This effective biography draws on sources to which Mrs Gaskell lacked access. Partly as a result, the biographer presents the great author in a modern light. Instead of being viewed as a stoical survivor of tragedy, the creator of the powerful ‘Jane Eyre’ is depicted as having agency, wit and desire.
Dr Gordon is an innovative, bold and imaginative biographer. Ample evidence of this can be found in her compelling work on Virginia Woolf. However, her focus on the emotional aspect of the life of Charlotte Brontë is stunning. She is never tempted to say everything that could be said about her subject. Nor is she afraid to admit that there are other possible interpretations of the narrative. At the same time, she backs up her feminist contentions with a solid firmness.
Gordon is not afraid to be specific, but she makes her shrewd generalisations stand out:
“For advancing women in the nineteenth century, the gap between public and private was so great that the pressure of art…was the more explosive…Still, the novels remain to tell us about the shadow in which Charlotte Brontë lived, and which she interpreted for her ‘Reader.’ Gaps have the interest of suggestion; the works can define their meaning.”