As depicted by Frank (A Voyager Out: The Life of Mary Kingsley, 1986), Emily Bronte is hardly ""chainless""; she is the...

READ REVIEW

A CHAINLESS SOUL: A Life of Emily Bronte

As depicted by Frank (A Voyager Out: The Life of Mary Kingsley, 1986), Emily Bronte is hardly ""chainless""; she is the willing prisoner of her own fears, obsessions, and the circumstances into which she was born. Bronte was raised in a Yorkshire parsonage by her widowed father--an Anglican minister who dealt with his own frustrations and rage by shooting his pistols at the church tower every morning when he woke up--and an unmarried aunt, both of whom disliked children and insisted on eating in private. The four surviving children, hungry and emotionally deprived, created an elaborate fantasy world that they put into plays, poems, and a family magazine. Later, all attempted to support themselves as tutors or governesses, which, in the 19th century, was as difficult as authorship. And all, as portrayed here, were angry, sickly and self-defeating: Bramwell was a drunkard, an addict, possibly an adulterer and/or pederast; Charlotte, the most interesting and actually the center of Frank's book, suffered from unrequited love for an older married man; the nearly inviable Anne found solace in religion; and Emily, whose role in this biography is tangential at best, found a refuge in the parsonage, where her sullen and misanthropic nature was irrelevant. However psychologically naive and irrelevant to literature, Frank's book has popular appeal as social history, depicting compassionately a creative but dysfunctional family in the Victorian period. In her evocation of deprived children, lovelorn and loveless adults, deathbed drama and Yorkshire scenery, Frank shows the sensibility of a Bronte.

Pub Date: Nov. 7, 1990

ISBN: 0449906612

Page Count: -

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 1990