We've talked a lot at the Blog A Go-Go about seasonal reading. Jane Austen is spring to me, but the Brontes are definitely winter. (I can't figure out how to get the little umlaut above the "e", so pretend it's there, mmmkay?) Anyway, if you've only read the Bronte novels and haven't delved into their biographies, you must MUST get a copy of Juliet Barker's The Brontes: A Life in Letters. Their lives were, in short, heartbreaking, and Charlotte Bronte was nicer to her heroines than fate was to her. Of the four Brontes who grew to adulthood, three died within eight months of each other of tuberculosis. Only Charlotte remained, and if the image of her sitting alone each evening in the parlor of their parsonage-home, unable to read or write due to eyestrain, with no one to talk to and nothing to listen to but the wind as it whispered and howled around the house, if that doesn't break your heart a little nothing will. And if that weren't desolate enough, the final tragic irony is the last chapter of her life when she married a man she never expected to love, then died within months of their wedding, victim of a rare and fatal form of morning sickness. It would make a wonderful movie if people could bear not having a happy ending. The book itself is riveting, and Barker's brief notes are not at all intrusive. She also includes early reviews of the Bronte novels, and it's fascinating how many of them were critical. (The books were considered by many to be immoral and unreadable for ladies.) And I have to admit to an extremely pleasant moment of vindication on a very tiny point of British usage. From time to time I receive e-mails from English people wanting to chastise me for using the word "forgotten" in SITG on the grounds that "we never use that word". From now on I'm going to reply with "Charlotte Bronte did." I would add "So there," but it just seems petty. In any event, if you have any affection for the Brontes, track down a copy of their letters and you'll be amazed at how they spring to life.