Review – The Taste of Sorrow by Jude Morgan

Confession time again – I can’t claim to have read everything written by the Brontes but I will admit to having a special place in my heart for this Yorkshire family.  “Jane Eyre” is my all time favourite novel and a couple of years ago I had the honour of visiting Haworth Parsonage, staying a couple of nights in the village and supping a few beers (no laudanum though!).  One might labour under the misapprehension that it’s an easy thing to do – to captivate readers with such fascinating subject matter – but I can’t think of a more daunting task for an author to take on than to revitalise a story which is so well known without taking liberties!

Well, I’m very pleased to report that Mr Morgan has done a splendid job.  I do think it helps to have some pre-existing knowledge of the Brontes in order to fully embrace this fictionalised account of their lives.  So how does the author breathe life into this tale?  Firstly, I think the use of the present tense is an excellent tool as it succeeds in immediately drawing us into the claustraphobic corners of the parsonage and the intellectual intensity of the sisters.   Admittedly the style takes a bit of effort on the reader’s part at first as it’s in the third person and it does tend to flit about a lot between the siblings – something which, I feel, complements the darting, birdlike movement of their creativity and imagination and heightens the drama of their story.

The novel opens with the death of their mother and concludes as Charlotte embarks on a new life, married to Reverend Nicholls.  There are those who would have preferred the story to continue to include Charlotte’s death one year later but I actually found it quite refreshing for it to end on a note of optimism.  Other books about the Brontes have focussed on Charlotte but I found this novel gives us more insight into Emily and Anne and even Maria and Elizabeth who are so often overlooked.  Personally, I find absolutely no redeeming qualities in Branwell who was a selfish boor with no consideration for his siblings but Mr Morgan is slightly more gentle in his portrayal of the only son who is always misunderstood.

The cloistered ambiance of the parsonage, the wildness of the moors and the social isolation of these three exceptionally talented women is evident throughout the novel.  I firmly believe that it takes a very talented writer to tell a well worn story and still manage to move the reader emotionally without resorting to mawkishness.  Even if you never have the opportunity to visit Haworth, reading this novel will make you feel like you’re actually there.   You will feel the despair and deprivation of Cowan Bridge as well as the heartache of Charlotte in Brussels and have a much clearer perception of how life events influenced the Brontes’ novels.  Yes, it’s an intense read but well worth the effort!

PS.  I would also highly recommend Lynne Reid Banks’ excellent fictionalised accounts of the Brontes – “Dark Quartet” and “Path to the Silent Country” although I fear that they might be out of print (second hand anyone?).

PPS.  Can anyone recommend any of Jude Morgan’s other novels?  I’m currently being drawn to Symphony and Passion.

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12 Comments

  1. Verity says:

    I LOVED the Lynne Reid Banks ones, so I shall have to look for this.

  2. L Clare says:

    This one’s on my wishlist. Thanks for the review :)

  3. Jenny says:

    I didn’t know Lynne Reid Banks had done books about the Brontes! I always loved her books as a kid, but I don’t think I’ve read any of her grown-up books. I’ll have to investigate this.

  4. Iris says:

    I hadn’t heard about this book before, but I would love to read this!

  5. admin says:

    Verity, I think you’ll love this!

  6. admin says:

    Jenny, I think the one focussing on Charlotte and her courtship, marriage with Reverend Nicholls, Path to the Silent Country, could very well be out of print now. I was able to get a swap for one on a bookswapping site and got the Dark Quartet one from the library. They don’t seem to be very well known for some strange reason – time to reprint, methinks!

  7. admin says:

    Do you like the Brontes, Iris? I had goosebumps going around the parsonage in Haworth, seeing all the tiny little books they made about Gondal etc.

  8. admin says:

    Thank you for dropping by, Laura. He is a totally new author to me – I love it when I find someone new and discover they have lots of other great books to add to my wishlist! :-)

  9. I had the great pleasure of spending a day in Haworth and making a quick stop in Cowan Bridge just this past spring. It was amazing! And then I saw this book in the airport as I was leaving, and I had to buy it. I keep hearing great things about it and look forward to reading it!

  10. admin says:

    Hi Teresa (wonderful name!!). I went to Haworth to meet up with fellow bibliophiles, most of whom I was meeting for the first time as we were online book buddies. It poured with rain (so much that we got a taxi to the hotel at the end of the very steep cobbled street..) and I could visualise how dark and dismal the Parsonage must have seemed. Lovely to “meet” a fellow pilgrim! :-)

  11. Violet says:

    Oh, Goddess! I wanted to dive into this book and life there. Well, not really, because it was a bit grim, but Morgan made the Brontes come ALIVE, and I so, so loved this book.

    I thought Jude Morgan was a woman though, until I googled him. :) Jude is the diminutive form of Judith in Oz, so I just assumed. When I found Morgan was a man, I was even more impressed by the writing, because he got inside the female Bronte characters so well. And perhaps that’s why poor old Patrick and Branwell weren’t treated as extras is his re-telling of the Bronte tale, as is often the case.

  12. admin says:

    I agree, Violet, he really does get into the head of the Bronte females so very well and doesn’t cast aside Patrick and Branwell although the cover of my copy really irritated me as it just features Emily, Charlotte and Anne when their tale is so much about their family. Haworth is quite a “grim” place in real life but it really made me smile to see where they lived, the couch where Emily died, the bed Branwell set on fire, Emily’s sketches of Keeper…

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