Branwell

( 1 )

Overview

"As the only son, Branwell Bronte - brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne - is expected to make the fortune for the family and immortalize the Bronte name. Given no formal education, he is painstakingly tutored by his father, and writes endless stories and poems with his sisters in their small parsonage home. Haunted by the early deaths of his mother and sister, both named Maria, Branwell is unable to reach his heart's desire: to be a great artist. He roams from job to job, as painter, railway man, and tutor, constantly writing and sketching as ...
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Overview

"As the only son, Branwell Bronte - brother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne - is expected to make the fortune for the family and immortalize the Bronte name. Given no formal education, he is painstakingly tutored by his father, and writes endless stories and poems with his sisters in their small parsonage home. Haunted by the early deaths of his mother and sister, both named Maria, Branwell is unable to reach his heart's desire: to be a great artist. He roams from job to job, as painter, railway man, and tutor, constantly writing and sketching as his sisters spin and fume on the dark moor with the stories that will immortalize them." Douglas Martin uncovers Branwell's lost loves and thwarted talent, and circles around his unnamable sexuality. Maintaining the haunting quality of childhood memory throughout, Branwell is a poignant exploration of the tragic figure of the Bronte brother and the dismal, dazzling landscape that inspired his sisters to greatness.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
In this mannered, tortuous life of Charlotte Bront 's younger brother, Branwell, novelist Martin (Outline of My Lover) offers a tender, tragic portrayal of a doomed artist and homosexual avant la lettre. In Martin's marvelous free and direct telling, Branwell, as the sole son among many daughters (only Charlotte, Emily and Anne survived childhood) is accorded privileges they are not, such as special home schooling by their strict father, curate of provincial Haworth. Branwell also lords over the set of toy soldiers the siblings use in elaborate play wars, creating vast civilizations in poems and plays. The early deaths of their mother and sisters Maria and Elizabeth prove shattering for Branwell, on whose fragile shoulders the great hopes of the house rest. Sent off alone to London to gain admittance to the Royal Academy, he falls continually in his family's esteem, becoming a local drunkard and apprentice to the secretly homosexual freemason society; a last chance at gainful employment, as tutor to a boy in Thorp Green, ends in a scandalous dismissal, and Branwell descends irretrievably into a drug-induced, punishing state of monomania. Though slender, this volume's beautiful declarative sentences are perfectly fitted to this famously imaginative, headstrong family; they bring Branwell Bront 's world to light. (Oct.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An impressionist portrait of the least known of the Bronte siblings. Branwell (1817-48) was the fourth child, after Charlotte, Maria and Elizabeth. Then came Emily and Anne. Maria, Branwell's first love, died very young, as did Elizabeth; then their mother went. Death was everywhere. In the parsonage in Haworth, Yorkshire, Branwell was the most cosseted, because of his gender. Their father sent the girls off to school but kept Branwell home, teaching him Latin and Greek. The children had an intense imaginative life. Branwell and Charlotte created the Kingdom of Angria, originating in the boy's love of toy soldiers; Emily and Anne had Gondal. Martin hews quite closely to the biographical record. We see Branwell weighing two ambitions, to be a painter or a poet; his early love of strong drink and opium; his checkered life in the workplace. Twice he is hired as a private tutor, and twice he is fired. He is also fired as a railroad clerk for sloppy bookkeeping. The once-outgoing young man stops writing, withdraws into himself, and hurries to his death at 31, alcohol- and opium-dependent. Martin sees Branwell's loss of his second job as a tutor to be pivotal, alienating him from Charlotte and Anne, leaving Emily as his only support. At Thorp Green, Anne taught the girls while Branwell taught young Edmund. Was he dismissed for pederasty (Martin's implication) or for having an affair with his employer's wife (the conventional view)? Martin prizes ambiguity, as he showed in his debut (Outline of My Lover, 2000), but here he piles innuendo on top of innuendo for little fictional gain. There are other problems. The author writes in brief paragraphs, often consisting of only one sentence; thestop-start rhythm is tiring. Consistency is a factor, too. Sometimes he writes from the viewpoint of the omniscient narrator and sometimes from Branwell's-not a good mix. Martin has given himself a novelist's license, but has not used it to make Branwell's self-destruction affecting.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933368009
  • Publisher: Soft Skull Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 10/10/2005
  • Pages: 232
  • Sales rank: 1,405,406
  • Product dimensions: 5.33 (w) x 8.26 (h) x 0.44 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 9, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Beautifully forged ...

    in a cauldron of literary brooding, sensuality, and suspense. Martin's performance is deliriously seductive.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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