The Brontë Project By Jennifer Vandever

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The Independent Culture

Reading too much fiction can seriously damage your love life. Like her heroine, Charlotte Brontë, Sara Frost is 28 when she first experiences a broken heart. Her crisis begins when fiancé, Paul, dumps her to take up a fellowship in Paris. Sara is left in a bruised heap.

Not only must she find the rent for her Manhattan apartment - she's an academic on a tiny salary - but if she doesn't trace a lost Charlotte Brontë letter she'll lose her funding. On the plus side, two new suitors enter her life: a French poet called Denis and a west-coast movie producer. The poet wants to sleep with her and the producer wants her to develop a script about the Haworth sisters, to be called "The Brontë Project".

In this witty send-up of academia and Hollywood, debut novelist Jennifer Vandever attempts to reconcile the mythology of windswept romance with 21st-century dating. Her most entertaining character is Claire Vigee, a Princess Diana scholar, who thrills her student audiences with her daring appropriation of popular culture and gender politics.

Unlike Charlotte, who eventually settles for the nearest curate (and promptly dies), Sara decides to hang on for Mr Right. What Vandever is saying about modern versus moor-land love isn't always entirely clear.

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