Mittwoch, 2. Januar 2013

The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan

We are two days into 2013 and so far everything is going splendidly, which of course doesn't mean anything, but I'm taking it as a good omen. This review of Jude Morgan's The Taste of Sorrow is my first post in the new year and at the same time the first proper review I have written since the 6th of July. I was absent from blogging longer than I thought. Anyway, Jude Morgan's novel about the Brontë family was on my wishlist for a long time and when I got Atticus for Christmas and saw that the kindle edition only costs six euro (as opposed to eleven for the paperback) I didn't have to think long about which book should be my first e-book. There is something absolutely fascinating about this family: all children uniquely gifted writers, living secluded in their own little world, but haunted by tragedy. How could they manage to write books that changed the literary landscape forever? Who were the women who came up with Jane Eyre, Cathy and Heathcliff? Why did all of them die so young and how on earth could Charlotte survive the loss of almost her whole family? Perhaps it is exactly the comparative lack of information about their lives that makes their story so intriguing.

Jude Morgan wrote a fictionalized account of the Bröntës' lives, starting with the death of their mother and ending a little after Charlotte's marriage. Although all family members receive sufficient attention the novel's focus is clearly on Charlotte, something which you quickly notice through the style that - sometimes more, sometimes less drastically - seems to imitate Jane Eyre. I don't say that as criticism, in fact it was very appropriate, especially since Charlotte inevitably reminds the reader of her famous heroine. Of course there are differences between them: the "real" Charlotte Brontë is less outspoken and, naturally, less fortunate, but her personality in Morgan's portrayal is very similar to Jane's.
Again, I am not criticising  this, because Jane Eyre obviously is based on her author.

Unfortunately, I am not familiar enough with the details of the Bröntës' lives to judge how much of their feelings and thoughts in the novel are adapted from their real sentiments expressed in letters, diaries or stories, but I have to bow to Jude Morgan anyway for creating such believable characters.
Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell are not just dusty entries in literary encyclopedias, but authentic, tangible people. If they did not exactly do or say the things as Morgan writes them, it is at least very easy to imagine that they could have done or said them. Whether it is Branwell's descent into alcoholism because he cannot bear the weight of expectations on him or Emily's inability to feel comfortable around people she cannot remember always loving; this novel draws very realistic pictures of the Brontë siblings' lives and personalities.
The only character I found a little one-dimensional is Anne, who is completely unselfish and only concerned with making the lives of her family members as easy as possible without regard to her own happiness, but then maybe that was Anne's role in her family. I don't know, but I am now eager to read her books.

With 464 pages this book was not too long, in fact it was a quick read, but it is maybe a little stretched in the middle and then too hurried when it comes to the development of the sisters' novels. About Emily's motivation to write Wuthering Heights the reader learns virtuallly nothing, for instance, and Charlotte's inspiration for Jane Eyre is also only outlined roughly. (Looking at her live I have to wonder where Mr. Rochester comes from.) But again, perhaps there simply is no existing information on these topics and Jude Morgan didn't want to invent anything. To be sure, it doesn't impair his novel much: The Taste of Sorrow is a great book for anyone interested in the Brontës and I am looking forward to reading more from Jude Morgan, his novels on Shakespeare and the romantic poets for example.


  1. Yay for a good start to the year!

    This sounds like a fun book. I'm curious to read Anne's novels as well as I've heard they are very different from her sisters' novels.

  2. This seems like a very interesting book. I am endlessly interested in the Brontës too, especially in Anne. Having read The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and being aware of the general plot of Agnes Grey, as well as having read a lot about her when I was writing a series of articles on the Brontë sisters, I'd say that Anne's role in the family was not the designated peace maker. Perhaps to an extent, but not to the point Morgan seems to indicate. Actually, Anne has always struck me as the feisty type, with a sheer willpower and determination that leaves me in awe.
    Her novels are very different from her sisters', that's true, but I don't think that's a bad thing. Don't get me wrong, I love Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights is my absolute favorite novel of all time, but Anne wrote more about social issues than gothic love stories. There's a different focus in her novels, an emphasis on the necessity to fight the injustices and obstacles that women and poor people undergo.
    Oops, this got longer than I intended. Sorry for the essay. :D