Friday, 25 June 2010

The Bronte Project by Jennifer Vandever

Title: The Bronte Project
Author: Jennifer Vandever
Rating: ★★
Genre: Chick lit
Description: (From Amazon) "As to intense passion, I am convinced that it is no desirable feeling" - Charlotte Bronte, 1840. Shy young scholar Sara Frost's unsuccessful search for the lost love letters of Charlotte Bronte hasn't won her any favours at her university, particularly now the glamorous new Head of Princess Diana Studies has introduced her media-savvy exploits to the staid halls of academia. But, it's not until Sara's fiance suddenly leaves her that she begins to question her life's vocation. How can she reconcile the mythology of romance with the harsh reality of modern love? As she tentatively re-enters the dating scene, Sara is to discover that the life and writings of Charlotte Bronte have more to teach her than she could ever have guessed about the perils and pitfalls of the 21st-century relationship game.

I picked this book up in a sale of old library stock, and I am so glad I only spent 20p on it. This book pretty much embodied some of the worst stereotypes associated with the chick lit genre, which was really disappointing as the premise of comparing the standards of 18th century romantic fiction with the reality of modern relationships sounded great. I like the Bronte's books which is the main reason why I picked this one up, however the book actually mocks people who are looking for that depth of connection (like that between Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester, or Cathy and Heathcliff) which really shocked me. Loving classical romantic fiction doesn't make you naive or stupid, although the book clearly implies that it does.

The characters were two-dimensional and uninteresting, and in fact were more like cardboard cutouts than real people. You have the main character Sara who is immature and unrealistic, not to mention really stupid and doormat like - but still desired by all men, except the one she wants (of course). Then there's Claire, the slutty friend/enemy who is either trying to destory Sara's life or trying to fix it. The three love interests are portrayed very much as the uninterested jerk, the noncommital sex object and the loaded Mr. Perfect.

The Bronte's take a complete backseat in the book to Princess Diana references. Yes it was a tragedy when she died, and yes it was completely unexpected, but to resort to reiterating the gossip and lies made in the tabloids is just crass, not to mention pointless.

The book also had seemingly pointless controversial scenes thrown in, which just detracted from the storyline - flings between teachers and students, religiously provocative art, suicide attempts, none of which contributed to the story and some threw the characterisation out completely.

The only reason this book got a second star was that the extracts from Charlotte Bronte’s letters were well-placed and did give hints as to what was likely to happen in each chapter. It was interesting to read the little snippets, and they did give a little insight into Charlotte Bronte's world however if that is an area of interest for you I suggest that you find a book purely of the letters rather than reading this.

Content description

Sex and nudity - Quite frequent but not particularly graphic. It is, however, very clear that a character involved in some of the scenes is not emotionally interested which may bother some people. There is also mention of a lesbian relationship between a lecturer and college student, which ends badly.
Violence and gore - There is a quite graphic description of a sculpture of childbirth where the child is in fact a dead pig foetus.
Alcohol and drugs - Alcohol is consumed frequently, and one character is a reformed drug addict who begins using again during the course of the book.
Profanity - Infrequent and mild.
Frightening/intense scenes - A suicide attempt is mentioned in passing with little sympathy, and some may find the above mentioned sculpture offensive or frightening. Abortion is also mentioned in passing.

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