If you have long admired the Bronte’s for their contribution to the literary canon, you will enjoy Giardina’s historical retelling of their history. Aside from each of their own published works, much of what is known of the Bronte family belongs to Charlotte. Her notes, childhood writings and biographies survive. But in this novel, Emily is given the voice and takes the lead.
Emily’s Ghost opens with the five Bronte girls away at school where two of the sisters contract the disease that will ultimately end their lives. After learning of the illnesses, Father Bronte removes his daughters from school and together Anne, Charlotte, and Emily grieve the loss of their two sisters. They continue to learn as books and experiences are available, but most importantly, they begin writing their poetry and stories.
Throughout the experiences of coping with the loss, dealing with the alcoholism of their brother, watching their father age, forging friendships and ultimately falling in love, Giardina allows the personalities of each sister to shine while illuminating how they compare and contrast with each other and interact with the social norms of the early 19th century.
Giardina’s exploration pays off with a story that is thoughtful, emotional, and engaging. The story of Emily brings new facets to her character, she is all at once likable but remains true to her darker nature and shows emotion only on her own terms. Giardina gives Emily a voice to justify her reasons for independence while remaining close to, but very different than her sister Charlotte and other women of the 19th century.
Giardina ends the story both historically truthful and tragic, while leaving doors open for more thought and possibility. Giardina remains focused on gracefully illuminating the woman capable of conceiving Wuthering Heights, the thoughtful, resilient, and fiercely independent sister grounded in her beliefs, sometimes even against accepted women’s conventions.
Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Zach.
This book was provided free of any obligation by W.W. Norton & Company. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.