My review of In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland
Anne Brontë, the youngest and most enigmatic of the Brontë sisters, remains a bestselling author nearly two centuries after her death. The brilliance of her two novels and her poetry belies the quiet, truthful girl who often lived in the shadow of her more outgoing sisters. Yet her writing was the most revolutionary of all the Brontës, pushing the boundaries of what was acceptable.
This revealing new biography opens Anne’s most private life to a new audience, and shows the true nature of her relationship with her sister Charlotte.
Hardcover: 288 pages
Publisher: The History Press (3 Mar. 2016)
Publisher: The History Press (3 Mar. 2016)
'Sunrise Over the Sea' by Anne Bronte, 1839. (Courtesy of the Bronte Society
and In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland).
At night Anne listened to the sea roaring below her. Looking out of the window she could watch it crash against the rocks, throwing a white explosion of foam into the air. These were the nights that Anne liked best. There was something hypnotic about the sea, and the stormier and louder it was, the more she loved it. Men would come and go for millennia, as they always had, but this sea would still keep crashing against the rocks. It spoke of God's power, of hope and eternity. The sea would take on the same mysticism for Anne that the moors held for Emily, and she always longed to return to the coast when she was away from it, even in her very last days. (In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland, pg. 140).
Once in a great long while a biography comes along that just sweeps you off your feet. When I started reading, In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland I didn't really know what to expect. I have read numerous biographies on the sisters as a whole and individually. Usually, the writing does not engage me and the subtext is dry and dull. However, author Nick Holland has done something very different in writing this biography. He has taken chapter quotations from Anne Bronte's novels, Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall shedding light on her personal and professional life. Most biographers would have stopped there but Nick takes it a step further. Through older sister Charlotte Bronte's letters, a new perspective on family affairs and their struggle for publication is depicted with respect and empathy. All Bronte siblings, including brother Branwell, are written about with such genuine curiousity that I found myself possibly understanding their family dynamic in a way that I have not thought about before. For instance, by including and researching the religous culture of nineteenth-century England that the Bronte's lived in, as a reader I viewed the Bronte's through a new perspective that I didn't expect.
On the moors the girls were at one with the world, completely at ease with nature’s power in a way that they would never feel in the company of people. On one day in particular, they felt its strength in a way that would mark them forever. (In Search of Anne Brontë by Nick Holland, pg. 39)
Jane Eyre with Joan Fontaine, 1944
Doesn't it always come back to the moors when you think of the Bronte's? Whether you are reading about one sister or the entire family, images of that gorgeous and rough landscape spring to mind. In Search of Anne Brontë takes you to the moors that the sisters loved, to Haworth parsonage, to all the secret places the sisters loved. This biography captures the love and symbiosis between not only the well known siblings: Charlotte, Emily, Anne, and Branwell but the two older siblings: First born Maria Bronte ( 23 April 1814-6 May 1825) and second born Elizabeth Bronte (1815-1825). I just loved reading about the sibling's childhoods. Especially, upon the birth of youngest Anne Bronte. When her sister Charlotte sees an angel standing by her crib she runs to get her father, Patrick Bronte. By the time he gets to the room, Charlotte tells him the angel is gone!
I have always wondered about Anne Bronte's life in Scarborough and why she was buried there. She loved being by the sea not only for its tranquility and beauty but as her health failed her 'invalids' often went to spas for their healing powers. Sadly, this didn't work for Anne but I now have a much better understanding of Anne Bronte's life. I hope you will too!
I am so happy that lesser known Bronte sibling, Anne has been brought out of the shadows and into the light. Nick Holland has done an exceptional job researching and writing about Anne Bronte and her family. We think we know them well enough but we don't. I have learned so many new aspects of their lives thanks to Nick Holland and his enchanting and intelligent biography, In Search of Anne Brontë .
Thank you for my review copy, The History Press (UK)
To purchase In Search of Anne Bronte, out now in the UK, Amazon UK
To pre-order In Search of Anne Bronte, to be published in the U.S. June 1, 2016, Amazon US
To follow author, Nick Holland's blog, Anne Bronte
Lastly, I love this song Scarborough Fair by Celtic Women. I kept hearing it in my head as I read the chapters about Anne Bronte's life in Scarborough. Fitting I think to end here.