It All Began With a Book

I was lost, and I’m not talking spiritually. I’ve never been good at traveling from point A to point B without finding myself hopelessly astray. I’ve even gotten lost using GPS. Really. Fortunately, I thought ahead by bringing my brilliant red raincoat so I could easily be found, not if I got lost, but when I got lost.

Sheep on Brontë Moors

At the time of the Brontes, the moors were populated many farmers making a living with sheep.

On this particular day, I was walking through what appeared to be a wasteland and trying to sidestep the occasional bog and ankle-twisting rock that seemed to appear out of nowhere. I was also straining to decipher a tourist map as the wind threatened to blow me off my feet and the sky threw down all kinds of projectiles—sleet, rain, snow, sleety-rain, foggy-snow, and other forces of nature that defied description.

Why am I here? That’s not a question for you, reader, that’s what I said in a voice that was almost as loud as the roaring gale.

But even in my chilled misery, I knew exactly why I was here.

I was fulfilling a life-long desire to travel in the footsteps of the Brontës. Since my first reading of Jane Eyre by Charlotte at the age of 10, and subsequent readings of all the works by the sisters and numerous biographies of the family, I knew I would be Haworth bound at some point. Haworth, the home of the Brontës and the place where the sisters wrote their novels, sits among the Pennine Hills in Yorkshire England where the winds can be relentless and the weather harsh. Fifty-mile-an-hour winds are commonplace to those who live in Haworth. To an American unused to such fierce conditions, it was somewhat daunting.

My red coat just in case.

Fog shrouds the scenery frequently and rolls in so suddenly and so thickly that the fainthearted swear Sherlock Holmes’ Hound of the Baskerville truly exists and is lurking somewhere nearby. Winter is long and wet. Hardly a day passes without some sort of precipitation falling from the sky, and spring arrives at least a month-and-a-half later than in the south of England. According to Charlotte Brontë, summer never really came to Haworth. According to Lori Wark, Charlotte was right.

I trudged on, lost as always, but was uplifted when I spotted an elderly couple, walking sticks in hand, following me. Maybe I was actually on the right trail. After all, they were traveling in the same direction, and they had walking sticks, a sure sign of moor-walking experience. Like me, they must be looking for the same Brontë shrine—the famous Brontë Bridge. This was supposedly the sisters’ destination during their frequent walks on the moor, or it could have been the place early tourists found to be a convenient resting spot. Thus, making the Brontë Bridge possibly one of the first stories geared toward Brontë marketing.

Brontes, moors Haworth Bronte Bridge

The famous Brontë Bridge. A nice place to take a rest from moor hiking.

Finally, I could see the bridge and the rock shaped like a chair, called, of course, the Brontë Chair. At one time, the legend was that Emily would sit on this rock and write. Many a tourist went home with pictures of themselves sitting on that rock. This bit of fantasy seems to have had as short a lifespan as the blooming of the heather in August, but tourists still take pictures of themselves in that rock chair.

I was so near my Holy Grail. The only problem was I seemed to be on a ledge high above my intended destination. The only way to be able to sit on the Brontë Chair was to go down. Well, I’d been in similar situations before, so I began a slow descent along an almost vertical surface covered with rocks and thorny bushes. Glancing back, I saw to my horror that my tag-along, elderly tourists were still following me. I knew I should have pasted a sign on my back, “DO NOT FOLLOW. AMERICAN TOURIST. SHE HAS NO IDEA WHERE SHE’S GOING.”

Too late.

Hand-over-hand, we clung to brown twigs of heather bushes and felt with our hiking boots for toeholds in the rock. At any moment, I expected the three us of to enter the Brontë shrine in a most ungainly manner. I knew, however, in the end, all would be well. Rescue services would eventually find our remains among the pre-bloomed heather, drawn there by a raincoat in a particularly bright shade of red.

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Epilogue

As you might have guessed, we survived. I had my picture taken sitting in the Brontë chair and dangling my legs off the Brontë Bridge. I would spend the next year living in Haworth in a cottage down a cobbled path from the Parsonage where the Brontës lived and wrote their works. I searched for the Brontës in their papers kept at the Parsonage and taped interviews with Brontë and literary scholars. Local historians helped me understand life in Haworth during the nineteenth century. I left the cocoon of Haworth to follow other Brontë connections:  Parts of England, Northern Ireland, and Cornwall. (You can imagine how many times I got lost.)

The result of my year was a Jane Eyre ebook annotated with images, video, interactives and French translations. My goal of blending history and literature in one book was to create a fuller picture of what it was like to be an author (and particularly a woman author) in the nineteenth century. I hope you enjoy.

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Favorite Books of 2017

By ReadingBukowski

Transcript
The last couple of years I’ve done a review of my favorite books of the year at the start of the new ones. This is exactly what I’m doing. Obviously, it’s 2018 now and I’m going to
share with you some of my favorite books of 2017. If you follow me on Instagram, which you should all be doing, (no pressure), you would have already seen my fare books 2017. So if you want to check that out again just look on the Instagram. Now I’m gonna briefly talk you through them and just share these gems with you. Like so many other students my 2017 was just dominated by my masters so my reading year hasn’t been as great, but the ones that I have read and loved I’ve really really treasured. The first two favorites, actually ones I associate with my masters and in particular my dissertation, they are North and South by Mrs. Gaskell and Shirley by Charlotte Brontë.

North is an absolutely beautiful book. It is one of my favorites. I did my dissertation on it along with Bashar’s Kingsley and Mary Barton by Elizabeth Gaskell. It’s a story of Margaret Hale
who moves from the south to the north to a northern mill town called Milton there she meets two very different types of heroes and some anti-heroes with John Thornton being the mill
owner and Nicholas Higgins being the working class trade unionist, kind of like Pride and Prejudice, but with socialism. It is one of those novels that I will just always love and treasure and it’s definitely one of my all-time favorite books so not just this year.

Shirley by Charlotte BronteThe second, Shirley, by Charlotte Brontë I feel like I haven’t really heard that many people talk about. Everybody knows Jane Eyre. Everybody knows the plot of Jane Eyre, but Shirley has just kind of been hidden and actually I think it’s one of the best Brontë I’ve read. It’s a very dramatic story and you have Shirley this woman as a landowner and she’s in the middle of the Luddite rebellion, and she’s a real driving force of this novel.

Charlotte Brontë is known for women like that. She’s known for these amazing female characters. I won’t talk too much about the plot of any of these novels, but Shirley, in particular, I want you to kind of let you discover for yourself because as I said you know the plot of Jane Eyre, but you don’t know Shirley or you probably don’t. And with classic novels, after so many adaptations, it”s actually quite delightful to find a book that you don’t know how it ends.

In the midst of all the dissertation stress and the continual reading about the 1840s–Chartism and everything–the poverty in London and the North, I needed a break. Seriously with my dissertation, I needed a break and I found sanctuary in this beautiful novel this is the Mermaid and Mrs. Hancock by Imogen Hermes girl and this is a proof copy and the book actually comes out at the end of January and it is definitely one to look out for.

It’s set in Georgian London and quite a lot of it is in South London. It was such a delight was reading this, and actually made my own academic interests really came into play with this novel, from the representation of clothing and material culture to coffee houses and
kind of the freak shows. It’s a fantastic exploration of women with amazing feminist characters and race in inequality in business and also this amazing fantastical element of the mermaid. One thing that really struck me about this book though was the theme of grief. It is probably one of the most beautiful and intimate portrayals of grief I’ve actually read. There are just so many intricate threads running through this novel that all pull together beautifully and it comes together just to create this really narratively rich historical fiction. if you are fans of the Essex Serpent, which spoiler alert I’m gonna talk about next. If you’re fans of the Crimson Petal and the White by Michelle Faber, you will probably love this book. I’ve got a video planned about this book all on its own so I’ll stop talking about it, but definitely, preorder it or just keep an eye out for it later on about January 1.

Essex SerpentI already mentioned the Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry and this is historical fiction done right, so so right. The novel begins with the capture of Cora the amazing character. She’s a widow and the past of her husband is really uncomfortable to read. It’s about her finding herself, which sounds really cheesy, but it’s kind of almost a search of a liberation through natural history and understanding of philosophy and scientific movement at the time novel. It’s about friendship and love that comments on the politics at the time of the 1890s. I know that Sarah Perry has a new novel coming next year, and I could not be more excited there is a reason that so many booksellers got behind this book it’s just amazing. So go read it.

I just mentioned booksellers, and if you don’t all you know I’m currently a bookseller, which I’m really, really enjoying and Mary Beard’s Women Power is one of my favorites of 2017, but it’s also something for me that is intricately linked with the fact that I’m a bookseller because at work it’s the book that I’m currently talking about and hand-selling. For me, it’s exciting to actually have a book that I can really get excited about with customers and basically make them buy. I have made a woman who said she doesn’t believe in feminism buy this book. This manifesto contains two essays. One of them is about women actually having a public voice and how that was always coded as male and the brilliant quote in the back is so key because she says, “You can’t easily fit women into a structure that is already coded as male. You have to change the structure.” So women taking a voice is always kind of seen as being like she’s too bossy, she’s too loud or she is kind of too picky or anything like this. Whenever women speak they’re always kind of dragged down and that’s because public speaking or speaking, in general, is male. It makes me really aware that we as a society haven’t moved on enough.

The next book I got only a couple of days before the New Year’s so this movie shouldn’t count. This really should be a 2018 read, but I’m currently obsessing over It. It’s so big. Look at it.
The maps of the London County Council and so it’s the map of the Blitz and the damage.

What you probably don’t know about me is that as a little girl I was obsessed with the Blitz. I wanted to have my own Anderson shelter in the back garden. I wanted to tape up my windows.
Living in London one of the things I find most interesting is looking at how the landscape has changed because of the Blitz. It’s maps of London, obviously, and it’s got a key and they’ve coded down where the damage happened and if it’s a Vi or V2. It is expensive. If you have a
massive history geek in your life this has brought me so much joy, which sounds bad because it’s maps of destruction and loss of life, but if you are interested, check this out or I’m sure libraries, especially in London, will probably have a copy. So if you’re kind of intrigued go and have a look.

sense of an ending by Julian BarnesThe last books I’ll briefly mention because of actually having made videos of them. It’s The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes and the Tidal Zone by Sarah Maas. The Sense of an Ending is what gave me a complete book hangover. I was completely haunted by this novel. Julian Barnes has a new novel coming out this year and again really excited. This is actually my first Julian Barnes. I really want to read Arthur and George. His writing just blew me away and it was so economical and stripped back that I was just completely in love with it.

The TIdal Zone by Sarah PerryThe Tidal Zone linked to my obsession with the Blitz because on the surface, no not on the surface that sounds bad. But it’s a story about Adam, a father, whose daughter, Miriam, just
stops breathing, and it’s about how one moment kind of changes your life and dealing with the aftermath. But what I kind of found really fascinating about this novel is that Adam, the character of Adam, was an academic. Also, it’s kind of a portrayal of the NHS and kind of privatization and the impact that has on academia. Anyway, Adam’s interest in academia is Coventry Cathedral. Adam is researching the bombing and how that bombing changed the lives for the people of Coventry and then follows through with the rebuilding of the cathedral and it
perfectly marries how Adam and his family are trying to rebuild their lives after the event with Miriam. How do you recover from something like that?

I think all these kind of books have in common actually are the amazing female characters and that’s it I’m done. I didn’t read that much in 2017so I normally have a slightly longer list of favorites, but what books I did read were really, really good.

I hope you had a lovely 2017 and will have an even better 2018. Thank you so much for watching and for sticking around for yet another year of inconsistent videos.
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