B O O K R E V I E W
Over a year ago, I went to a lecture on the Brontes and met Dr. Andrea Westcott, a prof at a local university who had done her PhD on Anne Bronte. I asked her if she would be willing to take a look at Charlotte Bronte's Thunder. I warned her that the book contained a controversial theory that might shock her and I would, therefore, understand if she preferred to decline the invitation to venture into enemy territory.
She replied that any worthwhile scholarship should be given a fair chance, and would certainly read the book with an open mind. This is a fantastic response for anyone who challenges the status quo: you hope your work will be viewed impartially.
The only problem Dr. Westcott had was finding the time. She wanted to give the book its proper due, so if I didn't mind waiting a few months, she would accept the book and try to get to it as soon as her schedule allowed. I told her I would appreciate any effort on her part, and was prepared to wait.
Recently, she completed the book and invited me to her office to discuss her views.
Dr. Westcott is a lovely woman who, aside from being bright, is a major athlete. She had just completed a brutal triathlon in Whistler, British Columbia that made me wonder how a person's body can withstand that kind of physical rigour. What an accomplishment! She kindly stated that my book was also a major accomplishment.
I am including the introduction of her review here, but if you're interested in reading the entire piece, I have added a link at the bottom of the post.
Michele Carter’s book Charlotte Bronte’s Thunder: The Truth Behind the Bronte Sisters’ Genius is an extensively researched and meticulously detailed account of Charlotte Bronte’s life that aims to redefine Bronte’s achievements. The book has been favourably reviewed by former editor Bob Duckett in the January 2013 issue of Bronte Studies.
In her introduction Carter admits that she “never set out to challenge the status quo,” but originally intended to study the sisters’ corpus “for a shared symbolic design” (iv). In the process, Carter discovers that Jane Eyre evokes the “rituals and symbols of Freemasonry” (iv) because “Charlotte knew her Freemasonry as well as she knew her Shakespeare and her Bible” (78). Furthermore, Carter learns that Charlotte’s ability with certain types of memory was so elevated that she, like a savant, could create long and involved anagrams in her head.
From this form of genius, Charlotte wove a story behind the words of her novels and other writing, such as the “Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell” about the authorship of the Bronte novels, that revealed surprising and little known events taking place in the Haworth community, which profoundly shaped the lives of the Bronte family members. Not only does Carter claim that the Masons were corrupt, but also that it was Charlotte who wrote all of the novels credited to herself, to Emily (Ellis) and to Anne (Acton). Feeling threatened by the wicked machinations of local Freemasons, Charlotte Bronte ascribes her work to her sisters, while revealing her deception in coded messages, anagrams scattered throughout her writings.