Sisters of the Moors – “Charlotte & Emily” by Jude Morgan
“All Charlotte had to do was not make a noise. It occurred to her that this had always been the case. At the parsonage, at Cowan Bridge, at Roe Head, at Stonegappe, at the Pensionnat Heger: hush. Hush. It occurred to her that perhaps the time had come to make a noise.”
Since I can remember, I’ve been a Bronte nerd. Even more than my Jane Austen nerdiness is my appreciation and adoration of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Bronte. It began when I first read “Jane Eyre,” and has lasted through years and my readings of most of the sisters other works.
Of course Jude Morgan’s “Charlotte & Emily” caught my eye. And of course I read it in a flash, staying up late to complete the book because I simply couldn’t put it down.
Rather than doing another biography of the trio, Morgan chose to take the events of their lives and novelize them. This method works effectively, as the facts of the sisters lives are pretty well-known to those who would likely find a novel like this interesting. For those who aren’t familiar with them, this could be an excellent gateway.
Kicking off with the death of their mother, “Charlotte & Emily” follows the five Bronte sisters and one brother as they become three sisters and a brother (the two eldest sisters died young), go through schooling, take jobs as teachers and governesses. The Bronte brother, Branwell, is also showcased as he drifts from city to job to another. Finally, the trio of sisters reach their ultimate triumph as writers of works that set literary circles buzzing.
If you’re aware of the lives of the sisters, you know that none of them lived to old age and only Charlotte ever got married. The book ends after the sisters have become acclaimed writers, and right after Charlotte (the last surviving Bronte) has gotten married. It’s a high point to close on.
Morgan packs a lot into these pages – the lives of four main characters crossing years and countries. The writing is great and the characters (as they’re developed in fiction form) are interesting. Charlotte is obviously our main hero, but Emily’s moodiness and unique spirit are riveting reading. She may have only written one novel – but hey, it was “Wuthering Heights.” Show some respect.
FYI – Though the title is “Charlotte and Emily,” Anne gets more than her fair share of play here. I’m not sure why it’s not called “Charlotte and Emily and Anne,” but what do I know?