Without the Veil Between: Anne Brontë—A Fine and Subtle Spirit
This novel about Anne, the youngest and least-known of the Brontë sisters, deals sensitively with the trials of a young woman who struggled through a difficult life. It reveals Anne as a combination of poetess in the style appropriate for an English lady and as an early feminist writer keenly aware of her submissive role as a young lady in Victorian society.
Anne’s poems are lyrical, illustrative of the depth of her feelings. As befits the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, they also demonstrate her belief in the closeness of God. Yet Anne Brontë is known as one whose beliefs about the role of women in many ways formed the basis of the later feminist movements.
This book illustrates the life of Anne the sister and daughter. It reveals her despairing affection for her brother Branwell, with his Byronic good looks and gradual descent into alcoholism. Her sisters, too, are well characterized—Charlotte, the eldest, practical, bossy and dismissive of Anne’s talent as a writer; and the warm-hearted Emily.
Anne’s adult life is shown as she progresses from unhappy governess—a role appropriate but unsuited to her—to published poet and novelist. Her two novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are less well known than her sisters’ novels but demonstrate no less talent and insight.
Denton has clearly researched Anne Brontë’s writing in all forms. The quoted poetry and prose in the endnotes add depth to the whole. The scenes of Anne and her sisters are sensitively imagined and show a sisterly mix of affection and irritation. Despite the overly lengthy title and the unattractive cover art, it is worthwhile to open the book to discover more about Anne, the least appreciated of the Brontë sisters.