Back home from France and back into life here again, its time to catch up with some of my recent reading.
Jude Morgan's A Taste of Sorrow (review here) was a moving and for me exciting read. I found the story of the early life of the Bronte children sympathetically but clearly described, and although a work of fiction, obviously based on a detailed research. The story begins with the death of Maria Bronte, mother of six children, a horrifying event, and then the running of the household by her sister, known as Aunt Branwell. The atmosphere of Haworth is well-described, with the rather bleak interior of the house almost echoed by the equal bleakness of the moors outside, and the hard working life of the village with its farming and wool production included in that harshness.
The school as portrayed in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre was based on one to which the Bronte daughters were sent. Set up for the daughters of clergymen, but the conditions were poor, with inadequate food and heating, especially considering the hard winters of the Victorian period. The two eldest daughters of Patrick Bronte both died young, of consumption, as it was called, or tuberculosis as we now call it, a disease which was eventually to affect the whole family apart from Patrick Bronte himself. The descriptions of how this happened were certainly the most sorrowful aspects of this book, despite the increasing success of Anne, Emily and Charlotte;s writings. All were successful published novelists at a time when more and more people were searching for good, intelligent reading matter.
Roma Tearne's Brixton Beach was actually acquired at an author talk some time ago, but languished on a shelf until now. What a lovely read this was, despite the theme of violence which runs throughout the story. Although this was one of those books I kept putting down then picking up again, a slower, gentler read perhaps reflecting the characters of Alice and her mother Sita. Set in Sri Lanka and describing the build up of tension between the Tamils and Singhalese communities, eventually leading to a civil war (which has only very recently ended). The possible repercussions of being a part of the British Empire are also one of the major themes of this novel. Alice is the daughter of Sita, a Singhalese woman and Stanley, who is Tamil. Alice is partly brought up by her grandparents, Sita's mother and father. Eventually the situation between Tamil and Singhalese becomes so difficult for Sita and Stanley that they leave Sri Lanka and settle in London. Alice grows up there, and becomes an artist and sculptor, following childhood inclinations. Alice marries an Englishman, Timothy, but her marriage is no more successful than her parents was. However Alice has become a more complex and resourceful character than her gentle, retiring mother was, and suvives and develops on her own. A more complex book than it first appears and an intriguing read.