The Taste of Sorrow

| 5 January , 2010 | Reply

Guest Editor, Andrea Parks

The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan is aptly named – it is a fictional account (based on biographical research) of the bleak lives of the Brontë family, more specifically, Charlotte, Emily and Anne. If you aren\’t familiar with these authors, their work followed the ever-popular Jane Austen by about 20 years and is every bit as wonderful and significant. Charlotte is famous for Jane Eyre, Emily for Wuthering Heights and Anne for other less well-known titles.  These two classic novels have been made into movies and spun into at least one BBC mini-series. The Brontë\’s novels are truly timeless masterpieces. The story of their lives is interesting as well.

The Brontë\’s are a family comprised of five daughters and one son, living in a small area in the Yorkshire moors. Their mother dies when the youngest, Anne, is two years old, leaving them in the basically adequate hands of their father, a clergyman. The story continues to move us deftly through their lives, up to the death of the final Brontë sister.

Each daughter is sent to a boarding schools that ultimately result in the death of the two eldest (who were no more than 10 and 11). As the family dwindles, the remaining siblings become a tight-knit group. Charlotte, Emily, Anne and their brother, Branwell, are deeply imaginative children. They turn inward to their imaginary worlds and cling to the stories they have brewing inside – perhaps a mechanism for coping with the loss of their mother and older sisters.

The Brontë\’s upbringing has a modernity to it that suggests why they were able to develop their talents. They are each encouraged to learn and read all types of literature, and are permitted to write and play creatively. The three sisters are allowed to pursue these hobbies, which is a bit unusual for young women during this period. They all eventually find their outlet in writing, their finest talent.  Later in their young lives, this creativity helps them to find hope in the soulless drudgery of their day-to-day.

The three sisters work by necessity to help to support the rest of the family, in particular, their wayward brother.  The girls must squash their own ambition to pay for their brother\’s failed attempts to bring prosperity to the family.  Charlotte, Emily and Anne dutifully take their turns in positions of service, as teachers and as governesses, which literally and figuratively sucks the life out of them.

The insight into the development of their creativity is the shining, joyful part of the novel. The sorrowful part is that, in spite of the fact that the three surviving daughters are permitted to indulge in their creativity; it is merely that, an indulgence. Otherwise, they are duly trained and each must submit to a life of service.  It is unacceptable for them to try to make a living in other ways, even though their brother is permitted to follow his dreams.

The story gets really interesting when the three sisters get the opportunity to open their own school. When this is delayed, they basically rebel and start writing in earnest and finally decide to publish their works covertly (and under assumed names). The rest is chick lit history.

This is a book for Brontë fans, particularly if you are interested in the story behind the story. I certainly respect the Brontë\’s place in women\’s literature and acknowledge that the lives of these 18th century women have significance. The book was a bit more intellectual than my tastes run for fun reading but it was enriching. Jude Morgan\’s writing is often poetic and his countless metaphors are highly original – great writing, really. Perhaps it is time for me to re-read Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre – I\’ll put them on my list! You will want to as well, I\’m sure, after reading The Taste of Sorrow.

Available now:  Hachette RRP$32.99

Andrea

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