As I saw parents waiting for their children to return for a residential trip last night it reminded me of my favourite school residential. I went to school on the Isle of Wight and when I was at Junior school we spent a week in Yorkshire. I can’t imagine taking a coach load of kids on such a journey before the age of iPhones and iPads but somehow we made the long journey. I’ve now spent hours trying to find photographs of this school trip – but failed.
My favourite trip during our visit was to Haworth and the Bronte Parsonage. I’ve never seen such a bleak spot but was inspired to read Jane Eyre, Shirley, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey. I refused to read Wuthering Heights as I could never get away from the image of Kate Bush whilst reading the first few pages.
Over Christmas I watched To Walk Invisible, a dramatisation of a short period of the Brontes adult lives. I really enjoyed it so couldn’t wait to read Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis which has recently been published.
Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life
Anne Brontë is the forgotten Brontë sister, overshadowed by her older siblings — virtuous, successful Charlotte, free-spirited Emily and dissolute Branwell. Tragic, virginal, sweet, stoic, selfless, Anne. The less talented Bronte, the other Brontë.
Or that’s what Samantha Ellis, a life-long Emily and Wuthering Heights devotee, had always thought. Until, that is, she started questioning that devotion and, in looking more closely at Emily and Charlotte, found herself confronted by Anne instead.
Take Courage is Samantha’s personal, poignant and surprising journey into the life and work of a woman sidelined by history. A brave, strongly feminist writer well ahead of her time — and her more celebrated siblings — and who has much to teach us today about how to find our way in the world.
I really enjoyed reading this book. The style of the author is quite light, which is a good thing given the subject matter. The Bronte’s are a fascinating family and this is a really interesting book which really helps to bring light to Anne Bronte and her work. Each chapter examines a different family member or friend of the family, sheds light on their relationship with Anne and reveals more about who she was. I never realised that a lot of what we thought we knew about Anne was distorted by her family, who hugely influenced what was published after her death.
I admit to crying towards the end of the book when Anne dies in Scarborough. It’s so sad that she had such a hard life and died with so much that she still wanted to do and write. However there is a lesson that despite everything Anne managed to create a legacy in her writing. Despite her lack of formal education she created characters which people still want to read 150 years later. Her last words to her sister were “Take courage, Charlotte, take courage” and these words keep coming back to me, they are a great mantra to live by.
This book goes a great way to providing a more balanced view of Anne, what she thought, how she lived as well as gives great insight into her poems and novels. I can’t wait to re-read her novels, and maybe even try some of her poems too.
Take Courage: Anne Bronte and the Art of Life by Samantha Ellis is published by Random House UK priced £16.99. Thank you NetGalley and Random House UK for the review copy.