The Taste of Sorrow, By Jude Morgan Headline

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The Independent Culture

Jude Morgan specialises in writing novels about real-life historical literary figures, and while she lacks the postmodern play of a writer such as, say, Emma Tennant, she is nevertheless a truly appealing re-creator of fascinating times and individuals – in this case, the Brontë sisters.

It isn't easy to reconstruct the lives of those whom so many of us think we know, but Morgan's method is to range through the present-tense thoughts of her various characters, making them not only dance for us, but think, too.

The Taste of Sorrow begins with the death of the Brontës' mother; moves swiftly on to the deaths of the elder sisters Maria and Elizabeth, brought on by the harsh regime at their school (as depicted in Jane Eyre); and then on to the demands the world places on the remaining family.

There are no surprises in Morgan's characterisations (Emily is masculine and idiosyncratic, Charlotte responsible and worried, Anne overlooked but steely, while Branwell is fatally overindulged) nor in the characters' fates, but we can immerse ourselves all too happily in this highly believable version of their lives.