The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë – Laura Joh Rowland

It’s pretty hilarious reading other reviews on this book. There are typically two different kinds of opinions on The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë:

  1. It’s a nice, easy, enjoyable read.
  2. It’s a completely ridiculous, implausible story.

I have to understand both opinions.

Having read Jane Eyre multiple times and enjoyed it, I wondered where Rowland would take this fictional interpretation of its famous female author. I hoped for a strong Charlotte Brontë character – but I didn’t get one. Charlotte was just as helpless, weak and unimaginative as the Jane character she wrote about. I suppose this was Rowland’s view – that Jane represented Charlotte in many ways. I just would have loved something else.

Let’s wrap this plot up in a nutshell:

Charlotte Brontë (yes, based on the real 1800s female author), witnesses a murder in London and becomes entangled in a mysterious and dangerous affair, along with her authoress sisters and a dark, handsome gentleman spy named Mr Slade. Of course, she falls in love with Mr Slade and works with him to uncover the truth. As it happens, she gets herself into danger, posing as an ally to a vicious Chinese mastermind hell-bent on kidnapping England’s royal children to bargain removing British opium traders from China. (You see, it’s all a bit preposterous).

I can’t really comment on how historically accurate it all is. I’ve seen people question the possibility of certain train routes existing in the mid 1800s as suggested in the book. As already mentioned, I would have a enjoyed a stronger central character who didn’t pine for love so helplessly and ridiculously.

However, in saying all that, the writing was nice and the book was still enjoyable. Rowland certainly knows how to string a nice sentence together. Here’s a bit that jumped out at me:

“Whenever I am near the sea, I feel such awe, exhilaration, and freedom.” Those emotions surged through me now. “Its magnificence elevates me above me petty concerns.”

Mr Slade gave me a sidelong look. “Such magnificence dwarfs mankind and shows us how weak we are compared to the forces of nature.”

“Indeed,” I said, “but for me, the ocean inspires a glorious sense that anything is possible. I feel myself to be in the presence of God.”

This spoke to me I suppose because its content hits the nail on the head for me. (I too love the ocean and the horizon. I miss living near the beach and feeling the immensity of the world and the tininess of my existence).

Anyway! The Secret Adventures of Charlotte Brontë is a bit of a crazy and unbelievable story packed into a nice, enjoyable read.


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