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Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre by Stewart…
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Charlotte Brontë and Jane Eyre

by Stewart Ross

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"It was probably the most unfortunate decision Patrick ever made in his life. A year's schooling for four at Cowan Bridge Clergy Daughters' School cost him 80 pounds and the lives of two daughters. The experience left Charlotte bitter and angry for the rest of her life."

This is my favorite nonfiction book, hands down. My English AP IV Seniors at HHS are currently reading "Jane Eyre" and this book is absolutely perfect to design a lesson around and connect Charlotte Bronte to her writing and the historical context of that time period. Stewart Ross does an absolutely magnificent job at showing how Bronte's work can most certainly be seen as being autobiographical, although it is a work of fiction. Many of the obstacles and tragedies Charlotte Bronte's heroine Jane faces in the novel are almost identical to those Charlotte experienced in real life. I found all of the history surrounding Bronte just enthralling and I cannot wait to use this book to teach a lesson to my seniors! :) ( )
  ADReed | Feb 9, 2015 |
"The Bronte children had little use for institutions or petty rules. It was as if the wild, unfettered spirit of the moors had somehow entered their souls, setting them apart from other people." (16)

Stewart Ross' biography does an excellent job capturing the 'spirit' of the Bronte sisters. While the book focuses mainly on Charlotte, it is difficult to separate her story from the rest of her family. I initially planned to just peruse the book, but in the end, I found myself completely immersed in it. Charlotte Bronte's story is fascinating, and so rich with inspiration, humor, and heartbreak.

In the author's note, Ross describes the book as an "appetizer" to prepare readers for the "main course" of Jane Eyre. I thought this was a very accurate description. He also mentions that the book was written for two types of readers: 1) the reader who loves Jane Eyre and wants to know more, and 2) the reader who is unfamiliar with the book and is intimidated by its size and language. I thought about this as I read, and I think Ross spoke to both readers. The book is a great intro to Bronte and Jane Eyre, and also a really enjoyable read for a Bronte fan.

Things I loved:
* The descriptions of the sisters working on their novels together. Their collective body of work is staggering!
* Discussion of the parallels between Charlotte and Jane's lives.
* Discussion of the social and political factors at play in Victorian Britain
* The story of the sisters' pseudonyms (great opportunity for a supplemental lesson about gender roles).
* The humorous nature of the writing -- multiple mentions of Charlotte's large head; the way he described her defiant nature; the fact that she turned down a suitor because he looked too much like her brother, etc. While I'm not certain about the accuracy of all of this, it was a nice counterpoint to some of the more heartbreaking moments.

Questionable moments:
* In a few cases the writing seemed a bit speculative. For example, at one point the book states that Charlotte 'probably' destroyed Emily's second novel after she died because it was too racy. There were a few other lines that seemed a bit uncertain to me. Do instances like this diminish the authority of the biography? Maybe so.

Format-wise, the book was well-organized and easy to read. There were text boxes throughout each chapter that provided the reader with more info about certain topics (ex: Deadly Diseases, Victorian Britain, Literary Backgrounds, etc.). These sections were very informative and certainly added value to the reading experience. The back of the book featured both a chronology of Charlotte Bronte's life, as well as a suggested reading list. Overall, the book was a really fun and informative read. ( )
  JeffCarver | Feb 8, 2014 |
Apicture book: good for little kids. ( )
  Smiley91123 | Jan 27, 2009 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0670874868, Hardcover)

A fascinating look at the life and work of one of our most enduring authors. For over 150 years readers have fallen under the spell of Jane Eyre, as they've read the story of the plain but spirited governess and her relationship with the handsome, brooding Mr. Rochester. Charlotte Bronte's own life was no less interesting than her heroine's, and Stewart Ross traces Charlotte's remarkable story from a Dickensian boarding school and the death of her beloved older sisters, through the games of imagination played on the moors with her siblings Anne, Emily and Branwell, to her lonely years as a governess and ultimate success and fame. As Charlotte's compelling story unfolds, we see the reflections of her life in excerpts from her greatest work, Jane Eyre. This remarkable book offers a glimpse of the process that transforms life into literature and serves as an enticing introduction to one of the greatest novels in the English language.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:46 -0400)

A biography of Charlotte Brontë, an English author, with emphasis on the autobiographical material found in Jane Eyre.

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