Monday, November 30, 2015

#collaboreads: The Bronte Cabinet

It's the end of November and what way to end a month of thanks than with a FABULOUS conversation about books? There's no way. So, we're here gathering and writing about the nonfiction reads that made our month more interesting (and educational).

If you missed what #Collaboreads is, you can familiarize yourself here.

Short version: Rachel and I pick a random criteria for the book (i.e. Takes Place in Summertime). You pick your book and read it. Then the last Monday of the month we meet up and talk about our choices.

There's a R.E.A.D.S. review format that we've shared for suggestion's sake (shared in this post), but feel free to review however you're comfortable!

My pick for this month is fascinating because it combines #Collaboreads and the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge together into one which brought me to a surprising pick for my read. It was as though serendipity stepped in and said "Amber, this is your book" while I stood reading over all the titles on the Featured shelf in the entrance of our library.

Meet The Bronte Cabinet by Deborah Lutz. It's just as the title suggests: a look into the lives of the Bronte sisters through nine of the things they owned.

I've always had a bizarre fascination with the Bronte sisters. I've only ever read Wuthering Heights, and, if I'm honest, struggled to understand what allured so many people to their novels. Up until now, the words and fancy english have been allowed to confuse me, distract me, and bring me to a paralyzed pace as I try to work through the words.

BUT, now I've read this. And in reading The Bronte Cabinet, I get it. These women, sisters, lived a rich (and not specifically in money) life. They saw opportunity and abundance in every ounce of their surroundings. They were makers, creators, imaginers from the moment they could conceive ideas and that fascinates me.

The book is dry, really dry. It's thick with history and all kinds of information about the time, culture, place in which the sisters lived. At times, I felt like I was dragging through the details, but the narrative was fascinating. Some of the objects (dog collar, walking habits, small handmade books) were interesting and easy to read through while others felt oddly obsessed over... As though only six objects were going to illustrate the three lives of the sisters, but nine was a rounder, better number.

The piece that kept me moving throughout the book was finding the sisters so approachable, so like me, so modern women in their own rite. I recognized myself in the way they turned childhood fantasy into life-fulfilling dreams. I saw how their family and socioeconomic status and happenings influenced their characters and their work. I felt refreshed to know that I'm like them, that the creative process -though always unique- is fundamentally the same.

Here's where the Semi-Charmed Winter Book Challenge comes in: I chose this book because Katherine Reay's The Bronte Plot was released in early November. I wanted to read the book this month (haven't yet) because I adore all of Reay's other work, but wasn't able to squeeze it in to any of the categories. That is, until I ran to the library to pick up a book on hold and found The Bronte Cabinet. There's an obvious connection between the two and their subject matter while one is fiction, the other nonfiction. 

But, I also have to say, the lines and associations between the history of the Bronte sisters and their books are drawn in bold, clear lines. It was fascinating to hear about the influences of their family and friends and circumstances in their writings. Very specific connections were drawn between characters, rooms, events in the books and their lives which gave life to what can feel like antiquated, old literature. 

The cover screams traditional England with it's gold frame and elegant embellishments. It's straight-forward, no nonsense in the same way the book presents the history of the Bronte family. But it's beautiful too, just the way any big picture presentation of life can be beautiful. 


Three point seven five.

I wanted to give it four, but it just didn't move from one detail to the next quite as quickly as I'd have liked. The book was dry and sometimes tedious in the way it ran through parts of the sisters lives... I guess in reflection to the way life can be in its slow, mundane movements.

But, more than that, I was fascinated and even opened up to the richness that is the non-fiction, biography genre. I've always tended to steer away from them because of the matter-of-fact writing within their pages. I've always opted for novel or memoir and tI need to expand my horizons even if not necessarily simple to do.

And now, it's your turn to talk about all the books that filled your month!

Next month, we're linking up on December 28th and we're reading 
A Friend's Favorite
Yes, for December ask a friend what book to read. 
See you in a month!

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