As one of my final stops along the Brontë train, I read Sophie Franklin’s Charlotte Brontë Revisited, the companion piece to Dr Claire O’Callaghan’s Emily Brontë Reappraised. I do hope that the Saraband press has a plan for an Anne Brontë … ‘reevaluated’? ‘Reconsidered’? ‘Revealed’? There are many possibilities. As with Reappraised, Franklin’s Revisited is a lightweight introduction to Brontëana, giving a general outline of Charlotte’s life and works while also considering her posthumous reputation. Franklin acknowledges that Charlotte is her own ‘favourite Brontë’ and also that this has become the increasingly unpopular choice. Not only is picking Charlotte too ‘obvious’ given her higher profile in comparison with her sisters, but the trend towards recent revisionist biographies has not been kind to her. Not only has Mrs Gaskell’s interpretation of Charlotte as long-suffering saint fallen out of fashion, but Charlotte’s own attempts to micro-manage her sisters’ reputations has prompted fans of Emily and Anne to turn against her. Can revisiting Charlotte leave a better impression?
Franklin considers Charlotte’s ‘afterlives’ following trends in biography then moves on to Charlotte’s relationship with nature before moving on to the strong spiritual element to Charlotte’s prose work. Franklin also examines Charlotte from an ideological perspective, looking at both her attitude towards women as well as Charlotte’s infamous Tory leanings. Finishing up with a list of Charlotte-related sites of pilgrimage, Charlotte Brontë Revisited is the work of a true fan.
Factionalism is such an unfortunate and prevalent part of being a Brontë fan. Whether you’re someone who read Gaskell’s The Life of Charlotte Brontë and believed every word or if you prefer to follow the word of Judith Barker, there will always be another group of Brontë fans with whom you strongly disagree. It was refreshing therefore to read a book which feels quite free of that. Franklin is not so much mounting a defense of her heroine as she is looking directly at what made Charlotte famous in the first place. It is so easy to complain about Charlotte, it takes a lot more time to go through her many talents.
That being said, this does have more of the feel of a study guide rather than a true biography. I can imagine it being incredibly useful had I ever studied any of Charlotte’s novels for A-levels – I wish in some ways that I had, but in other respects I am glad to have rediscovered them independently and as an adult. Franklin’s writing is user-friendly and accessible, a wonderful change in pace from other biographers and her enthusiasm and admiration for her subject shines through. Although much of the material which Franklin covers was already familiar to me, I admired how clearly she was able to put it across. Her enthusiasm for her subject shines through and although I doubt that I will ever select Charlotte as my ‘favourite sister’, it was fascinating to read the words of a twenty-first century Brontë scholar and see how the tide might well be turning back in Charlotte’s favour.
I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Affiliate LinksBuy on Amazon.co.uk
Buy on Amazon.com
Buy on BookDepository.com
Buy from Foyles Books (UK)
Buy from Waterstones
Published by Saraband on 2016
This post contains affiliate links which you can use to purchase the book. If you buy the book using that link, I will receive a small commission from the sale.