Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre, by Glynnis Fawkes
I’m certainly no stranger to books about the Brontës, books inspired by the Brontës’ books, or the actual books by the Brontës themselves.
And yet, I’m always here for more?
This one—a graphic biography of, as the title puts it, Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre—is super.
The artwork is appropriately moody and the facial expressions are, I don’t know, astoundingly expressive? There are some panels in which Charlotte looks—and in a few cases, sounds—like she wants to set the whole world on fire, and, I mean, can we really blame her?
Fawkes works in details of Brontë’s life that parallel themes and events in Jane Eyre—again, something that I am always here for—and she does it in a way that doesn’t diminish the novel, and even more importantly, she doesn’t minimize Brontë’s talent, hard work, or passion.
(MY STUFF: Sometimes people make Jane—and, by association—Charlotte, out to be a sappy wet blanket, and that is SO. WRONG. and the unfairness of that INFURIATES me. So I found the panels that show Charlotte being overtly pissed off—she’s quiet about it, but there’s no question that the anger is there—about her situation extremely and entirely affirming.)
She highlights those specific moments, she carefully pulls language from various letters and diaries and even the Brontë juvenilia, but rather than leading her readers by the nose or getting all professorial lecture-y, she lets us make the connections on our own.
I love Alison Bechdel’s introduction because she includes both a very personal response to Jane Eyre AND her thoughts about it as a feminist text; I REALLY love the backmatter, which includes a bibliography AND detailed notes about specific pages and panels AND a postscript from Fawkes about why she chose to write about Charlotte in particular, and the whole package clocks in at less than 100 pages, and it’s great great great great GREAT.
Also, I’m always here for dunking on Branwell (apologies for the quality of the photo):
And finally! This is just one in a series of biographies from The Center for Cartoon Studies! There are at least four more, about Annie Sullivan and Helen Keller, about Satchel Paige, about Thoreau, about Amelia Earhart, and about Houdini, and based on the strength of this one, I want to read them all, all, ALL.