The Brontës: Wild Genius on the Moors: The Story of a Literary Family

Written by Juliet Barker
Review by Michaela MacColl

Juliet Barker has impeccable credentials to write a definitive history of the Brontës. As curator to the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth, she has immersed herself in all the modern research about the Brontë family. The original 1994 edition was considered a meticulous and thoroughly researched history. In 2012, Barker has updated the work to include new scholarship and documents that were unavailable for the previous edition.

Barker painstakingly sifts through all the theories and myths surrounding this literary family. She particularly takes aim at the famous The Life of Charlotte Brontë by Elizabeth Gaskell in 1857, which created the familiar romantic myth of the Brontës as a doomed family of genius. Barker meticulous debunks Gaskell and presents the reader with a fascinating story of an unusual and talented family that is far more interesting than the stereotypical portrayal of their lives. The length (1200 pages) is daunting, but the Brontë family’s story is worth the space. Barker has managed to create that rare biography – exhaustive but still extremely readable.