IN THE SHADOW OF THE BRONTES by Louise Brindley

IN THE SHADOW OF THE BRONTES

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

The very syrupy shadow of the Brontes, that is--as a young Yorkshire girl's rise from workhouse to mansion is interwoven (via some supernatural congruences) with the lives of those miserable literary siblings. In 1839, workhouse orphan Lizzie is hired on as a scullery maid at Grayston Lodge, where the household consists of decent shipyard-owner Edward, horrid wife Bella, and sweet daughter Cathy. But though happy at first, Lizzie--who has ""the sight""--is soon hearing violin music and the name ""Maria."" She also eventually meets Anne Bronte, her virtual double in appearance and spirit, who's toiling miserably as a governess--and tangles with the other Brontes: she loves poor Branwell, sunk in drink and opium and unrequited love; she feels the sullen anger of Charlotte and the inward agonies of Emily. (Even Cathy's dog Dido seems a shadow of the Brontes' Flossie.) Meanwhile, there's lots of nasty stuff going on at the Lodge. Edward, though drawn more and more to Lizzie, suffers the pursuit of Bella's married cousin Lettie; Cathy dies; Bella's off to Italy for some questionable cultural activities with a fortune-hunting poet; then a boat overturns--with Bella and Edward reported dead; mean Lettie sells Edward's beloved shipyard. But a predictable happy ending awaits Lizzie, who never stops weeping with those Brontes: she brings Branwell home from the pub to die, parts from dying Anne, empathizes with Charlotte, and communes with dead Emily. (""Her spirit was ever with me; her name was in the very air about my head; her voice spoke to me in every bird that sang."") Lizzie's climb to love and riches is cheerful enough, but the rest--a strained quasi-literary mockup--is as soppy as March moors.

Pub Date: July 7th, 1983
Publisher: St. Martin's