Charlotte Brontë famously lived her entire life in an isolated parsonage on a remote English moor with a demanding father and siblings whose astonishing childhood creativity was a closely held secret. The genius of Claire Harman's biography is that it transcends these melancholy facts to reveal a woman for whom duty and piety gave way to quiet rebellion and fierce ambition. Drawing on letters unavailable to previous biographers, Harman depicts Charlotte's inner life with absorbing, almost novelistic intensity.
She seizes upon a moment in Charlotte's adolescence that ignited her determination to reject poverty and obscurity. She channeled her torment into her first attempts at a novel and resolved to bring it to the world's attention. Charlotte helped power her sisters' work to publication, too. But Emily's Wuthering Heights was eclipsed by Jane Eyre, which set London abuzz with speculation: Who was this fiery author demanding love and justice for her plain and insignificant heroine? Charlotte Brontë's blazingly intelligent women brimming with hidden passions would transform English literature.