I have read two of Jude Morgan’s literary biographical novels but never felt I was really seeing the true character of the subjects. However, with Charlotte and Emily, Morgan seems to have found his subject.
Charlotte and Emily covers most of the Brontës’ lives, from the time they were children until Charlotte marries Arthur Bell Nicholls. By that time, all the other Brontë siblings have died.
Charlotte is the main character of the novel, although it is occasionally told from the point of view of Anne. Emily remains distant from the reader, harder to know.
Much of the novel is concerned with the focus of the entire family on the future of brilliant Branwell, the only son. The girls are sent for schooling so that they can be teachers and earn money to help educate Branwell. Although Charlotte wonders if she can become a writer and even tries sending poetry to Southey, the poet laureate, she is discouraged by both Southey and her father.
Of course, Branwell never finds a vocation and instead becomes a wastrel. Charlotte and Anne work doggedly as teachers, although they hate it. Emily gets herself sent home both from school and work.
I have read biographies of the Brontës, but this novel is the first I’ve read that gave me a sense of what their lives may have been like. I found it completely absorbing. If you are a Brontë lover, this is a book for you.