When it comes to the Brontë sisters and their books most people tend to choose to read either Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë or Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë first or in many cases these two books tend to be required reading for school or university. However, when I decided that I wanted to read my first Brontë novel I decided to go for one of the novels written by the third Brontë sister – Anne. The novel I chose was Agnes Grey. The reason I went for a novel by Anne instead of one by her more well known sisters is because Anne felt like a mystery, she was not talked about like her sisters and since reading Agnes Grey in my eyes Anne is clearly underrated. She most definitely deserves more acknowledgement! So when I happened to come across a post about her on The History Press twitter page detailing a new release of theirs: In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland I knew straight away that this was a book I needed to read and The History Press team were kind enough to send me a copy to review on here.
This happens to be the first biography I have read on any of the Brontës. It’s even more fitting being that this year is the 200th anniversary of Charlotte Brontë’s birth. The beauty of this biography is that each chapter begins with a quotation from Anne’s two novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall. Which in fact sheds light on not only Anne’s personal life but also her professional life. Such as:
My father was a clergyman of the north of England; deservedly respected by all who knew him. – Agnes Grey
Throughout this biography different aspects are included to tell the story of Anne’s life for example, religious culture of the 19th century is researched and included throughout. When it comes to religion it plays a major part within Anne’s family and most importantly her life. Religion is something that is close to Anne’s heart and is something that she carries with her for the rest of her life. As well as this aspect of religious culture being included throughout the book, another aspect that is included is family, all of the Brontë siblings are written about which captures the love and strong bond between not only the well known siblings: Charlotte, Branwell, Emily and Anne but also the two elder siblings: Maria and Elizabeth.
Holland uses evidences such as letters and in some cases poetry throughout the whole of this biography that gives a new and fresh perspective on the Brontë family affairs. He has done a brilliant job when it comes to researching and writing about Anne Brontë and her family.
In all, Anne’s life was brief and at times very difficult, she struggled with loneliness, self-doubt and major losses. However, her life was also full of imagination, love, music, nature, friendship, freedom and discovery. Anne’s life may have been short but it was most definitely fully lived by her. Anne was remarkably intelligent, caring, brave and most definitely a woman and writer beyond- her-time.
From this biography it can be seen that there is so much more to Anne, including a strength and in many cases a individualism that took her away from her family and her beloved family home in Haworth to do her duty which was to try and provide more income for her family. By Anne doing this it resulted in her expanded her awareness and her experience which developed into the courage and honesty of her novels and poetry.
In Search of Anne Brontë is a brillant, well-researched and detailed biography and account of Anne Brontë’s life. So if you have an interest or want to learn more about Anne Brontë then this biography by Nick Holland is the perfect way to be introduced to Anne and her personal/professional life.
The edition that I read was published by The History Press (2016).
(Image is my own – do not copy without permission first)