Saturday, 6 February 2021

Anne Brontë and 'The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society'

Maddalena De Leo writes:

Mary Ann Shaffer together with her granddaughter Annie Barrows is the author of an epistolary novel with the elaborate title The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society. Published with immediate and universal success in 2008, shortly before Shaffer's death, it deals with an interesting exchange of letters that took place after the mid-1940s between a writer and some people residing on the island of Guernsey and their progressive and sincere friendship but above all it is a faithful and touching account of the precarious conditions in which the inhabitants of that Channel Island had to live during and after the Second World War.

The peculiarity of the novel, also present in the beautiful film that was made from it in 2018, is the recurring reference to the Brontë sisters and their works, with particular regard to Anne and her personality. Already from the first pages of the book we learn that Juliet Ashton, the protagonist, has edited and published a hypothetical biography of Anne because she is considered by her to be as clever as Charlotte and Emily for ability and imagination, despite the fact that when the action takes place the third Brontë was almost completely unknown. Even if this book is unsuccessful, the young writer continues to propose it in her round of presentations. One of Juliet's island correspondents afterwards lingers to talk about the 'oddities' of the Brontës’ father and their depraved brother, immensely appreciating the work of Emily and Jane Eyre that she knows almost by heart, while towards the end it is the same Juliet to speculate that Anne may have had a possibly irascible and grumpy temperament so much different from what is commonly thought.

In the film, on the other hand, the reference to the Brontës and Anne is proposed in a different way: the protagonist (played by actress Lily James) finds herself talking about her biography on the same evening of her arrival in Guernsey, vehemently supporting the avant-garde ideas of Anne in the Tenant of Wildfell Hall. She quickly succeeds in enlightening the minds of the listeners who instead knew only what Jane Eyre claims when she declares to Rochester that she is free and equal to him.

A very interesting clue, therefore, which makes both this book and the film of the same complicated title particularly welcome to all Brontë lovers.


Monday, 26 October 2020

New Jane Eyre adaptation on YouTube

Julie Butters writes

I'm pleased to announce a new adaptation of Jane Eyre, a Zoom production by Flock Theatre of New London, Connecticut, in the United States. The film will be available for free streaming on YouTube starting 6 November at 12pm GMT. It will continue to be available after the initial streaming, to be accessed at any time. It lasts for just under two hours.

Find it at

The trailer is at
and production stills are available at:

Best wishes,

Julie Butters
Adapter of Jane Eyre
Actress playing Jane

Julie Butters as Jane:



Blog readers' opinions are welcome.

Sunday, 26 July 2020

Brontë Places & Poems - book review

Marina Saegerman writes:

A fascinating dive into the Brontë world!

In these weird Corona times when travelling is not advisable/not recommended/not desired or not possible, I came across this book by Geoff and Christine Taylor.
The book, which is lavishly illustrated with photographs, was a labour of love. Its authors have lived near Haworth for almost forty years and the book grew out of their trips to Brontë places in the U.K., Ireland and Belgium, with Chris, a keen amateur photographer and artist, taking the photographs. There are many photos of Brussels.

The beautiful front cover brings you straight to Top Withins and the Haworth moors, and on the back cover it says: 'The Brontë children lived tragically short lives but they have left a wonderful legacy not only with their novels and poems but in the descriptions of the places they lived, loved and experienced.' The book invites you to discover these locations and perhaps, if Corona allows for it, visit these locations yourself.
It is not a book that you just READ, it is book that you fully EXPERIENCE. It allows you to travel from  your own home to Belgium, to London, to Ireland, to Haworth, to Scotland, to Cornwall, to Wales and to so many more Brontë-related places all in one day, if you wish. In a year when there is no AGM in Haworth, no annual holidays to Ireland (our normal holiday destination), no Anne Brontë bicentenary conference in Scarborough, and even no events of our Brussels Brontë Group in Brussels, this book was for me a wonderful  revelation and a splendid way to travel around Brontë-related places.
It is a journey in images and poetry with explanatory texts from the authors. It is a perfect way to travel in Corona times and be near the Brontës without setting a foot outside. The journey is made chronologically and starts in Cornwall (with Maria and Elizabeth Branwell) and in County Down, Northern Ireland (with Rev. Patrick Brontë) and travels through time to visit all other places that are  associated in some way with the Brontë family. The beautiful photographs are accompanied by explanatory texts and Brontë poems. You do not have to follow the chronological route, if you do not want to. You can start anywhere in the book, go back and forth as much as you like and discover, or revisit, Brontë places.
I have gone through this book many times now in all sorts of directions, revisiting the places that I have seen already (and enjoyed seeing again) and discovering places that I have wanted  to visit for ages, but had not succeeded in doing up to now.
It is the perfect substitute for travelling to Brontë places when you cannot travel yourself. I enjoyed it tremendously, and I will continue to enjoy it! It is a real treasure of a book. To be recommended…..
July 2020

Monday, 18 May 2020

British Library asks nation's children to write miniature books in lockdown

Brontë Quizzes - Keeping the Flame Alive

Keeping the Flame Alive

In order to help Brontë people everywhere while away the hours during the present Crisis, when we are frustratingly 'confined to barracks', I have written a set of twelve Bronte Quizzes, each of thirty marks, which are being posted fortnightly on Bronte Blog. He has called the series 'Keeping the Flame Alive', which is of course the title of Val Wiseman's classic Bronte-themed CD, and seems rather appropriate right now!

Many thanks - keep safe,

John Hennessy

Sunday, 16 February 2020

Ann Dinsdale - Living with the Brontës #LLF20

Inspiring the City : 

Living with the Brontës with Ann Dinsdale

6pm Wednesday 4 March 

Guiseley Library
This illustrated talk is given by Ann Dinsdale, Principal Curator at the Brontë Parsonage Museum in Haworth. The Brontë sisters are known and admired across the world and much has been written about their lives and work. This talk will include the whole Bronte family, with special attention being given to Anne, the youngest sister, who has often been overlooked.  Ann will draw on her experience as curator, bringing in some of the details that people may not be as familiar with, and using images of items from the Museum’s collection as illustrations.
This event takes place at Guiseley Library, based at Aireborough Leisure Centre. Inspiring the City is supported by Leeds Inspired, part of Leeds City Council.
Pay As You Feel, but please register - by going to the Leeds Lit Fest website - 

Thursday, 28 November 2019

Anne Brontë Bi-centenary Events in Scarborough

 January/February 2020

10th January – Woodend (runs until 8th February, 9am-5pm daily).

Opening of the art exhibition at Woodend.  Encapsulates Anne Bronte’s novel, ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ in 200 pages & artist’s representations of her novel. Free admission.

14th January – Woodend (2pm)

Lecture on ‘The Tenant of Wildfell Hall’ by Tim Tubbs.  Booking required: £5.00.

17th January – Woodend (7pm)
Evening Performance of ‘Tracking the Brontës - a presentation with original music’. Booking required. £5.00 or pay at the door if places available.

18th January – Woodend (2pm, 3.30pm. 7pm)

2pm: Afternoon matinee of Tracking the Brontës - a presentation with original music.  £5.00 at the door.

3.30pm: Talk by Catherine Rayner entitled, ‘Buried in Paradise’ on Anne’s last days & the ending of Agnes Grey and Anne’s final poetry, followed by Q&A & book signing. Free admission

7pm: Talk by Dr Edward Chitham on Anne Bronte’s poetry. Followed by Q&A & book signing.  Free Admission.  Tea, Coffee and snacks available to purchase, during the day.

19th January – The Grand Hotel  (all events free admission)

10.30am: Opening of a day of celebrations for the life of Anne Brontë, (10.30-11am) Introduction & presentation of Artists, Writers & Brontë representatives & local dignitaries. Patsy Stoneman, Vice President of the Bronte Society will introduce everyone at The Grand Hotel & thanks those who have organised the celebration of Anne’s life & links with Scarborough & the Yorkshire Coast.

11.15-11.45am: Storyteller, Jan Bee Brown will entertain. 

12noon-1.15pm: Forum for discussion with Bronte writers and artists, includes audience participation. Tea, Coffee and snacks available to purchase, throughout the day.

1.45-2.45pm: Storyteller, Jan Bee Brown will entertain.

2.45-4.00pm: audience may partake of a walk to the beach to cast a pebble into the sea in memory of Anne, followed by a walk to St. Mary’s Church.

St Mary’s Church 3.45-4.00pm: The church bells will ring to welcome everyone.

4pm Graveside: Trish Gurney, The Chair of the Brontë Council, will lay flowers on the grave and read one of Anne’s poems.

4.15pm: everyone enters the church for a time of quiet reflection followed by a piece of music, especially written for the occasion by Sarah Dew. Closing words from Patsy Stoneman to end the weekend.  Tea and coffee and snacks can be purchased at the church.

Woodend Creative Workspace, The Crescent, Scarborough, YO11 2PW

Grand Hotel, St Nicholas Cliff, Scarborough, YO11 2ET

Thursday, 9 May 2019

Ken Hutchison's devilish Heathcliff

Richard Wilcocks writes:
Ken Hutchison and Kay Adshead
Browsing through the pages of The Crystal Bucket by Clive James, last read a long time ago (published 1981), I came across his scathing newspaper review of the 1978 BBC mini-series version of Wuthering Heights. He described it as ‘the blithering pits’. Could it have been that bad? I found that the series was in five fifty-minute episodes directed by Peter Hammond, with a screenplay jointly written by David Snodin and Hugh Leonard and a musical score by Carl Davis. I bought the DVD version.

Ken Hutchison plays Heathcliff , Kay Adshead is Catherine Earnshaw. A number of child actors perform, with two assigned to the young Heathcliff. In a display of enthusiastic ‘fidelity’, there is an attempt to cover every single chapter of the novel, but the result inspired a mixture of admiration and ridicule in spite of the relative accuracy of its character representations, and some false accusations that the BBC had commissioned the series mainly because of the great success of Kate Bush’s famous song earlier in the same year. It took more than a few months to put together, of course.

The series is certainly not without merit. Clive James’s remarks possibly refer to the hyperbolically histrionic Kay Adshead as Catherine, to clumsy special effects, and a few inept attempts at melodrama, but Ken Hutchinson plays Heathcliff as brutal, cruel and devilish 'as Emily Brontë conceived of him', at least in the first few episodes. I was quite impressed. He is an interesting contrast to the pin-up stars who in other versions have been cast in the part, and there is hardly any obeisance to the myth of transcendental romance created by the Wiliam Wyler version of the novel in 1939, unless a couple of scenes on Penistone Crag filmed at Ponden Kirk count as parallels to Laurence Olivier and Merle Oberon on a rock formation somewhere near Hollywood.

Carl Davis, who had won much praise for the music composed for The World at War (ITV, 1973 – 74), produced a superb score. True to the novel, and to C P Sanger's calculations, Edgar and Isabella first appear as children of about ten years old through the windows of the Grange, where they pull at a small dog, and Catherine and Heathcliff are shown riding ponies and playing by a beck on the moors, but some of their actions are awkward, for example when Heathcliff shrieks in a temper after Catherine, back from the Grange, calls him dirty. It's easy to go over the top when adapting Wuthering Heights, which is already over the top.

There is an interesting dramatic moment when Nelly discovers the generally neglected Hareton playing with his father’s gun and takes it away from him, and another soon afterwards when the drunken Hindley, as in the novel, holds him over the edge of a balcony, to be caught by Heathcliff. How many adaptations include that? When he is a little older, Hindley is seen beating Hareton viciously with a stick.

The stress on one of the novel’s strong themes -  of child neglect and abuse - is significant, because of the way most feature film adaptations gloss over or minimize it. The presumed psychological effects of the abuse are also included: Heathcliff hangs Isabella’s spaniel, to be rescued by Nelly, and Hareton is seen preparing to hang puppies soon afterwards in the same episode, half-grown puppies. The domestic violence inflicted upon poor Isabella by Heathcliff is shown briefly but shockingly as he swings a heavy chain at her.

The final two episodes covering the second generation are straggly, lacking dramatic impact, I guess partly because of the problem of constantly visualizing scenes of violence, the actors seeming to tire, and partly because the fixed desire for as much fidelity as can be crammed into four hours gives the impression that the narrative is being covered in full out of a kind of duty. Fidelity definitely has its limits.

It’s worth watching, though, if you have the patience, if only because Ken Hutchison very nearly gets there with his Heathcliff.