Emily's Ghost: A Novel of the Bronte Sisters

Emily's Ghost: A Novel of the Bronte Sisters

by Denise Giardina
     
 

A lustrous, beautifully written reimagining of the Brontë family—and of Emily Brontë’s passionate engagement with life.
Enigmatic, intelligent, and fiercely independent, Emily Brontë refuses to bow to the conventions of her day: she is distrustful of marriage, prefers freedom above all else, and walks alone at night on the moors

Overview

A lustrous, beautifully written reimagining of the Brontë family—and of Emily Brontë’s passionate engagement with life.
Enigmatic, intelligent, and fiercely independent, Emily Brontë refuses to bow to the conventions of her day: she is distrustful of marriage, prefers freedom above all else, and walks alone at night on the moors above the isolated rural village of Haworth. But Emily’s life, along with the rest of the Brontë family, is turned upside down with the arrival of an idealistic clergyman named William Weightman. Weightman champions poor mill workers’ rights, mingles with radical labor agitators, and captivates Haworth—and the Brontës especially—with his energy and charm. An improbable friendship between Weightman and Emily develops into a fiery but unconsummated love affair—and when tragedy strikes, the relationship continues, like the love story at the heart of Wuthering Heights, beyond the grave.Denise Giardina, whose fiction has been described as “brilliant. . . heart-wrenching, tough and tender” (Los Angeles Times Book Review), writes a stirring story about faith, passion, longing, and romantic solitude.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Giardina (Saints and Villains) offers Brontë fans a solid biographical novel portraying sisters Anne, Charlotte and Emily as different in temperament but in love with the same man, fighting the same illnesses and withdrawing from the same grim realities to write poetry and fiction that express their individual passions. Youngest sister Emily distinguishes herself at age six when, while attending boarding school, she admits to encounters with ghosts. (The punishment doled out by the headmaster does not deter Emily, but it does inspire a well-known scene in Jane Eyre.) Brontë men include brother Branwell, who struggles with addiction; father Patrick, straining to support his family on limited finances; and William Weightman, Patrick's young, flirtatious, social-reforming curate who becomes the key figure as he wins the hearts of the three Brontë girls. Giardina's mid-19th-century England is factually sturdy, while the relationship between Emily and Weightman is nicely nuanced, and the insights and inferences about Emily and Charlotte's relationship are convincingly rendered. You don't have to be a Brontë scholar to appreciate Giardina's novel, but having a little context will greatly increase the payoff. (July)

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Kirkus Reviews
Giardina turns from socially conscious historical novels (Fallam's Secret, 2003, etc.) to a fictionalized biography of sui generis poet and novelist Emily Bronte. It begins with a flash-forward in which Emily, anticipating her death from consumption, begins to read her masterpiece Wuthering Heights to her indulgent father Patrick, a venerable Yorkshire clergyman. The story then focuses on Emily's childhood as one of five sisters, two of whom predecease her, and the bond of solidarity formed with siblings Anne and Charlotte, who will also live to write memorable fiction. Headstrong Emily incurs the displeasure of her masters at the Clergy Daughters' School, to which the Bronte girls are sent to prepare for careers as governesses, and upon returning home scandalizes neighbors by roaming the moors unchaperoned, accompanied by her favorite dog and trained hawk. But her horizons expand significantly when handsome young curate William Weightman arrives to assist elderly Reverend Bronte. Weightman's romantic imagination and passionate solidarity with exploited workers agitating for overdue reform attract Emily's sympathetic attention and eventually her devotion. A catastrophic cholera outbreak destroys the incipient lovers' dreams, and Emily retreats into the world of her teeming imagination, creating her passionate antagonist Heathcliff out of Weightman's stoical decency and her own austere independence. Giardina's research tends to occupy undue space and slacken the narrative pace. But the surpassingly strange Bronte family, which also includes surly ne'er-do-well brother Branwell, offers a fascinating spectacle, and the reader's attention is held throughout several labored and redundantsequences. Most interesting, perhaps, is the pointed contrast Giardina presents between Emily's untrammeled, indeed often admirable egoism and Charlotte's emotional meanness and ruthless careerism. Something less than the definitive portrait of a frustratingly elusive great writer, but an agreeable read nonetheless, and a good bet for reading groups.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780393069150
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date:
07/27/2009
Pages:
335
Product dimensions:
6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

Meet the Author

Denise Giardina is the author of Storming Heaven, Emily's Ghost, and Saints and Villains, which won the Boston Book Review Prize. She is an ordained deacon in the Episcopal Church and lives in Charleston, West Virginia.

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