Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre – written and illustrated by Glynnis Fawkes


    Charlotte Brontë Before Jane Eyre – written and illustrated by Glynnis Fawkes, Disney-Hyperion, 9781368023290, 2019

Format: Hardcover

Rating: 1-5 (5 is an excellent or a Starred review) 3

Genre: Biography (Graphic Novel format)

What did you like about the book?  Author and illustrator Glynnis Fawkes explores Charlotte Brontë’s childhood, hardships, and inspirations with a well-researched and well-presented graphic novel sure to intrigue fans of the nineteenth century novel, Jane Eyre, that made waves upon its publication and has never been out of print. 

After a brief prologue, Fawkes presents Brontë’s life in chronological order, picking out important events to establish relationships and portray pivotal moments with a combination of dialog, textboxes, and a blue and white pallet.  Like her famous, titular charter of her first novel, Brontë often struggles to make her voice heard but still holds a strong sense of determination.  Many will even be able to connect some scenes from Brontë’s own life to those from her book, exhibiting how much the author’s life influenced her work.

The seemingly simple colors still do wonders for the story as a whole.  The varying shades of blue reflect the feeling of being stuck in unfortunate circumstances without dwelling too heavily upon it in the narrative.  Fawkes is accomplished at using the panels to illustrate light sources for not only setting the literal scene but setting an emotional tone.

After the biography are additional materials that include a postscript explaining the choice of “story” and the method of writing, discussions of important panels and depictions, and a selected bibliography.

Anything you didn’t like about it?  While the style and text work well together, it certainly does not qualify this book to be a page-turner.  Scenes rarely gain momentum as each is simply a small snippet of Brontë’s life and so often feels (as it is) cut short.

In addition, as with other books in this series of biographies series (“The Center for Cartoon Studies Presents”), this title may have trouble finding its audience.

To whom would you recommend this book?  Fans of Brontë will certainly enjoy seeing what came “before.”  Particularly, those who have already enjoyed The Brontë Sisters by Catherine Reef may also find this title illuminating with its narrower focus and supporting illustrations for quick reading.

Who should buy this book? Libraries with Jane Eyre fans (and those with local schools that assign Brontë’s work for projects).

Where would you shelve it ? Graphic Novel Biographies; if your library does not have such a specific section, this will likely find a better home with biographies than with graphic novels.

Should we (librarians/readers) put this on the top of our “to read” piles? Not necessarily.  If you’re not a big Jane Eyre fan but want to explore this series, try Annie Sullivan and the Trials of Helen Keller by Joseph Lambert as this medium choice fits the story of this famous duo very well.

Reviewer’s Name, Library (or school), City and State: Melissa McCleary, Pembroke Public Library, Pembroke, MA

Date of review: November 21, 2019

This entry was posted in Biography, Book Review, Graphic biography and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

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