Charlotte & Emily

Jude Morgan, Author
Jude Morgan, Author . St. Martin's Griffin $14.99 (373p) ISBN 978-0-312-64273-0
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The haunting Brontës bloom like heather on the rain-drenched moors in this feverish re-creation of the Victorian English family by Morgan (pseudonym for the U.K.'s Tim Wilson), who has mined literary icons like Byron, Keats, and Shelley (Passion ) before tackling the sisters. The Brontës of lonely Haworth, a rural town with a mortality rate to rival the worst of London's slums, are daunting as subjects because of their constant struggle to survive. The novel doesn't just focus on Charlotte and Emily, celebrated scribes of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights , but also on Branwell, their egocentric brother whom their father, the Rev. Patrick Brontë, doted upon. Sharp glimpses of the talented youngest sibling, Anne, and elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, both of whom died after falling ill at a nightmarish girl's school, complete the family picture. Branwell's profligate ways can seem excessive, and although coltish Emily remains a blurry conundrum, this memorable ode to the Brontës and their impressive contribution to world literature, despite relentless trials and early deaths (only Charlotte reached 40), is bitterly exquisite. (May)

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