those lives came the dark, obsidian revelations of The Professor, Jane Eyre, Villette, Shirley, Agnes Gray, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, - and that from a glittering, dark imagination, with little objective personal biographical events gestating it, Wuthering Heights was born

The Bronte sisters wrote dangerous, bleak revelations about life and human nature, exposing as much of the shadow as the great Russian writer Dostoievsky. No wonder they had to disguise their womanly identity and present the fiction of pen names which the world assumed were masculine.

In a neat twist, Jude Morgan is also an androgynous nom-de-plume - in this case we have a male writer beautifully entering into female sensibilities. Morgan writes elegantly, with discipline, poetry and passion, eloquently telling the story of this complex family. The Taste of Sorrow illuminates both the lives he is writing about, and the books which were the fruits of those lives. The Taste of Sorrow stands both as biography and fiction. It is a wonderful, wonderful book.
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on 8 May 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is a fictionalised account of the lives of the Bronte family. The book gets off to a harrowing start with the death of the mother and follows the lives of the girls - Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Emily and Anne and their brother Branwell through their childhood and (for those who survive)into adulthood.The book is very well written, I never stopped to question the fictionalisation and the family have so many tragedies and small adventures in their lives that it never becomes dull. I really enjoyed identifying locations, figures and situations from the Bronte novels as they experience them in the course of the book. However, even if you had never read any of the Brontes novels I think you would still really enjoy this book. The characterisation of each sibling is spot on and the struggles in their lives heartbreaking. When they finally get books published I felt like cheering out loud. I also particularly liked how the book also made their father a central character and showed how he had shaped their characters and lives - not always for the best.

I want to read all their novels again and have ordered Passion by Jude Morgan to see if the same magic has been wrought on the lives of Byron and Shelley.
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on 4 November 2009
I'm one of those people who has seen the films of Jane Eyre and Wuthering H, watched the TV, read a bit of the books at school but isn't that interested in the stories of the Bronte sisters themselves. In fact I only tried The Taste of Sorrow because someone in my bookgroup promised it was amazing...and we all went 'hmm' but in fact she was RIGHT. So if I were you I wouldn't worry if you don't care about them, or if you know every detail about their lives - it's just an incredibly, heart-rending, completely gripping story about a group of sisters, a million times more moving than any other historical fiction I've read for years. Can't recommend it highly enough.
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VINE VOICEon 7 June 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
The story of the Brontes has entered popular legend; the three girls and one boy growing wild on the moors, barely leaving their parsonage home and writing novels that have survived as classics for over 150 years; but they did leave their homes, as this novel shows. The girls went as far as Brussels and back, while Branwell played on the edges of Hell with his personal daemons. The novel has made the facts of their lives into a very enjoyable read. I was initially worried that there was a very heavy emphasis on sex... too much thinking and obsessing by Patrick Bronte in the beginning, but once the girls had grown older and the novel concentrated on them, then the style settled down and the story began to shine. I've read The Brontes and got it out when reading this to check the details and Jude Morgan has them correct. A thoroughly enjoyable and grown up read, not full of histrionics and passions, but smouldering resentments and inner lives. I can thoroughly recommend it to any Bronte reader who wants a sensible story about them.
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VINE VOICEon 7 August 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
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!
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VINE VOICEon 18 April 2010
Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This novel tells the story of the Bronte sisters, from the death of their mother when Anne was a toddler, to Charlotte's marriage, a few months before her death.

Before I read this boook I had a limited knowledge of the Bronte sisters' lives, beyond the books they had written, their residence in the parsonage at Haworth and their early deaths. Jude Morgan's book fills in the gaps, bringing the sisters to life. She focuses primarily on Charlotte, and the early section of the book where the girl is sent away to school with her older sisters Maria and Elizabeth strongly echoes the early scenes of 'Jane Eyre'. If this was Charlotte's real experience, it is easy to see where she found her inspiration.

I have to admit that this is something of a slow read, which is why I didn't give it a higher rating. There isn't a lot in the way of story and events, instead Morgan concentrates on the sisters' characters, feelings and their immersion in the fantasy world of their youth, which grows into their desire to write. Morgan's depiction of the women is believable; it is easy to imagine her angry and unsentimental Emily writing the bleak 'Wuthering Heights'. The sisters are very different, but together form a tight family unit that sometimes excludes the outside world. These women suffered greatly, yet they managed to push the boundaries of acceptable behaviour for their time and made a living from their writing, finding (sometimes unwelcome) fame and praise.

This is by turns a fascinating, tragic and inspiring story. It isn't an easy or quick read, it is a book about thoughts and feelings and the limits of possibility. This is a must for all fans of the Bronte novels and historical fiction, but if you enjoy only tightly plotted fast paced stories, this might not be for you.
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Format: Paperback|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This book is to be savoured like a fine wine and not rushed through. Wallow in its brilliance as the Bronte's come alive as never before. I must admit that I chose this book mainly on a whim, and I am so glad that I did. Yes I have read the Bronte novels, and I have been lucky enough to have gone to Haworth and visited the Bronte museum at the parsonage some years ago. I do know the basics of their lives and of their brother Branwell.

This book really brings the Bronte family to life, including their aunt and father as well as the two eldest girls who died early. This book did take a while to read for me only because I started cross-referencing what I knew about the Bronte's with what I could also find out about them from numerous resources, so I can say that this novel is meticulously researched. Life at the time was hard for everyone, not just the poor, due to high infant mortality as well as early death due to a number of diseases then prevalent. A woman's life was hard, you either got married early and stayed at home, or if you were of the middling classes you may be able to get work as a governess, instead of factory work or as a servant if you were poor. Indeed this carried on throughout the 19th and into the early 20th century. I have heard tales handed down of my relatives in service, as well as factory life.

What Jude Morgan has done here is taken what is known about all the Bronte's lives and with a creative eye produced something that is more readable and convincing than just another biography. Here you get a real feel for this family and you can clearly see where the ideas for their novels came from. I already knew that Charlotte's 'Villette' and 'The Professor' were based on her time in Brussels, and that Anne's 'Agnes Gray' was based on her time as a governess, and 'The Tenant of Wildfell Hall' was based on her brother's drinking. This novel really brings that fact home, as well as how the other novels were inspired. With Charlotte always seeking approval, Emily the enigmatic romanticist who does seem to take in a lot more than anyone initially assumes, and Anne the baby sister who lets face it wrote the most realistic and naturalistic novels of the three girls, but is often overshadowed by her sisters. Also don't forget Branwell, who is always attention seeking and ultimately sewing the seeds of his own destruction. The father and aunt, along with the servants and friends are also remarkably brought to life. This book is just absolutely fantastic and is a must for any Bronte fan as well as those who love to read good quality fiction.

Until I had read this I had not heard of Jude Morgan, but now I will be looking at his other books, and am already going to get myselfPassion to read. It can only be a matter of time before someone buys the film rights to this amazing novel, as it would make a great movie.
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