I’ve spent most of my English Major career searching for a classic author to love. Jane Austen has floored the world and many of my friends, and although I think she’s wonderful, and Sense and Sensibility is a fave of mine, Jane’s never quite reached the fever pitch sensation I’m looking for in a favorite author. I read Jane Eyre a few years ago, after watching a booktuber rave about it, and boy did it finally click. Charlotte Brontë’s writing carries truth, wit, and passion. I was most taken by how timeless it is. I couldn’t believe how progressive Jane is, how gorgeous the writing is, and how fleshed, flawed, and filled with integrity Bronte’s world was. I loved the moors and it’s rustic beauty.
Flash forward to my devouring of Syrie James’ The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Bronte...and any question of my literary devotion for the Brontë Sisters was now extinguished. “Secret Diaries” brings Charlotte Bronte to life as she narrates key moments: those spent writing with her sisters, Anne and Emily, the victory in holding the first published copy of Jane Eyre and the fame that immediately followed, great tragedy as she experiences the deaths of those closest to her. Syrie James is truly an amazing writer who combed every letter, every biography, even the moors in Haworth, England, in order to capture Charlotte’s historical moments accurately, whilst capturing her passion and vulnerability in a voice akin to truth.
What I truly appreciated about this novel, especially as someone very new to Brontë, is learning entirely new things about her, like her time spent in Belgium, and her unrequited (?) love for the headmaster of the school she attended there, or, as is particularly showcased in this novel, the man who won her heart, Arthur Nicholls. Experiencing their “Pride and Prejudice” ebbs and flows are priceless. Once they finally open up to each other, their moments are wonderful and heartbreaking. I appreciated that James depicts this love slowly, allowing Charlotte to come to the realization that although love may not always come in the frantic passion as that of her own Jane and Rochester, when it blooms, it blooms with a delicate realization of esteem you feel for them.
What Syrie James has done with this beautiful novel is allow a most ardent fan an opportunity to converse with her favorite classic author. Brontë fans will also appreciate the insight James gives into what inspired each of their classic novels. Along with showcasing such a well rounded portrayal of Charlotte, James does wonders for Emily, Anne, and Branwell as well. Their family moments and disagreements gave the novel such life. James’ has definitely made me a fan of each Bronte counterpart in different ways and has made me want to delve into all of their writing more deeply. This edition contains extras such as an interview with Syrie James, and a few excerpts of Charlotte’s poetry and letters.
This novel is definitely a Supper Hall Book Club story of note. I’m actually a little emotional that it’s over, as I’ve spent the last year savoring it in bits. I imagine I'll spend more years, God Willing, rereading this.