Lynne Reid Banks Rosalind Wade - Essay

Rosalind Wade

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

To write a full-length novel about the Brontës is surely a new idea? So many biographies and critical studies have been published about the famous family that it would seem reasonable to suppose nothing more remained to be said about them. It could even be argued that the spate of analysis and assessment has blurred the true picture of life at Haworth. Dark Quartet redresses the balance and provides a new perspective. Through the freedom of narrative and dialogue, the Brontës are presented as recognisable human beings rather than as dramatised archetypes—a strikingly dissimilar group bound together by devotion to each other and their home. The distressing incidence of sickness and bereavement is seen more as a commonplace of the period than a succession of malevolent visitations; while Branwell's slow deterioration is understandable, given the domestic and social climate from which he never really wished to escape.

Relieved of the obligation to apportion literary merit among the sisters, Charlotte, Emily and Anne emerge in an unfamiliar order of importance….

Curiously enough, Lynne Reid-Banks is less successful when describing Charlotte's one-sided love affair with her Brussels' teacher, as though when the sisters move out of their Yorkshire setting they elude the author, as indeed they did themselves. Still, the facts are there to be interpreted as the reader wishes, and this may be to decide that although the Brussels episode made Charlotte what she was as a writer, the excursion to Belgium had virtually no influence on the lasting unity of domestic life at the Parsonage. Of course, there are many other aspects to the phenomena of the Brontës than purely personal ones and for these the reader will return to the biographies, having acquired a new understanding of the most extraordinary literary family of all time.

Rosalind Wade, "Quarterly Fiction Review: 'Dark Quartet'," in Contemporary Review (© 1977 Contemporary Review Co. Ltd.), Vol. 230, No. 1335, April, 1977, p. 213.