Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love selected as a great Christmas read by Gransnet BEST CHRISTMAS READS GRANSNET
Monday, 2 November 2015
Launch of ‘Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love’, the English translation of Jolien Janzing’s novel ‘De Meester’.
|On the left, Jolien Janzing|
Jolien Janzing, a Dutch journalist and novelist, has lived in Flanders since early childhood. De Meester, first published in 2013 and translated into English by the prize-winning translator Paul Vincent, is her second novel. It is also to be translated into German, French and Turkish. It was selected for Books at Berlinale and the film rights have been sold to David P. Kelly films.
Earlier in October Jolien was invited by the Brontë Society to be their speaker at the Society’s annual literary lunch, held this year in Yorkshire. And on the morning of the Waterstones launch she was in London where she joined Claire Harman, author of the new biography of Charlotte Brontë just out, to speak on Woman’s Hour on BBC Radio 4 (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06kggh1). They began by discussing Charlotte’s love for Constantin Heger and confession at the Cathedral of St Gudule. The first chapter of Janzing’s novel relates this scene in the Cathedral, and, interestingly, so does the prologue to Harman’s biography.
|Jolien reading from
‘Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love
At the Waterstones launch, against a backdrop of projected images of nineteenth-century Brussels, the audience listened to readings from the novel and an interview with Jolien conducted by Jones Hayden of the Brussels Brontë Group. We heard about the novel’s vision of Charlotte and Emily’s stay at the Pensionnat, with suggestions of homo-eroticism in Emily’s friendship with a fellow pupil, Louise de Bassompierre, and more than suggestions of eroticism in Charlotte’s relationship with Monsieur Heger, the husband of the school’s directress. Rather than presenting Charlotte’s love for Heger as unrequited, Jolien explores a more romantic scenario in which Heger, portrayed as a flirtatious character, is attracted to Charlotte in his turn. She shared with us her view of 1840s Brussels (described in her novel as ‘dissolute’ and evoked with great sensuousness) as a place of relaxed morals where flirtation and adultery were very much in the air. We heard about one of the novel’s sub-plots, the liaison between King Leopold I and his much younger mistress Arcadie Claret, whose destiny is counterpointed in the novel with Charlotte’s. When the liaison began, around the time of the Brontës’ arrival on the Continent, Arcadie was only sixteen.
|On the right, Jones Hayden, who interviewed Jolien|
After this presentation of a book which, unusually, offers a take on the Brontës’ stay in Brussels by a writer on this side of the Channel, attendees mingled and relaxed in the approved continental style – over a glass of wine!
Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love
Translated from Dutch by Paul Vincent – Published October 1st £10.99 · ebook available
Introducing a captivating novel, based on true events, about the secret love affair of Charlotte Brontë with the man who would inspire her to write The Professor, Villette and Jane Eyre.
Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love will also be published in German, French and Turkish. The film rights have been sold to David P. Kelly Films.
She tells him everything, at a furious tempo. About the safe but oppressive life in her father’s house and how she escaped from it. How she thought she would be able to enjoy freedom in Brussels, but allowed herself to be shut up in a boarding school. The priest’s face comes closer to the grille: she feels his breath on her cheek.
‘Tell me what your sin is.’
And she tells him. She tells him everything.
Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love shines a light on a tantalising episode in the lives of two of the greatest nineteenth-century authors, Charlotte and Emily Brontë. Charlotte Brontë, a parson’s daughter from Yorkshire, longs for adventure. She conceives the idea of going abroad to study languages and persuades her sister Emily to accompany her to Brussels. This Catholic yet worldly capital comes as quite a culture shock for the Brontë sisters. In Madame Heger’s elegant boarding house, amongst many wealthy and spoilt young ladies, Charlotte and Emily try to stay true to themselves. But then Charlotte falls in love with her teacher, Constantin Heger, the man of the house.
Reviews Charlotte Brontë’s Secret Love – Original title in Dutch ‘De Meester’
‘Charlotte Bronte is among the iconic names of English literature and in this wonderful novel Jolien Janzing gives readers a fascinating fictionalised glimpse into the life of the woman behind Jane Eyre.’ We Love This Book – The Bookseller
‘Imagination and knowledge are harnessed with impeccable precision to weave an extraordinarily insightful and credible story packed with wisdom and empathy, and offering a dazzling portrait of two geniuses in the making.’
Dutch and Belgian reviews:
‘A successful biographical novel, evocatively written […] impressive and contemporary.’ Trouw (Letter en geest) review Trouw – Letter en Geest
‘Even if you already know the story, you’ll continue to read with enthusiasm. Janzing’s ornate style fits this classical tale like a glove. She describes heat as ‘the breath of a fire god’ and Emily’s profile as ‘a pallid crescent moon’.’ De Standaard der Letteren
‘I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a film of it in the not too distant future.’Mieke’s Leesclub
‘In an ornate tone, appropriate to the historical genre, Janzing creates a world in which you want to linger, long after you’ve finished reading the book.’ Happinez
‘Elegant, traditional language […]. The Master is bound to appeal to those who enjoy a well-written historical novel’. Lucas Zandberg, TZUM
‘A compelling historical novel […]. The Master is written in a pleasantly accessible and vigorous style.’ Editie Enigma
‘What a marvellous novel […]. The Master is written in such a filmic manner that it immediately draws the reader back into the nineteenth century.’ Margriet
‘Jolien Janzing’s elegantly penned The Master takes us back to 19th century Brussels, to a story of forbidden love. She clearly knows her subject like the back of her hand: she portrays Charlotte Brontë’s first steps on the path to love with genuine affection, and never goes too far. The relationship between Charlotte Brontë and Constantin Heger was already the focus of many a question one and a half centuries ago. Was it platonic or physical? Janzing fills the gaps in a plausible and respectful manner. For Brontë fans, The Master is a must; for those who know little of the English writer, it is a magnificent historical novel with a warm pounding heart.’ Karin Quint, journalist NRC Handelsblad
‘The Master carries the reader back to a time that isn’t our own, which is an experience in itself. It does so in a filmic manner – and it doesn’t surprise me that the book was selected for the Berlinale. It reminds me of Palliser’s The Quincunx, another equally compelling novel.’ Ludo Permentier, columnist and journalist for De Standaard
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