“There’s a fire and a fury raging in that little woman and scorching her heart,” author William Makepeace Thackeray observed of Charlotte Brontë. “She has a story and a great grief that has gone badly with her.”

Bronte did have a sad life, albeit one of magnificent creativity. Losing her mother in childhood and all of her five siblings before her own early death at age 38, the author most famous for Jane Eyre suffered for years from an unrequited love for her Brussels instructor Constantin Heger and could not help resenting the conventions of the day that necessitated both her and her sisters Emily and Anne adopting male pseudonyms in order to publish their first novels.

The author of this new biography (published just in time for the bicentennial of Charlotte Bronte’s birth) manages to bring a fresh view and on occasion a mildly wry sense of humor to the story of Charlotte Bronte and her famously gifted and socially awkward family. The focus is on Bronte’s relationships with her family, friends and publishers, and the author doesn’t shy away from illustrating her subject’s social and occupational idiosyncrasies and repressed anger and grief at her professional and personal situation The high quality of the author’s research allows her to illustrate effectively relations of themes in Bronte’s work to events occurring in her life at the time of their composition.

Readers familiar with Bronte’s life and work will particularly enjoy revisiting both in this engaging book, Charlotte Bronte: A Fiery Heart by Claire Harman.

Alison M.