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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.