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Mother of the Brontës

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It is well documented about lives of the Bronte sisters - Charlotte, Anne and Shirley, through the novels and poetry they wrote and biographies other people have written, even more is known about their brother - Branwell Bronte and their father - Patrick Bronte than the matriarch of the Bronte family - Maria Branwell. This book goes some way to rectifying this biography of her life in this treasure of a book that uncovers her life and her part as an individual and as part of the family she created.

Really delving into history and setting the scene to create background to how things were in the time of Maria's life, it goes into detail about the backdrop of socio/economical/political scenes. This I felt was necessary to people now and into the future to understand how things were and also puts her life into context. You really get under the surface of how the world looked when she was alive, not just in broader terms, but also the families she may have known or seen around Penzance in Cornwall, the houses that were there and religious beliefs. It provides a focused texture and understanding in the first few chapters.

The book becomes even more compelling to discover why Patrick, so penniless, left Ireland and Maria leaves Cornwall for Yorkshire and how they courted each other and fell in love, even though there was class division of him being poor and her being wealthy, with social standing, but attraction and love won out, however unlikely that would initially seem, but they did and created a life and family together.
There are letters of this period of time, which were later handed down the family. There are extracts of her letters in the book, that feels really special to read and gives readers a glimpse into her letter writing style and means the book is able to retain some of her "voice" for present and future generations. It heightens providence and a real care of the Bronte family. The research is meticulous and the passion of its author - Sharon Wright to ensure this part of the family's history can be read about in this way, really shines through.

There's a look into day to day life within the Parsonage that really brings the place, that is still standing, located in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England, (now a museum), to life. It shows life within those walls of husband and wife and their children, who, especially their daughters, were to become literary giants, whose work is still popular and is now shown in many media forms. Lesser known however, is that Maria could also write and there is a little bit of this within the book.

The book takes readers right to the end of Maria's life and the impact her death had on how the family then behaved in their day to day living and continuing of their own lives.

This is an absolutely fascinating read and to be able to read it in her bicentenary year makes it somewhat even more lovely.
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I really enjoyed this book, for as long as I have remembered I have loved the works of the Brontë's, but I didn't know anything about Maria, their mother. This book was obviously researched in great detail but it also felt very readable and not dry or dense at all. I loved the fact that she came from Cornwall (where my mum's side of the family is from) so I loved reading about old Penzance. A thoroughly enjoyable historical book.
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Such a wonderful book. I'm a huge Bronte fan so it was delightful to be able to delve further into the lives of this fascinating family
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I had some trouble getting into it but overall it was a really enjoyable book about the Brontes. I didn't know much about their mother, but she has turned out to be quite an interesting woman. It was interesting to read about her life and how she influenced her children. It's obvious that the book has been well-researched. I really love the letters she exchanged with Patrick, as it portrayed him I think in a way that he's not often portrayed as. Would definitely recommend to anyone interested in the Brontes.
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Mother of the Brontës
When Maria Met Patrick - 200th Anniversary Edition
by Sharon Wright
Pub Date 30 Oct 2021 |
 Pen & Sword,  Pen & Sword History
 Biographies & Memoirs  |  History  |  Nonfiction (Adult) 

  I am reviewing a copy of The Mother off the Brontes through Pen &Sword, Pen &Sword History and NetGalley:

For 200 years Maria Branwell has been in the shadow of her extraordinary children, Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë Now the first biography of Mrs Brontë appears as a beautiful bicentenary paperback edition in October 2021.  This book contains a commissioned a commissioned portrait of Maria at 38 based on the only two existing images in the Brontë Collection.   

In Sharon Wright’s critically acclaimed biography the reader will learn more about Maria Branwell’s life as a Regency gentlewoman who went looking for an adventure and found one.   A sudden passion and a whirlwind love affair led to the birth birth of the most gifted literary siblings the world has ever known. From a wealthy home in Penzance, Maria was a contemporary of Jane Austen and enjoyed the social status of a prominent family with secrets. So how did Maria fall for the penniless curate she called ‘My Dear Saucy Pat’ hundreds of miles from the home she loved?  What adventures won over Patrick Bronte?  What family scandals were left behind in Cornwall?  How did wealthy and independent Miss Branwell of balmy Penzance adjust to life as Mrs Brontë in Yorkshire during the industrial revolution? And what was her enduring legacy in the lives of those world famous daughters and troubled son?

I give Mother of the Brontës five out of five stars!

Happy Reading!
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I have read many books about the Brontes since falling in love with them in my childhood and had a reasonable picture of the life of the Brontes at the parsonage but only a sketchy impression of their Mother so I welcomed this book.
Giving the book its full title, ‘The Mother of the Brontes: When Maria met Patrick’ it spans the timeline of Maria’s life, with some biographical details of the young Patrick. I’m not sure that this is the best title for the book. It is of course about more than their meeting and it is really largely contextual rather than biographical certainly for the first half. 
The early chapters provide a political and sociological background which is wide ranging and often a little frustrating as it often went off on an overly detailed tangent. This section of the book provides a lot of wonderful detail about Penzance, local families, the houses and religion for example but I did not feel it really enlightened me as to Maria’s character. This section of the book also introduces some details which point to possible influences for the Bronte novels. 
For me the strength of the book lay in the latter half with Maria and Patrick leaving their native Penzance and Ireland (respectively) and moving to Yorkshire. The picture of their early courtship is built up from a collection of letters from Maria to Patrick which Patrick later handed to his daughter, Charlotte. These reveal and emerging love, a sense of humour and duty and a good degree of chemistry. They are included at the back of the book. 
I learned many things from the latter part of the book. There was a wonderful sense of living in the parsonage, of Maria’s day to day life, of the little Brontes. I had not realised that Maria aspired to be a writer and a fragment of her work is included. As Maria is diagnosed with cancer and the children move softly and silently around the house there is a feeling of great loss and an understanding of how the Bronte novels often reflected this in their novels.
Bronte fans will always welcome a new book on the subject and I certainly went away feeling that I had gained another insight. 
With many thanks to Netgalley and Pen and Sword for a digital copy of this title.
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Maria Bronte, nee Branwell, has always been a shadowy figure in the history of that remarkable family, so I was intrigued to read a biography about her. I thought the author gave a very detailed account of the history surrounding Maria's early life in Cornwall.  They also brought to the fore different aspects of Maria's personality, aside from the usual pious wife bearing pain with fortitude. It was refreshing to see the passionate lover in her letters to Patrick during their courtship, her enjoyment in being a reader of novels, and even trying her hand at writing a religious article. 

Overall, this is a worthy addition to the body of work already compiled on the Bronte family. I enjoyed reading it and recommend it to anyone who is interested in the history of the Brontes.  

Thanks to NetGalley and publishers, Pen & Sword, for the opportunity to read an ARC.
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I initially discovered the Bronte sisters in the school library when I first attended secondary school. Having fallen in love with their novels and back stories at such a tender age, they remain amongst my favourite books. Being a diminutive, bespectacled girl myself, I particularly identified with Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, and I love it still.

I have read several biographies of the Bronte sisters over the years, but this is the first that I have read that is specifically about their mother, Maria Branwell. I was fascinated to learn how this intelligent, well to do young woman from Cornwall ended her life as the impoverished wife to an eccentric clergyman in Yorkshire.

The author has clearly completed extensive research for this book and as a result has been able to produce this informative volume, and to demonstrate Maria's progression both geographically and socially. I very much enjoyed reading the letters that Maria wrote and sent to Patrick prior to their marriage. Sadly, these letters are one-sided as only Maria's letters survive but the author was able to ascertain information about Patrick based on Maria's responses.

Ms. Wright has written an informative, elucidating and illuminating book about the mother of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Bronte. It is a very accessible and easy to read biography which I very much enjoyed.
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Before reading this biography, I knew virtually nothing about Maria Bronte, the mother of the famous Bronte siblings - and only a tiny amount about her husband Patrick. This book is published in the bicentenary year of Maria Bronte's death.

This was an interesting read, and I feel I learned a lot from it - not only about the Brontes and their connections to Cornwall, but about the period in history that they grew up in from a "social history" point of view.

The book includes extracts from letters, and testimonies obtained from those who knew the family, as well as some of Patrick's poetry, so again, was interesting from that point of view. Maria was clearly a cultured and intelligent woman, and her financial means (before and after her marriage) helped her to retain a certain standing in society.

Sharon Wright is obviously very knowledgeable about the family, and has woven together an interesting mix of known facts, history, and impressions of the life and times of the family and how they lived.

My thanks to NetGalley and the publishers for an ARC.  All opinions my own.
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This was a particularly admirable read given how little is documented/known already about Maria. It really sets the Brontes in history--allowing the reader to learn about other goings-on (Napoleon, Jane Austen's career up to that point, other notable authors, religious movements and their impacts on the extended Bronte and Branwell families) leading up to Charlotte, Emily, and Anne's births. The book also taught me plenty about challenges of that time, whether childbirth struggles or pandemics (*twitch twitch* *cough* COVID-19 *cough*).

I reread _Jane Eyre_ earlier this year, and especially appreciated the author's analysis of how the loss of her mother impacted Charlotte's life and writing. I'm even more curious now to reread Wuthering Heights, and explore Anne's books (as I've not read any of hers) and some of Charlotte and Emily's lesser-known writings.

The read was a bit dry at times (a common occurrence, for me anyway, with biographies), and ironically my favorite parts came near the end (and after Maria had already died). Wright eloquently examines the impact of what books Maria chose to bring with her still spoke beyond her death and on to today:

"All that remains of Maria's mind and heart ... is one solitary love letter and the books that followed her from one life to another, surviving the stormy sea, consoling the ones she left behind. Maybe they are the best keepsakes of a life lost in the shadows for 200 years, because they are composed of words." (eARC loc 2559)

Being a bit of a coastal fanatic (my favorite vacation memories involve the coast near where I live), I also loved Wright's description of Charlotte and the sea:

"Charlotte's impressions of the Sea never wore off; she would often recall her views of it, and wonder what its aspect would be just at the time she was speaking of it."

Note: Inclusion of a lesbian author of the day, mostly presented as a counterpoint to Maria. I didn't fully feel this necessary, and felt it out of place with the inclusion and exploration of Methodism, Anglicanism, and both denominations' impact on the Brontes and their lives.

I received an eARC of the book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions are my own.
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Maria Bronte, mother of the famous Bronte literary sisters (Charlotte, Emily, and Anne) hit the genetic jackpot - what other mother can you think of who gave birth to not one or even two but three geniuses - at the same time she had tragic bad luck in that she died before she could see her children grow up to become admired and famous. (While Emily didn't quite achieve literary fame in her lifetime, Charlotte most definitely did, and to a lesser extent Anne did as well). Because the children were all so young when Maria died, I wasn't sure whether I wanted to read about her because how much impact could she really have had on their lives? How much of Maria was there to fill a book? But being a Bronte aficionado, I decided to give it a try and I'm really happy I did. There are definitely times when author Sharon Wright relies on filler, and there was often more about the time period and locale (Penzance for much of the book) than Maria and the man who would become her husband and the famous father of the Brontes, Patrick. But once the pair finally meet and quickly fall in love and decide to marry, the book whizzes by. (And certainly it is interesting to find out various tidbits such as the Brontes were descendants of a man who, if not a pirate, was mixed up with them.) However, as much as I wanted to Maria to get on with the business of birthing my three favorite writers, I also fervently wished I could have gone back in time and warned her off, told her to stay home in her comfortable, well-off Penzance life, knowing the tragic death that awaited her.
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This was a very fantastic biography of Maria Branwell, mother of  the Bronte Sisters. We get an insight look to her early life In Cornwall and a history lesson of her time which made the book even more interesting and informative. 

Wright did an amazing job tying together what its known and written about Maria and the unknown. If you’re Bronte fan or interested in women’s lit, this would be a great read. 

Side note, while I enjoyed the book, I did find the writing a little dry. Almost textbook like.
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Before reading this I knew exactly nothing about Maria Branwell, other than her name, of course. Now, after reading this biography, I feel as though I know everything there is to know!

Wright’s book truly does do the subject matter justice. Armed with ample amounts of speculation on bits we don’t know for sure, perfectly sized chapters and in depth discussions surrounding Branwell’s life, it’s the perfect book for those hungry to know more about the Brontë’s.
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I liked this biography quite a lot. Maria Bronte is the mother of the much celebrated Bronte sisters. I especially liked the parts about Maria's childhood. Would recommend to others, no doubt.
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I was given an advance reading copy (arc) of this book from in turn for a fair review. I believe this book has already been published, but it is going to be republished October 30, 2021. As an avid reader and a fan of the Brontes, I was curious about their mother who died very young. Most of what I have read about the Bronte siblings involved the unusual way they grew up with their aunt and odd father. Sadly, their tale is not a happy one. Maria Bronte, however, turned out to be a fascinating woman. She came from a wealthy family in Penzance and after the death of her parents continued to live there on her own in a very independent manner--quite unusual for the time. She was well-read, very social, and enjoyed her life. When she met Patrick Bronte, she fell hard and they married. For all intents and purposes, their union was a happy one until cancer claimed her. She left a grieving husband and several devastated children behind. Author Sharon Wright's telling of Maria's story shed a lot of light upon an often over-looked woman. However, Wright was often sidetracked by other stories that had little to do with her main subject. I found this distracting and many times, I felt like I was 'yanked' out of the story. If Maria had lived, I am sure that the Brontes would have led a totally different life. I am glad I read the book and I do recommend it if you are interested in this literary family. Just be forewarned that the author rambles on a bit.
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Sharon Wright, Mother of the Brontës, 200th Anniversary Edition, Sword & Pen, 2021

Thank you, NetGalley and Pen & Sword, for this uncorrected proof for review. 

Sharon Wright has brought to life the woman who gave birth to the famous writers;  provided an image of a woman who also wrote (although not successfully or with the expertise we know of through the Brontë sisters); who cared for them alongside their nursemaids until her death when Maria was seven and the youngest, Charlotte, a few months old; who stood alongside her husband, Pat Brontë  to give him the gravitas to succeed in initially unfriendly Haworth; and made their home there a pleasant environment in which to live. Maria Brontë also provided the children with a stalwart sister who, after her death, and Pat Brontë’s unsuccessful attempts to remarry, provided him with companionship, and them with another carer. 

But all this is Maria as a wife and mother, not unimportant, but not the whole. Sharon Wright has gone back into Maria’s childhood, youth, and young adulthood in Penzance. She also provides an illuminating background to Pat’s life before marriage. Both came together in what appears to be almost a fairytale romance which began quickly after they met and became a happy marriage until Maria’s death at thirty-nine. 

Because Wright dismisses Elizabeth Gaskell’s portrayal of the Brontës through her biography of Charlotte I felt compelled to give that a quick read to see where the problem lay. Charlotte’s recall of her father’s response to her mother in one instant, and Gaskell’s description of Maria as a sickly person are the particulars where Wright is at odds with Gaskell. It is the reader’s choice whether to accept one or other of the stories. For me, my lingering concern about Pat Brontë from his early attempted conquests, his sloth at times when writing to Maria, and his precipitate attempts to remarry after her death made Gaskell’s account a possibility. Regarding Maria and her health, I feel far more impressed with Wright’s interpretation – after all, this physically small woman successfully gave birth to six children in an era when it was all too frequent that the mother died in childbirth or shortly afterwards. Maria’s health did not fail until several months after Charlotte’s birth, and the explanation had little to do with her general health. She had cancer.  

Returning to the story told by Sharon Wright : it is full of detail about both partners in the Brontë marriage, as well as the society around them.  Written in the accessible language familiar in this publisher’s series, the stories are those of two characters about whom it is a delight to read. Maria Branwell began a fairly easy life in Penzance where her family was of some note. They also had a mixed background to the prestigious public image, an enthralling story of its own. Likewise, Pat Punty (as he was originally) had a mixed background. The story around his name is interesting – can you imagine Emily, Anne and Charlotte Punty having quite the same impact as Emily, Anne and Charlotte Brontë? However, there was nothing unique about the way in which names in that period changed - Maria Branwell’s family name also slid between Branwell, Bramwell, Bromwell and other iterations. These background stories are a wonderful read. Similarly, the Brontës’ married life, and the brief follow up of the children after Maria’s death, is well drawn.

There is an extensive bibliography and a useful index, making this a book that can be easily followed up from additional sources. I was pleased to see Maria Brontë being given a place in the lives of the famous writers – a place that resonates with life through Sharon Wright’s commitment to her as an interesting woman as well as mother and wife.
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Sitting back in my English classes, I used to wonder what the authors of the books we were reading were like but I never thought I'd be glad I know more about what the mother of the famous Brontë sisters was like. This biography covers the entire life of Maria Branwell, from her birth in 1783 to her sickness and death at the age of 38. You'll learn about her upbringing in Penzance to a working-class family (with some interesting stories about her family's ties to the smuggling trade). You'll get to hear about the books she read as she started approaching spinsterhood, which includes some Jane Austen. You'll be inspired by her likely dangerous journey to join her aunt and uncle in Yorkshire to help them run their school and pleasantly surprised when it led to a romance with a handsome Irishman, the school's external classics examiner, Patrick Brontë. After they were married, Maria followed Patrick and his career as a priest, giving birth to future famous authors along the way. Eventually, Patrick was offered a difficult post at Hayworth (a setting that would eventually inspire Wuthering Heights) and you'll feel bad for how badly Maria and Patrick must have wanted the congregation to accept them. And when Maria gets sick later, your heart will break for the children she will leave behind, who will write stories featuring characters without mothers or characters with unique connections to their mothers.

For me, the best part was getting to read her words. She created authors people have studied in schools for years. She helped to shape the early years of writers that would someday grace hundreds of must-read classic novel lists. There's not much surviving of Maria Branwell, which the author notes could be why we never had a biography for her until now. But now you can read the pieces that are surviving: several letters she wrote to Patrick and a religious tract that she wrote but wasn't able to get published. 

One thing I really appreciate is that in every part of Maria's life, the author takes the time to explain things about the culture or society in that day that could be helpful to know. You can tell that this was incredibly well-researched, not only because the author was told there wasn't enough information about Maria Branwell to create a full biography for her, but because she genuinely wanted to tell the story of the mother of the Brontës.
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I am discovering that this genre of books really isn't my favorite, as I have not found one that has completely held my interest. This book was not different. I had a hard time really getting into it and found myself distracted by other books while trying to read it. I did think that it was much more interesting than other books in this genre that I have read recently. I think it was mainly due to two things: 1) there was more concrete proof of what Maria and Patrick's lives looked like (such as letters, records etc.) meaning that the book was more fact driven than conjectural and 2) the author did a good job of making the facts less dry. So while this wasn't necessarily my favorite book, I did think that the author did a good job of presenting information in a way that wasn't boring or felt like a lecture or simply a theory.

Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion.
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This was a quick easy read and one I really enjoyed as I love the Bronte sisters and this is such an interesting story of the mother of these very artistic and intelligent girls/women.

It is well researched, well written and brings life to a part of the Bronte's story and makes them seem so much more real.  It told life stories, family stories and it transported me to a time and place so that I could then fully understand the lives this family lived.

It is history but it isn't boring, it is a wonderful and as I said it does bring the whole family to life not just the girls.

I highly recommend this book to any Bronte fans as well as fans of the times/eras that they lived in.
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I thought I knew quite a lot about the Brontë family only to realise I knew next to nothing about the beginning....
Both parents, Maria and Patrick went literally a long way before they met! Mainly a biography about Maria, I was taken aback as to her origins, as to her own parents and as to her interesting and strong personality! I adored reading about her voyage through adulthood, from being an independent, educated woman to her becoming a prolific mother....
This biography appears very well researched. At the end of the book you can read Maria's letters to Patrick before they got married giving a lively voice to the mother of four genial children. Highly recommended!

Thank you so much for letting me read your book for free on NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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