The history of the Brontë sisters seems straight out of the work they produced—from Charlotte’s Jane Eyre to Emily’s Wuthering Heights and Anne's Agnes Grey. Isolated on the Yorkshire moors, they lived at the mercy of their tyrannical, widowed father and ne’er-do-well brother, Branwell. Such conditions gave rise to vivid imaginations and a passion for storytelling, which developed into full-blown careers. But life was difficult and short for the sisters: They each met premature deaths, either from from tuberculosis (as was the case with Emily and Anne) or pregnancy complications (possibly Charlotte's cause of death).
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But the passage of time has done nothing to diminish the interest in this literary trio of sisters. Below, you'll find six contemporary novels for Brontë fans that take inspiration from the characters and worlds they created, and the lives they led.
The Madwoman Upstairs
When Samantha's father dies, she becomes the last living descendant of the legendary Brontë family. But it isn't until she enrolls at Oxford University that she properly dives into her history—and tries to uncover the trove of literary treasures that scholars have always whispered about. But in her journey to the past, Samantha begins to question her understanding of the truth: Is it possible that the line between fact and fiction isn't as certain as everyone believes?
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Romancing Miss Brontë
Juliet Gael's novel focuses on the publication of Charlotte's Jane Eyre. As in real life, the Brontë women secretly turn to literature as a means of supporting themselves. When Charlotte becomes a literary sensation, she also becomes irrevocably entangled with her handsome publisher, George Smith. But he isn't the only man in Charlotte's life—her longtime acquaintance, Arthur Nicholls, reveals that he's been pining for her affections. Suddenly, the author's wildest desires seem within her grasp, and not just romantic pipe dreams written on a page...
Reader, I Married Him
This collection of short stories were all inspired by the work of Charlotte Brontë—particularly the famous Jane Eyre line from which it takes its title. With work from authors like Emma Straub, Jane Gardam, Emma Donoghue, Francine Prose, and Audrey Niffenegger, Dear Reader, I Married Him is a memorable tribute and a delightful treat for any Brontë devotee.
For lovers of Wuthering Heights, Alison Case’s novel is a must-read: Here, we see Heathcliff and Catherine's tumultuous romance through the eyes of the Earnshaws’ servant, Ellen “Nelly” Dean. Case doesn’t waste any time rehashing plot particulars, so longtime fans will find themselves immediately plunged into a drama that's as heartbreaking as the novel that inspired it.
Emily Brontë’s love life is the focus of this novel, which imagines that her affair with a visiting clergyman inspired the sweeping gothic Wuthering Heights. Denise Giardina also explores the relationships between the sisters, in addition to their own personalities, passions, and personal struggles.
Inspired by the titular heroine of Charlotte's most famous novel, this book imagine's the governess’s life if she'd chosen violence over righteousness. Lyndsay Faye's reincarnation possesses the same sense of honor as Brontë’s original—though that honor manifests in a Dexter-esque, vigilante do-gooder manner. You won't be able to put this one down.
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