Jennifer Vandever, The Brontë Project, A Novel of Passion, Desire and Good PR
Sara is a scholar looking for lost letters of Charlotte Brontë. She doesn’t know if her grant will be renewed the following year, and her search for the letters is not very successful: "the bulk of her research consisted of dead-end correspondences with cranky old ladies who may or may not have lost Brontë letters languishing in their attics. […] Invariably the investigations ended in disappointment". But Sara doesn’t doubt what is a lifetime passion: the Brontë sisters and their works, until her fiancé Paul, another scholar looking like Laurence Oliver as Heathcliff, leaves her because he needs a year off to make his mind about their life together.
Sara holds Claire, an "ambisexual" woman successful for her "Princess Diana studies" who calls her the "silent Victorian", accountable for Paul’s change of heart. But after Paul leaves for France, Sara and Claire becomes closer, and Claire introduces Sara to her strange friends, such as Denis, a French amoral man who calls himself a "poem", or Burke and Ives, a couple of men who live in the nineteenth century. Sara also meets a Hollywood producer called Byrne Emmons, who first mistakes her for another and then wants her to help him make a movie about the life of Charlotte Brontë.
The Brontë Project has its moments, such as the rewriting of Charlotte Brontë’s life to fit Hollywood standards, or the interpretation of Shakespeare’s plays by Claire. Unfortunately, all these characters, despite their intended originality, remain hopelessly two-dimensional and lifeless. Finally, what interested me most in the novel and the reason why I got it in the first place is the Brontë sisters. I was not overly impressed by the author’s insight into and knowledge about their lives and works. She could have at least mentioned that a French movie was actually made about them in 1979 (Les Soeurs Brontë, starring Isabelle Adjani, Isabelle Huppert and Marie-France Pisier).
This novel reads like a mix between a A.S. Byatt’s and an Amistead Maupin’s novel, with nothing truly original to make it stand out. Some funny moments, though…