Title: Dark Quartet
Writer: Lynne Reid Banks
Publishing House: Sapere Books
Date of Publication: June 26th 2018 (first published January 1st 1976)
Rating: 1 star
‘’You know, Charlotte, I sometimes think – don’t laugh, will you?- that Emily’s strength comes from the moors. She’s like a tree, planted tree, and if she’s uprooted it won’t matter how tough her trunk is, she’ll wither and die.’’
I approached this book with mixed feelings of enthusiasm and apprehension. I have read quite a number of biographies on the Brontë family but I tend to avoid works of fiction based on their lives. With only a handful of exceptions, the writers tend to project their own values and perceptions to the sisters with no success. Especially apparent in the case of Emily Brontë, these women cannot become ‘’characters’’. It is impossible. A gifted writer is required for that, Sarah Perry, Daisy Johnson, Diane Setterfield. Lynne Reid Banks is hardly a writer, let alone a gifted one and this book was a frightful disappointment.
In a clumsy mixture of Biography and Historical Fiction, the writer almost turned the family into characters of the most mundane, dated (justifiable given the date the book was published) romance. Exhaustingly detailed in parts that hold little significance and naively simplistic when it had to be powerful and, possibly, thorough. The only part she seemed to get right was the unbreakable relationship between Emily and the mystical English moors. Even this vital characteristic is depicted in a highly exaggerated, dramatic manner. Charlotte takes the spotlight and thus, the narration becomes quite boring. Plain and simple. Not because Charlotte was a boring person, God forbid, but because she is portrayed in such a way.
There is very little focus on the sisters’ work – almost none on Branwell’s who seems to be there just to remind us of a George Best type of man (I love George Best, don’t mind me…) and even less attention on the process of conceiving and giving birth to their immortal creations. The fact that the writer chooses to suggest that every novel of theirs was almost autobiographical is ridiculous, laughable and inappropriate. More emphasis on Jane Eyre, very little on Wuthering Heights (I doubt the writer could understand its implications, themes, and importance…) and Anne’s novels may not have been written at all… I feel that this book ‘’wanted’’ to become a Peeping Tom than a serious work of Biography and Fiction. It focused more on what she believed was the sisters’ social and sentimental issues rather than their work and was not interested in that.
In my opinion, the Author’s Note is offensive and derogatory towards the readers, the world of Literature and the Brontë family. Making fun of the family’s course shows little respect and a huge, absurd ego. The way I see it, this book is an extremely failed effort. A true disappointment.
Many thanks to Sapere Books and NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.