The nature of my work is my subjectivity meshed with other people’s subjectivity. So there’s a correspondence with that… Even if you write about me, it will reflect on you; everything is a kind of weird collaboration.
~ Tino Sehgal, artist of German and Indian descent, based in Berlin
Recently my new novel about the youngest Brontë sister, Without the Veil Between, Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, was reviewed by the Historical Novel Society. All in all the reviewer was positive about the novel. However, the very last sentence offered a blow I couldn’t help taking as personally as if the writing itself had been criticized:
This novel about Anne, the youngest and least-known of the Brontë sisters, deals sensitively with the trials of a young woman who struggled through a difficult life. It reveals Anne as a combination of poetess in the style appropriate for an English lady and as an early feminist writer keenly aware of her submissive role as a young lady in Victorian society.
Anne’s poems are lyrical, illustrative of the depth of her feelings. As befits the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, they also demonstrate her belief in the closeness of God. Yet Anne Brontë is known as one whose beliefs about the role of women in many ways formed the basis of the later feminist movements.
This book illustrates the life of Anne the sister and daughter. It reveals her despairing affection for her brother Branwell, with his Byronic good looks and gradual descent into alcoholism. Her sisters, too, are well characterized—Charlotte, the eldest, practical, bossy and dismissive of Anne’s talent as a writer; and the warm-hearted Emily.
Anne’s adult life is shown as she progresses from unhappy governess—a role appropriate but unsuited to her—to published poet and novelist. Her two novels Agnes Grey and The Tenant of Wildfell Hall are less well known than her sisters’ novels but demonstrate no less talent and insight.
Denton has clearly researched Anne Brontë’s writing in all forms. The quoted poetry and prose in the end notes add depth to the whole. The scenes of Anne and her sisters are sensitively imagined and show a sisterly mix of affection and irritation. Despite the overly lengthy title and the unattractive cover art, it is worthwhile to open the book to discover more about Anne, the least appreciated of the Brontë sisters.
~ Valerie Adolph through the Historical Novel Society
Somehow, as we have examples every day, the negative can have so much more power than the positive over our thoughts and feelings and even actions, if we let it.
Making known on Facebook my own attachment to the part-of-a-sentence negativity in the review prompted many supportive comments, including this one:
Diane, even though I haven’t yet read your book, I think your art work is very pretty and intriguing. I love that you did it yourself as part of your total response to Anne. I would pick up your book *because* of the art, expecting to find an equally sensitive and original response in your words.
~ Rachel Sutcliffe, Rachel: SCARBOROUGH, BRONTES, TEACHING, HEALTH, BUSINESS, ALL THAT IS UNSEEN AND THE ODD POEM (Please go to Rachel’s blog for her recent and excellent post entitled SUNRISE OVER THE SEA, ANNE BRONTE, 1839, reflecting on Anne Brontë’s drawing that inspired the opening lines, the ending, and much in-between in Without the Veil Between)
Of course, Rachel’s kind comment helped me to feel better, but, more importantly, she perceptively noted my motivation and intention in doing the art and design for my book covers. It is about my “total response” to the subject I have written about – inside and out. I am blessed that Deb Harris – whose opinion I trust implicitly – at All Things That Matter Press allowed me to participate in the book’s presentation.
The response of the Historical Novel Society reviewer to the cover of Without the Veil Between might be an indication that it isn’t a good idea for me to use my own artwork. No matter. I plan on continuing to risk offering the fullness of my vision for the stories I chose to tell, the characters I am drawn to uncover, the places and times I find myself exploring, the hearts, souls and minds I spend such a large part of my life with.
I have decided to deal with any residue of upset regarding the comment on the cover of Without the Veil Between, by having some fun and turning it into a contest for a free signed copy of the novel along with a limited edition signed print of one of the illustrations included in it.
Click on the image below or here
for a fuller view of the illustrations
the winner will be able to chose from.
All you have to do to enter is leave a word or two
(no more than a sentence)
that expresses your reaction to the cover
of Without the Veil Between.
I’m not going to prompt you further, except to quote Henri Matisse:
Creativity takes courage
The contest for a free signed copy and illustration print is open to anyone in the US or overseas who comments on this post and the cover of Without the Veil Between.
At this point, the deadline for entry is May 31, 2018.
Please don’t hesitate to enter!
(even if you already have a copy:
you could keep the signed one for yourself
and give the other as gift)
I look forward to your responses.
©Artwork and writing, unless otherwise indicated, are the property of Diane M Denton. Please request permission to reproduce or post elsewhere with a link back to bardessdmdenton. Thank you.