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Another stand out chapter examines onscreen representations of Emily and her work.I nodded in agreement at O’Callaghan’s assessment of Sally Wainwright’s century contexts on Victorian woman, but this is exactly what O’Callaghan sets out to do.O’Callaghan clearly knows her stuff, but this is not a heavy scholarly work revisiting primary sources, rather a reassessment of the output of those who have gone before.It leans on established Brontë scholars, such as Juliet Barker, Lucasta Miller and John Sutherland, as well as Emily’s literary output.Secondly, I wanted to pick up some of the pioneering work done by Lucasta Miller in and show that a lot of what we think about Emily isn’t wholly true – and what we do know has been distorted again and again.Emily is, like Charlotte, one of the most loved authors of all time, and yet she’s also presented as a really strange woman – an idea that’s based on falsehoods, myths, and a set of second hand Chinese whispers.Two centuries of Brontë scholarship have created an inscrutable image of this singular woman; Emily as enigma has become integral to Brontë myth making. “We have next to nothing from Emily Emily – other than her poetry and only novel,” she says.
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Presented in a numbered list that just begs for column inches, O’Callaghan presents a consumer friendly summation of the evidence and, in ambiguous cases, takes sides – it’s lighthearted but not irreverent.
With occasional humourous asides and lapses into social media speak, the book might struggle to be taken seriously, but it will appeal to those put off by more weighty tomes.