The literature the Brontës produced, from Charlotte’s Jane Eyre to Emily’s Wuthering Heights is just as compelling as the true story of the family itself— living with their tyrannical father and ne’er-do-well brother Branwell, isolated on the Yorkshire moors—and the fact that all three Brontë sisters would die early deaths, Emily and Anne from tuberculosis and Charlotte possibly from complications from pregnancy.
These six contemporary novels for Brontë fans take their inspiration from the characters and worlds the Brontë sisters created and the lives they led.
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The Madwoman Upstairs, by Catherine Lowell
Lowell’s debut novel concerns Samantha Whipple, a living descendant of the Brontës, tracking her family’s history (and a hidden treasure trove of Brontë lore) after her father’s death. But when Samantha enrolls at Oxford University, her family’s past comes back to haunt her, and raises questions about her understanding of the truth. Perhaps the lines between fact and fiction are not so certain.
Romancing Miss Brontë, by Juliet Gael
Unlike Anne and Emily, Charlotte Brontë did marry shortly before her death in 1816. Juliet Gael’s novel fictionalizes the time she spent back at home after returning from Brussels, when her family makes good on their ambitions to publish. When her novel Jane Eyre becomes a smash success, Charlotte finds herself torn between the affections of two men.
Reader, I Married Him, edited by Tracy Chevalier
This collection of short stories by female authors were all inspired by the work of Charlotte Brontë, in particular, the famous line from Jane Eyre from which it takes its title. With work from Emma Straub, Jane Gardam, Emma Donoghue, Francine Prose, Audrey Niffenegger and more, the influence of Charlotte Brontë has never been more apparent.
Nelly Dean: A Return to Wuthering Heights, by Alison Case
For Wuthering Heights fans, Alison Case’s novel revisits the love story of Heathcliff and Catherine through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ servant Ellen “Nelly” Dean. Case doesn’t waste any time waiting for her reader to catch up on the plot particulars, much to the delight of hardcore Wuthering Heights fans.
Emily’s Ghost, by Denise Giardina
Emily Brontë’s love life is the focus of this novel by Denise Giardina, which imagines a love affair between Emily and a visiting clergyman as the possible inspiration for her sweeping gothic novel Wuthering Heights.
Jane Steele: A Confession, by Lyndsay Faye
Inspired by the character of Jane Eyre, Faye’s novel wonders what the governess’s life would have been like had she chosen perhaps a life of violence over righteousness—with the same sense of honor as Jane Eyre but in a Dexter-type, vigilante do-gooder style.