Goodreads: The World of the Brontës: The Lives, Times, and Works of Charlotte, Emily and Anne Brontë
An overview of the Brontë family, their works, the political climate of the day, and the landscapes they would have known.
The World of the Brontës by Jane O’Neill is a comprehensive overview to the lives and times of the Brontë siblings. Each topic receives two pages–with photographs–to cover such topics as the biographies of each of the sisters, their brother, and even their domestics; the politics of the day and how the siblings might have been influenced by them; and the geographic landscapes they would have known–they knew more than Haworth, despite romanticized depictions of their social isolation on the moors. The book serves as a pleasant introduction to the Brontës and their work, giving information in bite-sized pieces to make it more agreeable to those not accustomed to reading non-fiction.
The World of the Brontës really does seem best suited to readers relatively new to the Brontës since it not only gives a brief overview of their lives but also describes the plots of each of their novels. The assumption seems to be that readers of O’Neill’s book have not actually read the books the Brontës wrote. (Though why someone who is not a fan of the Brontës’ work would read O’Neill’s book, I cannot really say.) At any rate, even if readers are familiar with the books written by the Brontës, O’Neill’s work is brief enough that readers who know a good deal about the Brontës might not find much new material in it. It really is a nice, quick overview of all things Brontë just to get one situated in the time period and in their lives.
The large size of the book (height, not depth) also makes The World of the Brontës a nice introduction particularly because it allows for larger-size photos. These are a highlight of the work, bringing to life the people and places O’Neill describes. It is one thing to know, for instance, that Anne loved Scarborough and the sea. It is another to see a picture of Scarborough.
The World of the Brontës is a short, accessible introduction, suitable for juvenile and teen readers, as well as for those looking for a quick read that will give them pertinent background information. It is not a definitive guide, but it is an excellent jumping off point.