Archives for biography

#BookReview ‘Jane Austen A Life’ by Claire Tomalin #books #writerslife

As a lifelong Jane Austen fan, how I wish I had read this biography years ago. So many details from Jane’s life, her observations in letters to sister Cassandra and comments about Jane by her own relatives shed a spotlight on characterisations and situations portrayed in her novels. Jane Austen: A Life by Claire Tomalin was first published in 1997. Limited by the destruction of so many of Jane’s own letters, Tomalin builds a picture of Jane’s life from the accounts of her family and acquaintances, and of life at that time in Georgian England. The amount of research done must be formidable but Tomalin sets her story of Jane Austen’s daily life against her literary progress, including the times when she was unable to write. She is revealed as having a sparkling and at times dry wit, perhaps more Lizzie Bennet than Emma Woodhouse.  Also interesting is the account of first her father then her brother Henry at getting her books published. On Jane’s death, Cassandra was sole proprietor of Jane’s copyright though Henry continued to negotiate with publishers. Any writer will be familiar with the reactions of one’s closest relatives to the publication of a new book. The
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘Charlotte Brontë A Life’ by Claire Harman #books #writerslife

How did Charlotte Brontë create the character of Jane Eyre? Was Villette really based on a doomed love affair in Brussels? How much of the real author is in these novels? If you have read Charlotte Brontë’s books, you will have asked yourself these questions. The biography Charlotte Brontë: A Life by Claire Harman provides some fascinating answers. This is the first biography of Brontë I have read and I wish I had read it sooner. Harman tells the enthralling story of the family whose losses, grief, hardship, isolation and disappointments populate the novels of the three sisters – Charlotte, Emily and Anne. It is impossible to write about Charlotte without writing about the family, and particularly about Emily, Anne and brother Branwell. Everyone knows the headline facts about the Brontës – Haworth parsonage, mother and siblings dying, Branwell’s addiction, and the imaginary kingdoms of Angria and Dondal in which the children lose themselves. But Harman makes the history accessible, telling the life of Charlotte in chronological order starting briefly with her father Patrick. There are clear references to real life appearing in the novels and Harman casts light on the writing process of Charlotte and her sisters. For a novelist, this
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.

#BookReview ‘The Woman of Substance’ by Piers Dudgeon #biography

The Woman of Substance by Piers Dudgeon is in part an authorised biography of A Woman of Substance writer Barbara Taylor Bradford, and part analysis of how Barbara’s own family history features in her books. The story of Emma Harte’s journey from Edwardian kitchen maid to globally successful businesswoman is well known. Less known perhaps are the connections with Barbara’s own family history. Connections she did not know herself. Starting with a meeting at the Bradfords’ New York apartment at which he is surrounded by the great and the famous, eating amidst the glittering décor, Dudgeon realises this is the world of the successful Emma Harte at the height of her powers. And then he tells Barbara’s story from her birth in 1933 in Upper Armley near Leeds, born not into the family of a kitchen maid like Emma Harte, but a tidy working class family who were neat and always made ends meet. Barbara is an only child and spoilt by her mother who takes her at every available opportunity to visit the Studley Royal estate where she learns this history of the house, the estate and the family. ‘My mother exposed me to lots of things,” said Barbara.
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Categories: Book Love and On Writing.