Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of the Brontës

Charlotte and Emily: A Novel of the Brontës

by Jude Morgan

Paperback(First Edition)

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Overview

From an obscure country parsonage came three extraordinary sisters, who defied the outward bleakness of their lives to create the most brilliant literary work of their time. Now, in an astonishingly daring novel by the acclaimed Jude Morgan, the genius of the haunted Brontës is revealed and the sisters are brought to full, resplendent life: Emily, who turned from the world to the greater temptations of the imagination; gentle Anne, who suffered the harshest perception of the stifling life forced upon her; and the brilliant, uncompromising, and tormented Charlotte, who longed for both love and independence, and learned their ultimate price.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312642730
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 04/27/2010
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

JUDE MORGAN, who studied with Malcolm Bradbury and Angela Carter, lives in England. His novel of the Romantic poets, Passion, was called "one of the best books of 2005...a feast of language, a grab bag of delights" (The Washington Post Book World).

Reading Group Guide

From an obscure country parsonage came three extraordinary sisters, who defied the outward bleakness of their lives to create the most brilliant literary work of their time. Now, in an astonishingly daring novel by the acclaimed Jude Morgan, the genius of the haunted Brontës is revealed and the sisters are brought to full, resplendent life: Emily, who turned from the world to the greater temptations of the imagination; gentle Anne, who suffered the harshest perception of the stifling life forced upon her; and the brilliant, uncompromising, and tormented Charlotte, who longed for both love and independence, and learned their ultimate price.

1. The novel opens with the death of Maria Branwell Brontë, Charlotte and Emily's mother. How does this scene influence your interpretation of the rest of the story? Why do you believe the book begins with this event?

2. Why do you think the novel closes with Charlotte at the sea, with only a mention of her death in the Author's Note?

3. At the end of the first chapter, upon their mother's death, "…they draw together in a peculiarly precise huddle, as if they stand on a rock, just big enough for them, above an encircling sea." Water as metaphor is used throughout the novel, but its presence is particularly felt in the first and final chapters. Considering the Brontës lived on the English moors, far from the ocean, why do you think this metaphor is so pervasive?

4. At the beginning of the story, although Branwell's "arithmetic" proves otherwise, Charlotte feels the safety of being the middle child, surrounded on all sides by the love of her sisters and brother. When her eldest sisters die, Charlotte is suddenly thrust into "a world where there was no longer any middle to inhabit, only edge, brunt, naked extremity." How does this shift in order transform Charlotte? How are Emily and Anne similarly shaped by their positions in the family?

5. Discuss the Brontë family dynamics. What was Patrick Brontë's legacy to his children, all of whom he outlived? Describe Charlotte's relationship with her sisters Maria and Elizabeth, as well as her relationship with Emily and Anne. How did Charlotte, Emily, and Anne's relationship with Branwell evolve over the years, and what influence did he have on their life and work?

6. Discuss the lesson the Brontë girls learn from the nature of Tabby's stories: "So the flow never ends, no conditions can ever dry it up or freeze it solid: there is always another story."

7. The sisters and Branwell first began writing about their imaginary world of Angria. What do you believe this world meant to each of the siblings? As a child, did you have your own imaginary world or imaginary friend?

8. If their lives had been easier, if the sisters had not faced so much hardship, do you think they would have still written their literary masterpieces, albeit in varying forms?

9. "Could there truly be any choice between chaos and order?" wonders Patrick Brontë. In Charlotte and Emily, Jude Morgan seems to suggests that chaos and order, art and desire, nightmares and daydreams are all intertwined in genius. How does he make this suggestion? Do you agree?

10. The Brontë sisters wrote under the male pseudonyms of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Why? How is the choice of these names significant? How is their decision to write under pseudonyms indicative of the era and the biases that the sisters struggled against?

11. Each of the sisters has a different understanding of the function of art, and Charlotte and Emily wrote two very different tales with two diametrically opposed heroines, Jane Eyre and Catherine Earnshaw. If you've read both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, discuss these differences and any similarities among the sisters, their novels, and their heroines.

12. How are secret desires important in Charlotte and Emily's literary worlds?

13. What does the novel have to say about the glories of spirituality and the degradations of religion?

14. How do you feel about Charlotte's marriage to Arthur Nicholls? What do you think attracts her to and repels her from the institution of marriage?

15. A critic once claimed that Jane Eyre was "soul speaking to soul"— did you find this to be true of Jane Eyre? In reading Charlotte and Emily, did Charlotte, Emily, or Anne's lives connect with your own in any particular way?

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