I did not know a great deal about the lives of the Bronte family before reading The Taste of Sorrow. I had read (and loved) Daphne by Justine Picardie which reflected on the family - and in particular the only son and brother, Branwell, and one of my favourite books of all time is Jane Eyre, but apart from that I was a little in the dark.
I acknowledge that The Taste of Sorrow is fiction and is Morgan's interpretation and understanding of what may have occurred within the family but I really feel (don't ask me how!) as though the author has captured an essence of this famous family that rings true and is totally believable.
The book starts with the death of the young Bronte children's mother, and as such sets up a constant theme of the family story - death, and the sorrow that accompanies it is never far away. From this early loss the children are brought together - they become connected almost as one;
The children obediently fold their hands in prayer - they all know how to do that. Still they do not range themselves. Rather they draw together in a peculiarly precise huddle, as if they stand on a rock, just big enough for them, above an encircling sea.
Morgan creates the sense of interdependence amongst the siblings, while at the same time clearly demonstrating their individual personalities, perfectly. Throughout the book I had a strong image of each of the children growing together - even when physically apart they were connected through the creations of their imagination - and the loss that is felt when one is taken away (in actuality or metaphorically) is acute.
I found the writing throughout absolutely stunning - without wanting to sound cliched - the writing was like a beautiful piece of music - it flowed and carried you along with it. In paricular I loved reading the sections where the inner minds and outer thoughts of the character's were portrayed:
Branwell asked: 'What was it like there? Maria would never really say'.
It was a beautiful day to be on the moors. A skylark invited location somewhere above, a glinting needle of song in a haystack of blue. The turf yielded fragrantly; bees rode the warm air. But Charlotte only had to think a moment, and the cold doors clanged around her. Branwell watched her face.
'You couldn't get near the fire,' she said at last. 'The big girls shut you out so. You hung about, hoping... But mostly you had to imagine yourself warm. You had to have the fire inside'.
I tried a new method of reading with this book. I had felt so flat and despondent with my reading lately that I decided to just slow down and concentrate on one book at a time - and I chose a wonderful book to initiate this method! This book captured me completely - I didn't want to focus on anything else for fear of missing some of the magic in this book. I now want to go back and read Jane Eyre and the other Bronte novels - I will be reading them through new, more informed, lenses.