THE CRIMES OF CHARLOTTE
BRONTE by James Tully
When is a novel not a novel? When it is the account of supposed events in the lives of real people. Criminologist James Tully has served up a strange concoction based on his researches into the murky lives of the Brontes which is part fiction and part fact. His narrator is a modern solicitor who unearths the papers belonging to one Martha Brown, servant to the Brontes who has a strange and fell story to tell. Then we plunge into her narrative, interspersed with asides by the solicitor telling the reader about what records tell us relating to various incidents.
So - was Branwell a blackmailer and sodomite, and was he murdered? Was Charlotte's husband Arthur Nicholls guilty of having a relationship with Emily and did it result in her getting pregnant? How did the sisters know so much about love and its darker side? I confess that I had not thought that any such sensational mysteries existed and whether the reader will left thinking that this book puts the record straight or left shaking their head is up to them. It is surely a must-read for all Bronte fans and Tully describes the claustrophobic parsonage at Haworth well enough although I would have preferred either a straight novel or a work of non-fiction rather than something that is not truly either. There is too much switching back and forwards between the two which prevents the reader from really getting immersed in it all. Thought-provoking stuff.
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