Juliet Barker has published a revised edition of her landmark biography, The Brontës with new material, including letters and juvenilia not available when the original edition was published eighteen years ago.
What sets Barker’s biography about the Brontës apart is that hers is not the typical account of a mad, freakish clan of sequestered geniuses, but rather a depiction of a flawed and human family. Barker redeems the much maligned Patrick Brontë, the girls’ father, who is portrayed as loving and sympathetic. She depicts Charlotte not as a saint and martyr but instead as a controlling and self-absorbed young woman with a dash of wicked humor and a taste for sarcasm.
Concerning Emily, Barker also dispells a long-held belief about her literary output. She never wrote another novel after Wuthering Heights, but Barker insists she would have penned another had she lived long enough — and that, contrary to received opinion, she was not exhausted creatively or crippled by savage reviews.
At more than a thousand pages, Barker has enough canvas on which to flesh out her major theme: the family’s unique intimacy fostered their extraordinary literary output; the family’s closeness and affection helped them through illness and loss; and each family member sustained the others, despite jealousies and temperamental differences.