Friday, January 11, 2008

Dark Quartet by Lynne Reid Banks

Because I love Jane Eyre, I’ve read a lot of biographical information about the Brontës through the years. The latest book was Dark Quartet: The Story of The Brontes by Lynne Reid Banks. “Dark” is the key word! If it had been the first book I’d read about the Brontës I would never have continued reading their published works. The whole bunch of them, according to Banks, were tight-lipped, mean-spirited and utterly devoid of hope. The only bright spot in their lives was the publication of Jane Eyre after which three of the four of them died (!) This book is a fictional account of the Brontës’ lives based on actual research. In the introduction Banks writes, “The facts were my stepping stones…Where there was no solid factual ground, I have felt free to guess…to invent.” Her inventions were disappointing, to say the least.

One of the most powerful episodes in Jane Eyre is in Chapter 21 when Jane forgives her Aunt Reed for lying about her and cheating her out of family ties and a possible inheritance. I kept thinking of that scene as I read about the Brontë family. Assuming there was any truth to the portrait painted by Banks, nobody in the family would have been capable of writing the lines, “You have my full and free forgiveness”. They were all too petty and self-absorbed.

A better, more balanced book is The Brontes: Charlotte Bronte & Her Family by Rebecca Fraser. Fraser freely writes about the question marks connected to Brontë history, but doesn’t attempt to give sloppy, easy answers to each one of them. She quotes from many letters written by Charlotte and others which paint quite a different picture of the family. Yes, they had incredible hardships, but Charlotte’s sweet spirit and faith in God shine through even her worst difficulties.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

The style of the two books are quite different:one is dark, the other is bright. I believe every human being has paradoxical character,so do the Brontes.Maybe the bright side overides the dark side, we can not make a solely conclusion.