THE Taste of Sorrow is a fictionalised account of the Bronte’s and their extraordinarily talented children, whose short and sheltered lives have fascinated people the world over. After the death of their mother, they are taken care of by their nurses and their aunt, who recognises the talent of the girls, but does not want them “grow up thinking themselves in any way exceptional.” Their father’s eagerness to send them to school proves fatal for Maria and Elizabeth; sick and weak, they are sent back from there to die in their home. The remaining three sisters go to another school. Then they take up jobs for a while, toy with the idea of starting their own school, for which they make a trip to Brussels, but eventually decide to stay home, where they keep themselves busy inventing stories about imaginary people and places.
Although their father, like many other celebrities of the day, does not associate writing with women, the sisters persist in their efforts to write and get a volume of their poems published under male names: Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Soon they write novels, too, which are well received. Charlotte’s Jane Eyre earns the praise of Thackeray. Emily and Anne write Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey. At the height of their powers, the younger sisters, Emily and Anne are dogged by ill health and consumed by death. Their only brother changes several jobs, falls in love with a married woman, takes to drinking, suffers mental anguish, loses control over his nerves, and dies in the arms of his disturbed father.
Left alone with her father, Charlotte is befriended by her father’s assistant, Nichollas, whom she eventually marries. They go to Ireland where, sitting by the sea, in “the shriek of the wind and the thunder of the surf,” she hears “the lost voices coming through.” Morgan ends the book with these words, but states in the author’s note that within a year of her marriage, Charlotte died at the age of thirty-eight.
The Taste of Sorrow is a moving and powerful narrative.
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