Reviews for Bronte Sisters : The Brief Lives of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne

Booklist Reviews 2012 June #1
*Starred Review* For readers discovering the wonder of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights, this collective biography of the Brontë family fills in fascinating detail of their personal and public lives: what they wrote, their family stories as a minister's unmarried daughters, how they published under men's names, and how their groundbreaking novels were received at a time when women were expected to "stay home and be quiet." Drawing on a wealth of adult biographies and on the Brontës' personal commentaries (all well-documented in final notes), Reef, whose previous titles include E. E. Cummings: A Poet's Life (2006), Ernest Hemingway: A Writer's Life (2009), and Jane Austen: A Life Revealed (2011), tells the astonishing story in brief accounts of how the famous novels came to be written and how they were criticized for their women characters, who, though lacking beauty and wealth, were outspoken and courageous, in contrast to the passive Victorian ideal of womanhood. With an excellent selection of quotes from the writers (Charlotte, for example, said that "conventionality is not morality"), this stirring biography may move even middle-school readers to seek out the authors' classic titles as well as lesser-known works, and period images throughout the texts, including black-and-white portraits, sketches, and archival prints, will further draw researchers and browsers to the pages. Copyright 2012 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews 2013 Spring
This thorough biography of Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontk chronicles their individual personalities and how early experiences with their surroundings, family, schools, and teaching had profound influences on their writing. Reef quotes her subjects' own diary entries, poems, and stories in addition to relying on other primary sources, historical information, and descriptions of the Brontks' work. Reading list. Bib., ind.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews 2012 #6
Reef's thorough biography of the nineteenth-century writers Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë begins with the very young siblings and their family's arrival at their new home of Haworth in northern England. The text chronicles the early loss of the girls' mother and two sisters; how, along with their brother, they entertained themselves on the Yorkshire moors and became voracious and imaginative readers and writers; their experiences attending several schools (of varied quality); and their service as teachers and governesses (professions all three abhorred). While Charlotte, Emily, and Anne spent the majority of their short lives in Haworth with their clergyman father, aunt, and brother, their individual personalities and early experiences with their surroundings, family, schools, and teaching had profound influences on the poems and novels they published as adults using the pen names Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Similar to her Jane Austen (rev. 5/11) biography, Reef quotes her subjects' own diary entries, poems, and stories in addition to relying on other primary sources about the sisters; historical information about the time period; and in-depth descriptions of the Brontës' novels and their critical reception to round out her chronological portrait of these three talented writers. Notes, a selected bibliography, a list of the Brontës' works, and an index are appended. cynthia k. ritter Copyright 2012 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews 2012 September #2
The wild freedom of the imagination and the heart, and the tragedy of lives ended just as success is within view--such a powerful story is that of the Bront children. Reef's gracefully plotted, carefully researched account focuses on Charlotte, whose correspondence with friends, longer life and more extensive experience outside the narrow milieu of Haworth, including her acquaintance with the novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, who became her biographer, revealed more of her personality. She describes the Bront children's early losses of their mother and then their two oldest siblings, conveying the imaginative, verbally rich life of children who are essentially orphaned but share both the wild countryside and the gifts of story. Brother Branwell's tragic struggle with alcohol and opium is seen as if offstage, wounding to his sisters and his father but sad principally because he never found a way to use literature to save himself. Reef looks at the 19th-century context for women writers and the reasons that the sisters chose to publish only under pseudonyms--and includes a wonderful description of the encounter in which Anne and Charlotte revealed their identities to Charlotte's publisher. She also includes brief, no-major-spoilers summaries of the sisters' novels, inviting readers to connect the dots and to understand how real-life experience was transformed into fiction. A solid and captivating look at these remarkable pioneers of modern fiction. (notes and a comprehensive bibliography) (Biography. 12-16) Copyright Kirkus 2012 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Publishers Weekly Reviews 2012 September #4

Reef (Jane Austen: A Life Revealed) offers a detail-rich look at the lives of the Brontë sisters, whose works shocked, entertained, and provoked the minds of their Victorian audiences. This chronological account is three biographies rolled into one, reflecting the sisters' intertwined lives. In a matter-of-fact yet conversational style, Reef anchors their stories in the historical context of industrial 19th-century England. Names and dates are many, but the narrative also quotes from the Brontës' poems and letters, as well as those of others (a friend of their brother, Branwell, who died an alcoholic, reflected, "That Rector of Haworth little knew how to bring up and bring out his clever family.... So the girls worked their own way to fame and death, the boy to death only!"). Archival b&w images punctuate the 10 chapters, several of which are devoted to plot summaries of the sisters' novels. Like the characters in their books, the Brontës were ahead of their time in resisting the constraints placed on women of their era. A comprehensive introduction to the authors behind some of the most-studied novels in English literature. Ages 10-14. (Oct.)

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School Library Journal Reviews 2012 September

Gr 8-11--A solid, well-researched biography of the three sisters who wove astonishing fiction out of circumscribed lives while their feckless brother destroyed himself with opium and alcohol. Reef's research is evident in the extensive bibliography; quotations are nicely woven into the text and used as chapter headings. But the author presumes readers' familiarity and interest. She opens the chronological narrative with the family's arrival at Haworth, an isolated parsonage in a small village on the desolate moors in the north of England. The deaths begin almost immediately, first their mother, and then two sisters, malnourished and ill-treated at school and wasting away from tuberculosis. This may be enough to draw some teens into the girls' lives; others, not already acquainted with Jane Eyre or Wuthering Heights, might need a clearer reason for reading on as the Brontës immerse themselves in imaginary worlds and fail, time and time again, in the real one in their short adulthoods. Eventually, the author provides extensive plot summaries of their works, pointing out where their art made use of their unhappy experiences. Black-and-white illustrations include stills from movies, portraits of family members (done by the subjects), and other images from the time. Libraries already owning Karen Smith Kenyon's shorter The Brontë Family (Lerner, 2002) might not need this title, but fans will appreciate the additional detail.--Kathleen Isaacs, Children's Literature Specialist, Pasadena, MD

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VOYA Reviews 2012 October
The Bronte sisters' extraordinary novels were influenced by tragic heartbreaks and lives of hardship. Raised by their aunt from an early age, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne were the only sisters to reach adulthood. Their brother, Branwell, consumed by his vices, spiraled into addiction after repeated failed attempts to find success. The siblings spent their childhood writing diary pages and stories, which, in adulthood, turned to more serious writings of poetry and novelizations. The sisters used pseudonyms to publish a slim volume of poetry and their first novels Wuthering Heights, Agnes Grey, and Jane Eyre. These novels reached literary acclaim in the Victorian age as critics puzzled over whether the authors were male or female. When Emily and Anne were felled by tuberculosis, Charlotte became the most notable author of the Brontes, but still refused to acknowledge her true author identity. Instead she poured her grief and depression into more writing. Reef strives to elicit an interesting biographical account of the Bronte family for fans of the Bronte sisters' novels. The biography is easy to read, although summaries of the Brontes' works hinder the writing. Readers of the classics will already have knowledge of these novels so plot summaries do not add depth to this biography. The book emphasizes the difficulty the sisters had in acclimating to life outside Haworth and in forming relationships with others. This provides an explanation as to why the Brontes wrote novels that were so different from society women. This biography is a decent purchase for school and public library collections where Bronte novels are part of the school curriculum.--Laura Panter Photos. Biblio. Source Notes. 3Q 2P J S Copyright 2011 Voya Reviews.