This is the last of Mrs. Gaskell's books that I'd not read. I left it till the end because it was a biography and not a novel, and because I didn't care all that much for Jane Eyre (though I did love Wuthering Heights). I did however greatly enjoy this biography. It wasn't really like a modern biography, full of life and love, but rather a more impersonal look at her life and times. I found it a fascinating look at women's history and literature in the early 19th century.
It also greatly increased my respect for Charlotte Bronte. She was a woman trying to make her way in the world, sacrificing her own happiness repeatedly to keep her family happy and fed. It was such a strange tragic tale with all the children dying. Of all the sisters Emily definitely remained my favourite, but it did make me want to go and read the Tenant of Wakefield Hall as well as Shirley.
The second half of the book seemed to move away from the social history into the literary history. One of the most interesting things were off-handed comments by the publishers on making her books more like something the libraries would want to buy, indicating that libraries had an influence on the publishing market that they definitely don't today! The latter half consisted much more of Bronte's letters. I thought it was especially interesting to read her comments on meeting, talking and reading Thackeray.
This was a very interesting book, definitely one I'd recommend to people who are interested in 19th century literature and social history....Continua