Wednesday, 13 November 2019

Nonfiction November - week 3

We have reached week 3 in Nonfiction November, hosted by Katie at Doing Dewey This is all about being the expert, asking the expert or becoming an expert. There are three ways to approach this week.
  • Be the Expert: Share three or more books on a single topic that you have read and can recommend
  • Ask the Expert: Put a call out for good nonfiction on a specific topic that you have been dying to read
  • Become the Expert: Create your own list of books on a topic that you would like to rea
Can I be so bold as to use all three of the options? It is rewarding to be an expert, fantastic to be able to ask and expert, which will, hopefully, made you become an expert.

My main interest in nonfiction is history. Although it seems to take a lesser part in the educational flow (at least in Sweden), I think it is important to know and remember our history. The German philosopher Friedrich Hegel said: "The only thing we learn from history is that we learn nothing from history."  Another philosopher, George Santayana, said: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." How true are not those reflections?

To be the expert of the Brontës

While living in Brussels I was a member of the Brussels Brontë Group. Charlotte and Emily Brontë spent some time there in order to study to become teachers. They wanted to open a school of their own. That was not to be. Instead they became world famous writers, still tremendously popular. I read a lot about them and have read all their books (except the Juvenilia, but I will do). Here are three of their books (one from each of them) and three books about them, that I like very much. I can recommend them all. The nonfiction ones will make you an expert in not time at all.

Charlotte Brontë - Jane Eyre
Emily Brontë - Wuthering Heights
Anne Brontë - The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Brontës by Juliet Barker is THE biography of the family. A thick book with everything connected to them. Excellent read and you get to know it all.
The Brontës in Brussels by Helen MacEwan. If you are interested about their stay in Brussels, and want to follow in their footsteps, this is the guide to where they lived and enjoyed life in Brussels. Helen is the founder of the Brussels Brontë Group, which has researched the sisters stay in Brussels, and given it another angle, as well as highlighted the influence their stay had on their writing, Charlotte especially. Her book Villette is about her stay there, and Villette is a synonym for Brussels. Emily was not as easily influenced by anything except her beloved moors.
Charlotte Brontë's Promised Land and The Pensionnat Revisited (More light shed on the Brussels of the Brontës) by Eric Ruijssenars are two books going into details about Charlotte's and Emily's life at the pensionnat. Well researched, it gives you everything you need to know about how it was to live in Brussels at the time, and how they spent their time in the school and surroundings.

Ask the expert about the Congress of Vienna

This is an interesting Congress, held from November 1814 to June 1815, where the great powers of the day met to provide a longterm peace plan for Europe. It took place in the aftermath of the French Revolutionary Wars and the Napoleonic Wars. Participants were Austria, Britain, Russia, Prussia and France.

It would be interesting to read more about the political situation and the implications of the decisions made by the congress. Interested in anything you can recommend.

After reading your suggestions I hope to become the expert. 


  1. What a fun specialty! I imagine there is lots to learn about these authors.

    1. There certainly is! It is amazing how talented the family was.

  2. I wonder as a Bronte expert you might enjoy a foray into fiction in the form of The Vanished Bride by Bella Ellis. It is a historical crime mystery which casts the Bronte sisters in the role of amateur detectives. It's a lot of fun and you might spot more allusions to their lives and novels than I did.

    1. I actually had the book in my hand at the library, but refrained from borrowing it. I am divided about fan fiction, but have enjoyed quite a few on Jane Austen's 'Pride and Prejudice'. My favourite book by her and I did enjoy the fan fiction books.
      I am more reluctant about the Brontës, don't ask me why. What stopped me from taking the book, was that I can't imagine them as amateur detectives, considering their personalities. However, on your recommendation I might try it. It would be interesting, as you say, to see how Bella Ellis has interpreted the actions of the Brontës.

  3. Fascinating topic. Two from my TBR list:
    The Brontë Cabinet: Three Lives in Nine Objects
    by Deborah Lutz
    The Brontës: Charlotte Brontë and Her Family
    by Rebecca Fraser
    A fictionalized look that I enjoyed (You know much more so may not! I don't always enjoy royal fiction for that reason) The Secret Diaries of Charlotte Brontë
    by Syrie James

    1. Thank you Lisa. I don't mind historical fiction, find it quite interesting actually. Have read a few as well. I have not heard about those you mention, butI will look out for them.

  4. I had no idea the Brontes ever left England. Thanks for sharing your recommendations.
    Sadly I only have a vague memory of covering the Congress in history class so I have no titles to recommend.

    1. It has not been widely known. Even if it was, biographers have not lingered on this time. I think that the research done by the group in Brussels has contributed quite a lot in recent years. Especially for Charlotte it was a life turning event. She was infatuated, or in love, with her teacher M. Heger. Her characters, Rochester in Jane Eyre and M. Paul Emanuel in Villette, are most likely, based on him.