Are you a Brontë fan? Do you already know a little about them and want to find out more? Then Nick Holland’s book about their Aunt Branwell, published by Pen and Sword, is definitely worth a read. In this short but informative exploration of Elizabeth Branwell’s life and connections, we learn about her influence upon the lives of her sister’s children: Charlotte, Emily, Anne and Branwell.
Having read several Brontë novels, studied them at university, visited Haworth and read a biography of Charlotte, I couldn’t fail to be interested in this new angle on Brontë history. To be honest, I’d never given Elizabeth much thought, but this book demonstrated what a strong, supportive woman she was. If she hadn’t stepped into the lives of her nieces and nephew after their mother’s death, it’s likely we wouldn’t have heard of them today. The book is mainly chronological (I say mainly, because sometimes references are made to later events), starting with the Branwell family history and putting together a picture of Elizabeth’s youth in Penzance, Cornwall. We then move hundreds of miles north with her as she becomes part of Parsonage life. Later, her legacy is explored and her descendants are traced. I learned many new things, which is always my aim when reading non-fiction.
While I really enjoyed the content of this book, I thought that the sentences could have been better constructed. It’s the kind of thing I notice, unfortunately. There were many points in the writing where I thought, ‘this needs to be rephrased’ or ‘when you say ‘she’, which of the two women are you referring to?’ or ‘you’ve used ‘also’ twice in this sentence’. This was my first ARC requested from NetGalley, so I’m not sure whether copies have already gone through proofreading before they are provided for reviewers – can anyone let me know in the comments please? I couldn’t help noticing the misplaced apostrophes which kept turning up – if you’re talking about something belonging to the Brontës as a plural, the apostrophe has to be after the ‘s’. Sorry to sound like the grammar police, but I expect published writers (or at least their editors or proofreaders) to know how to use apostrophes.
Anyway, that aside, I did like this book and I would recommend it if you want to gain more insight into this famous literary family. It’s worth noting that Elizabeth Branwell left no letters or diaries behind, so Nick Holland does an excellent job of pulling other sources together to create a portrait of her.
E-book provided by Pen and Sword via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Publication date: 30th September 2018.