Walking With Anne Brontë

Insights and Reflections: An Anthology

Non-Fiction - Biography
678 Pages
Reviewed on 08/27/2023
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Grant Leishman for Readers' Favorite

Walking with Anne Brontë: Insights and Reflections: An Anthology by Tim Whittome is a thoughtful, insightful, and thoroughly academic review of the work of the lesser-known and celebrated of the three Brontë sisters, Anne. Editor Tim Whittome is a confessed adherent of “Team Anne” and, in this work, has collated sixteen essays by twelve essayists, including three of his own, that seek to illuminate and laud the two novels and numerous poems of Anne Brontë. Various essayists take differing paths to show that Anne was every bit as much the genius literary figure as her two more celebrated sisters, Charlotte and Emily. Through analysis of the themes of Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall plus her many poems that still survive, the contributors show the depth of her dramatic and descriptive narrative, as well as her ability to “tell her truth” as she saw it. The Brontë family life on the moors of Haworth, Yorkshire, and the relationships between Anne and her elder sisters, as well as with her father, aunt, and bedeviled brother Branwell, are explored in detail in one of the essays. Other essayists focus on her two novels, especially The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, which explores deeply the lack of status and power of the married woman in Victorian England. This book is a comprehensive analysis of Anne’s life, her works, her character and personality, and ultimately, her sad and youthful death.

Walking with Anne Brontë was much more than I, as a reader, expected. As not a particular devotee of any of the Brontë sisters, I was truly amazed at the passion and fervor that biographers, through the years, have dedicated to the life and works of both Charlotte and Emily, often to the disparagement of the works of younger sister Anne. Editor Tim Whittome has created a collection that sets out to raise Anne’s status in the literary world, and a careful reading of the essays will give the reader a real sense of the worth of Anne’s ideals and her purposes in writing her two novels and many poems. I was blissfully unaware of Charlotte’s offhand and disparaging treatment and description of Anne’s works, especially The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, and doubtless, this had a major influence on future biographers and essayists focusing more on Charlotte and Emily’s work rather than Anne. I appreciated greatly the endnotes that accompanied each essay. They were informative and packed with fascinating insights. It was fair to say that where many will gloss over endnotes as irrelevant, I would truly urge readers of this book to note them carefully and learn from them. I also enjoyed the collection of the editor’s poems that served to uplift Anne, her beliefs, her personality, and her literary works. Even if you are not a Brontë fan, this is an illuminating work that shows the fascinating dynamic that existed in a family of extremely talented, some would say, genius literati and how easily one of these participants was sadly overlooked for over a century. I thoroughly enjoyed this read and can highly recommend it.

K.C. Finn

Walking with Anne Brontë: Insights and Reflections is a work of non-fiction in the anthology, historical essays, and biographical writing subgenres. It is suitable for the general adult reading audience and was edited by author Tim Whittome, who combines the essays and ideas of twelve different writers. The work intends to celebrate Anne Brontë, the often overshadowed sister of Charlotte and Emily Brontë. Through academic, personal, and poetic reflections, the anthology aims to give voice to Anne's literary contributions and shed light on her unique perspective. The writers in the book aim not to diminish the achievements of Charlotte and Emily but rather to elevate Anne to her rightful place alongside her sisters.

Reading this anthology was an enriching experience that highlighted Anne Brontë's unique literary contributions and her ability to delve into complex psychological themes. Author and editor Tim Whittome has much to offer readers in his own musings on The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, exploring psychological pressures and hidden elements I’d never considered before. My personal favorite section of the work was the focus that author Rebecca Batley puts on Anne’s connection to Scarborough, a place that is also close to my heart, in which the personal and emotive explorations were palpable, leaping off the page. The essays provided diverse perspectives that celebrated Anne's writing while contributing to a more comprehensive appreciation of the Brontë sisters' collective legacy and highlighting Anne’s unique approach. Overall, I would certainly recommend Walking with Anne Brontë: Insights and Reflections to enthusiasts of great literature everywhere in order to discover and appreciate more about the less-discussed Brontë sister.

Emily-Jane Hills Orford

Tim Whittome’s Walking with Anne Brontë: Insights and Reflections An Anthology is a selection of writings by various critics and intellectuals after they had studied and evaluated the once-overlooked subtle nuances of the youngest Brontë sister, Anne. With a strong editorial introduction, the collection is organized into sections, including a study of Anne’s character, academic interpretations, and a thorough analysis and review of Anne’s poetry. The anthology concludes with an epilogue that sums up the overall study, and, like any other academic publication, there is a concise bibliography of both Anne’s work as well as research papers and books about Anne and her writing. Interspersed within the text are charcoal drawings of Anne, another subtle approach to presenting a fascinating, but somewhat unassuming, indeed a very modest writer.

Perhaps Anne Brontë wasn’t the most popular of the Brontë sisters. Charlotte and Emily certainly had a large following after their famous novels Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights were published. As Charlotte’s dear friend Ellen Nussey described the youngest Brontë sister, and as quoted in Tim Whittome’s Walking with Anne Brontë, Anne was quite aptly considered to be “dear gentle Anne.” Even her writings were rather more kindly and less intense than those of her sisters. Despite this, her works still speak volumes to the contemporary soul, just as they were meant to address us all a hundred years ago when they were written. The book is insightful and informative, as well as engaging and educational. This was a fascinating read and one I thoroughly enjoyed. Recommended for fans of historical fiction, biographies, and women authors.