Syrie James writes:
Exciting news! The Women’s National Book Association has named my novel, The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, one of the Great Group Reads of 2009. I am delighted because I truly believe that Charlotte’s story will open up lively discussions about a host of timely and provocative topics.
The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë, by Avon/HarperCollins Publishing in July 2009, is the result of many years of intense research and writing. As a devoted Brontë scholar, I was intrigued by how many of Charlotte's own life experiences found their way into her novels, and I found immense pleasure in bringing her true story to life on the page.
The novel begins with an impassioned proposal from Charlotte’s father's curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, who has carried a silent torch for Charlotte for more than seven years. Charlotte greatly disliked Mr Nicholls when they first met, but her feelings have evolved and changed over the years. Does she love him? Does she wish to marry him?
Seeking answers, Charlotte takes up her pen to examine the truth about her life. In these pages, she exposes her deepest feelings and desires, her triumphs and shattering personal disappointments, her scandalous, secret passion for the man she can never have—the man who was the basis for all the heroes in her books, including Mr Rochester in Jane Eyre —and the intimate details of her compelling relationship with Mr Nicholls, the man she eventually comes to love with all her heart.
At the same time, we learn of Charlotte’s relationship with her family, the inspiration behind their work, and their evolution as novelists. Although Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne did not have a single connection to the literary world, and lived in an era when women rarely saw their work in print — and despite their difficult circumstances at home, including an alcoholic brother and a father who was going blind — all three women became published authors at the same time. I cannot think of any other family in history who have achieved such an extraordinary feat, and I wanted to celebrate that and reveal how it happened.
As part of my research I made an extended visit to the Brontë Parsonage Museum. I owe a debt of gratitude to Ann Dinsdale, the Collections Manager, for her gracious welcome to both the house and library, and to Sarah Laycock, the museum’s Library and Information Officer, for sharing many wonderful details about Charlotte’s clothing and other garments in the collection. I also was privileged to receive an unforgettable, attic-to-cellar tour of the former Roe Head School in Mirfield which Charlotte attended, which still sports the legend of a mysterious attic-dwelling ghost.
I hope you will enjoy reading The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë as much as I enjoyed writing it. My first novel, The Lost Memoirs of Jane Austen, became a bestseller and was named a Best First Novel of 2008 by Library Journal. I welcome visitors and messages at my website, www.syriejames.com