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The biography of a family,
This review is from: The Brontes (Phoenix Giants) (Paperback)Barker sets out very clearly her thesis that the Brontes have to be taken as a family rather than as individuals, and that's what this book gives us. In a detailed, sympathetic narrative, she charts the life of the family starting with Patrick Bronte, the father, from the time he emerges into the historical record as a 25 year old poor Irish student at Cambridge.
Self-consciously revisionist, Barker particularly engages with Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte and takes some pains to sweep away the continuing mythologizing of the Brontes. She reveals the truth beneath the isolation and social separation that informs most lives, and has taken a lot of pains to put ideas such as the painful school lives of the girls into their contemporary context.
Most of all she dismisses the eccentric cruelties of Patrick and the strange insularity of the children without ever downgrading the supreme creativity of this literary family. Even, balanced, supremely informative, this restores the Brontes to their rightful place in English literature as supreme writers, rather than as characters in some kind of gothic meta-novel. This is a long book, but an engrossing one - highly recommended.