Take Courage: Anne Brontë and the Art of Life: review

Take Courage Anne Bronte 250A fascinating book on the ‘forgotten’ Brontë sister, written with irresistible tenderness and passion and respect.

Imagine you could gather all of Anne’s family members and close confidants in a room and ask each to share in turn what they knew of Anne Brontë. This is the approach the author takes in this book: each chapter is devoted to a different person in Anne’s life, and considers what we can learn about Anne from Brontë archive materials relating to that person. The picture that emerges is of a woman who ought all along to have been as respected for her brave writing as her sisters.

I found the author’s interpretations and arguments compelling. Certainly the book moved me, especially with regard to how it was for Anne to grow up motherless, and how she faced her own death with great dignity and courage. The author intends us to be inspired by Anne Brontë and her ‘art of life’, and in that she succeeds.

The only aspect of Take Courage I didn’t connect with so well was the author’s personal story. The book moves between Anne and the author’s journey to get to know Anne, and I felt slightly jarred at times when shifted into the author’s story, and a little disgruntled to have left Anne behind. Perhaps it was the modern voice (for example ‘geek out over the bedrooms’) that threw me, given that Anne’s story transported me back to the nineteenth century.

Still, I very much enjoyed the book, and am glad it has been written, for Anne deserves to be remembered alongside her sisters – and read. Which is why, thanks to reading Take Courage, I’ve added The Tenant of Wildfell Hall and Agnes Grey to my ‘to be (re)read’ pile.

* My rating: Four and a half stars *

Disclaimer: I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Book details

Author: Samantha Ellis


Anne Brontë is the forgotten Brontë sister, overshadowed by her older siblings – virtuous, successful Charlotte, free-spirited Emily and dissolute Branwell. Tragic, virginal, sweet, stoic, selfless, Anne. The less talented Brontë, the other Brontë.

Or that’s what Samantha Ellis, a life-long Emily and Wuthering Heights devotee, had always thought. Until, that is, she started questioning that devotion and, in looking more closely at Emily and Charlotte, found herself confronted by Anne instead.

Take Courage is Samantha’s personal, poignant and surprising journey into the life and work of a woman sidelined by history. A brave, strongly feminist writer well ahead of her time – and her more celebrated siblings – and who has much to teach us today about how to find our way in the world.

Genre: Biography

Publisher: Chatto & Windus

Publication date: 12 January 2017

Length: 352 pages

Available from: Amazon