I have watched the new Masterpiece Theater Drama “To Walk Invisible,” several, several times. It features the story of the Bronte family. For years the only Bronte that I liked was Anne Bronte (she is still my favorite), who wrote “Agnes Grey” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” But I loved the idea of a movie depicting the lives of three literary sisters in Victorian England. I love movies about women writers.
I loved it. It’s very gritty; don’t expect something pristine or wholesome. This is not Jane Austen or one of her comedy of manners. While the stars of the Bronte sisters rose, the star of Branwell Bronte – their ne’er do well brother – fell. He became addicted to alcohol and opiates; the movie shows how he spiraled out of control and how it affected the lives of his three sisters and his elderly father. “To Walk Invisible” more than implied that the Bronte sisters incorporated their wayward brother and his troubles into their works, “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights,” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Branwell was extremely talented and he had such potential, which only made his early death much worse. In the end, he had nothing to show for it.
And while the Bronte sisters achieved success, it was short-lived. Emily caught a chill at her brother’s funeral and died three months later. Anne was the third to succumb to consumption and died a few months later. Charlotte lived a few years longer, to publish further works and find a small measure of happiness before dying mere months after marrying her father’s curate. The father, Patrick Bronte, outlived them all and in his lifetime, he had buried his wife and six children.
Unlike “Becoming Jane” and “Miss Austen Regrets” (biopics on Jane Austen) there are no manufactured romances in “To Walk Invisible.” This is simply a story of three sisters who are determined to pursue happiness no matter what obstacles lie in their path. The world was against them: society frowned on women who earned a living; Christians condemned their books; they had to use male pseudonyms to be taken seriously, and then a rumor started that “Currer Bell” (Charlotte Bronte) was really the author of all of their novels. But they persevered.
Since my first viewing of “To Walk Invisible,” I have read “Jane Eyre,” “Wuthering Heights” and reread “Agnes Grey” and “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” and have become a Bronte addict. What are your thoughts on the Brontes? Which Bronte is your favorite? Which is your favorite book?