Book: The Bronte Project

Title: The Brontë Project: A Novel of Passion, Desire, and Good PR
Author: Jennifer Vandever
Genre: Women’s Fiction
Length: 288 pgs

Summary: Sara, a graduate student working on a PhD thesis, is attempting the impossible: she is looking for the missing letters of Charlotte Brontë. Sound similar to a book I just read/reviewed? Or maybe this? It must be the fashion these days. However, this book stays firmly in the present, and follows Sara’s journey from being engaged to a wonderful man, to finding her place in the world once he decides he must follow his dream to live in the squalor of Paris, à la George Orwell.

pg 10 – Sara took a deep, stabilizing breath. Claire was like the anti-Sara: Where Sara was slim-hipped, small-breasted, and quiet, Claire was shapely and loud. […] Sara favored the practical and the classic in clothing and colors that, as her mother liked to point out, occurred naturally in bruises–blacks, grays, and blues–while Claire went for the blatantly trendy and expensive. On Claire even black looked red.

pg 36 – Sara normally had a tireless patience for these books. But now she realized resentfully that these people she was reading about simply lacked cable television. Get over it, she found herself thinking about yet another governess suffering from an unquenchable longing. Get over it and get cable.

pg 92 – “You see, when there is is a mystery standing in front of me with her arms folded, I must investigate. I must unpeel what I do not understand. I am French.”
“Well, I’m American and we destroy what we don’t understand.”

pg 95 – “On you, she is silent. You see, your influence already. A smart person who rarely talks terrifies people–in her mind she’s forming judgments. What does she think? It’s a kind of power and Claire collects power. Did she tell you she’s trying to be quieter?”
Sara stared off thoughtfully, feeling the weight of the liqueur on her thoughts. She looked at Denis and smiled mysteriously. If silence was her power, so be it. She took the bottle from him and poured herself another shot.
“She says nothing!” Denis exclaimed.

Why should you read this book?
Vandever’s fiction is clean and easy to understand; she manages to do the unthinkable, which is to make the audience feel for a type A personality as the main character. I call this book women’s fiction rather than a romance because, like romances, Sara has entanglements with the other sex, but, unlike romances, the story is not about finding the perfect man for Sara, it’s about Sara finding herself. Vandever uses quotes from Brontë’s letters to start the beginning of each chapter…sometimes they make sense to me and other times they seem randomly chosen. Such is the danger of using quotes to begin passages of your prose. For a better example, try Jasper Fforde’s The Eyre Affair. I have to say I liked this book, though I can’t exactly say why. It’s a simple story about the year in the life of Sara, and there are no real villains–maybe that’s why I liked it. Similar to St Ursula’s Girls Against the Atomic Bomb, I suppose. Give it a try, see what you can learn about your own fiction by reading Vandever’s.