Two new reviews!
August 20, 2018
From Prof. Maddalena de Leo, Brontë scholar and representative of the Italian section of The Bronte Society (La Sezione Italiana della Brontë Society)
The novel by DM Denton, Without the Veil Between – Anne Brontë: A Fine and Subtle Spirit, puts the accent on the lesser known of the three Brontë sisters, the British authors who have become famous throughout the world in the last century. I remember that forty years ago their name appeared little in the European encyclopedias, and Anne, the third sister, was mentioned only by name, without even knowing that she had written two novels instead.
Today, however, Anne Brontë has been greatly re-evaluated and in the last twenty years, thanks to translations of her works in various languages and a BBC production of her second and longer novel, she is considered, in some respects, even the most modern of the three. With grace and discretion, DM Denton, through this novel, wants to start an unaware reader [on] the path of endurance carried forward with determination and modesty by the “smallest” of the sisters, tracing the developments during the last seven years of [her] life. It highlights those that were characteristics in her, already common to the other two, namely the determination and courage to assert their ideas often deviating from the conventions of the time.
Through the succession of chapters in the book, where the historical-biographical information is dutifully mixed with the imagination, we discover wonderful family pictures in which we are almost in contact with the daily life of the Brontë family; we see discussions and small skirmishes between the sisters; we live and share the constant concerns of all of them with regard to their brother Branwell, who is on the wrong path and with no return.
Above all, through the well-measured words of Denton, a young Anne emerges more and more, especially in the final chapters. She frees from the web of religiosity with which she traditionally is painted, [and] tries to leave something good in the world through her measured but deliberately targeted writing. A different Anne at the beginning of the book, timidly in love, and then resigned to accept her own death with dignity and fortitude without moving the reader piteously, as often happens in various modern biographies or film biopic transpositions. All this is to give credit to Diane M. Denton who, with her delightful pencil drawings on the inside but also on the cover of the book, has contributed to make a meaningful homage to the memory of Anne Brontë.
5 Stars A lovely book, beautifully written, well-paced and incredibly moving
September 4, 2018 Joanne Dalton, Amazon UK
Anne has always been the lesser known and sadly underrated Bronte sister. Diane’s book does much to remedy this. It’s a novel but very faithful to.what historical facts we know about Anne and her family. I have read a lot of Bronte biographies (including the recent ones by Ellis and Holland) and also Anne’s two novels. There was nothing in Diane’s book that struck me as inaccurate or jarring. I must admit, when reading a novel by an American author about an English subject and locations, I would usually be worried about finding geographical mistakes and anachronistic language/Americanisms. Not the case here. Diane has clearly done a lot of research and thoroughly knows her locations and settings.Diane’s characterisations of the Bronte siblings are well done and she illuminates many scenes in Anne’s life which we wish we knew more about, such as her tragic romance with William Weightman and her trip to London with Charlotte. The novel starts at the seaside and ends there too. Bronte fans will of course know the sad ending but Diane writes so movingly, it’s like learning it for the first time. Whilst Emily was a child of the moors and loved to close to home, Diane presents in Anne a more adventurous spirit, one who went out into the world and looked out at the sea. So appropriate that Anne was buried there, the only Bronte not to be buried at home in Haworth.
Very highly recommended to both Bronte fans and those who are new to their work.
November 30, 2017 Deborah Bennison, Bennison Books
Anne has always, and unfairly, been the least celebrated Brontë sister, her work considered less important than that of her siblings and, indeed, even threatened with suppression by her own sister, Charlotte, author of Jane Eyre, who wrote to her publisher:
“Wildfell Hall it hardly appears to me desirable to preserve. The choice of subject in that work is a mistake, it was too little consonant with the character, tastes and ideas of the gentle, retiring, inexperienced writer.”
Inexperienced? Hardly, as DM Denton’s meticulously researched and beautifully written account of Anne’s life so acutely delineates. Now, of course, we recognise The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Anne’s second and final novel, as being far ahead of its time in its close study of a woman’s determination to escape her abusive marriage.
Without the Veil Between catches both the triumph and the tragedy of Anne’s short but quietly courageous and determined life. Her disappointments and heartbreak patiently borne; her originality of thought in opposition to contemporary mores; her searing and unflinching insights into the experiences of women and the need for resistance and positive action that we now call feminism.
This is no cosy account of three sisters living in harmony in their parsonage home while happily creating their masterpieces for posterity. DM Denton convincingly explores the tensions that existed between the sisters as well as their mutual love and support; and the security and emotional comfort Anne found within her family juxtaposed with the need to separate herself in some way. This is perfectly captured in the author’s precise description of both Charlotte and Anne being “torn between the calling to leave and the longing to stay”. Here, also, we see the author’s careful and measured examination of the different personalities at work within the Bronte family: Charlotte is driven to venture out more by “curiosity and enterprise”, while Anne’s purpose is a serious and morally driven desire to develop character and endurance, and demonstrate what she is capable of. And, indeed, it is she of all the sisters who does endure for longest in the world of work: five years as a governess before she resigned, probably due to the ignominy of her brother Branwell’s disastrous liaison with her pupils’ mother.
DM Denton skillfully captures Anne’s distinctive personality and strength of character while poignantly contrasting this with her frail constitution, blighted by asthma and then the tuberculosis that killed her at such a young age. The final pages of the book leading to Anne’s inevitable demise are written with a simplicity and restraint that is intensely moving and wholly convincing.
Above all, DM Denton reveals the Anne that Charlotte could not – or would not – see. This book gives us Anne. Not Anne, the ‘less gifted’ sister of Charlotte and Emily (although we meet them too as convincingly drawn individuals); nor the Anne who ‘also wrote two novels’, but Anne herself, courageous, committed, daring and fiercely individual: a writer of remarkable insight, prescience and moral courage whose work can still astonish us today.
December 2, 2017 Mary Clark, Writer
Early in Diane Denton’s book the young curate, William Weightman, says to Anne Brontë: “You must find such satisfaction in being able to capture those moments the rest of us let slip away and sometimes aren’t aware of to begin with.” This is an essential part of Denton’s own gift. With this ability she is able to enter the world of a shy artist who lived in the shadows of her father, brother, and sisters, and in the light of a determined and insightful intellect. Anne Brontë set herself a more difficult task than her famous sisters, Charlotte and Emily. She was on a course of an artist whose subject was her life. Making this even more difficult, she sought to achieve emotional and mental stability.
Denton shows us the tensions in the austere home of the Reverend Brontë, the hopes for and disappointment in his drunken son, Branwell, and the longings of the three sisters for a more fulfilling life. The sisters’ books are populated with people who live large lives, with secret loves, deception, greed, passion, and loyalty. In this setting, quiet Anne makes her own way, exploring human relationships with a keen sense of morality and ethics. As a governess she has to be with people all day, at their beck and call, and can barely aspire to more. But as a true Brontë, she does aspire. Brief moments with the young curate open her heart to the possibility of love. And she dreams of opening a school with her sisters, and being in charge of her own life. William’s sudden death from cholera plunges her into depression, but she concentrates on duty and endurance, and calls on her faith.
On return to her father’s home, Anne witnesses Branwell’s descent into drugs, sexual escapades, and fantasy. Denton writes, “To reside within the dissolution of principles and proper behavior without being party to it meant that constant vigilance was required, which left little time or inclination for make-believe.” Anne realizes she will never be comfortable at home, able to escape into her writing as Emily has. She believes she will never be useful in society or at home unless she pursues a “well-cultivated mind and well-disposed heart,” and “have the strength to help others be strong.” Denton indicates these are the real-world issues she explores in her writing.
Denton builds the story of Anne’s young life gradually, taking us through her thoughts and experiences as she matures. The tempo steps up with the three sisters together again at Haworth, after having been separated for a few years. Charlotte has an idea for a book of poetry featuring all of them. Emily balks, and Anne mediates between the two, securing Emily’s participation. I found this one of the most fascinating parts of the book. The dynamics among these three gifted women sizzles on the page. Descriptions of Charlotte and Emily are haunting in their excellence. Each woman changed literature and the way in which women were viewed in society. Anne’s The Tenant of Wildfell Hall has been called one of the first feminist novels.
The book roars through the tragedies of Branwell’s and Emily’s deaths from consumption. Through all of this Anne faces reality with determination. She has come to believe she was meant to be “an observer, and given … a quiet skill to extract lessons from what she saw. There was truth to be told, warnings to be issued, patience and prudence to instill in young women.” She depicted people and society with realism, not romanticism. This book made me wonder what Anne Brontë’s influence would have been had she lived to reach full maturity. Sadly, she died soon after her sister, Emily.
In Without The Veil Between, Denton’s writing has reached its maturity as well. I kept copying excerpts and pasting them in a file for me to read, enjoy, and think about later. Whole passages are beautifully written: meticulous, poetic, luminous, and powerful. The ending, echoing the title, is especially brilliant. I can’t think of anyone better suited to bring us into the world and the life of the sensitive, creative, and quietly courageous Anne Brontë.
December 3, 2017 Steve Lindahl
DM Denton’s historical novel, Without the Veil Between / Anne Brontë: A fine and Subtle Spirit, is the story of the Brontë family from the point of view of Charlotte and Emily’s younger sister. The title comes from a line in one of Anne’s poems, In Memory of a Happy Day in February. The last stanza of the poem is quoted in the afterword of Denton’s novel.
As was the case with many nineteenth century families, the Brontës suffered loss. Anne was born in 1820. Her mother died in 1821 and two of her sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in 1825. This left the father, Patrick Brontë, an Anglican priest, to raise the three sisters and one son alone. Denton’s emphasis on the thoughts and desires of the youngest Brontë sister brings color and life to the pages of her novel. She expresses Anne’s concerns in lavish prose that matches the 19th century Brontë style. Without the Veil Between isn’t simply a biography, it is a journey back into the day to day lives of one of history’s most famous literary families.
December 8, 2017 Thomas Davis, fourwindowspress
Diane Denton’s new novel, Without the Veil Between, should be read in a place where time, inside and outside the reader, is suspended, and today and tomorrow are not absolutes, but songs faintly heard as the sun descends into a shining sea’s horizon. The story of the Bronte family told through the thoughts and emotions of Anne Bronte, the sister who did not become the powerful force in English literature her sisters, Charlotte and Emily, did, the story explores how genius interplays with everyday frustrations, sensations, and tragedies of life, transmuting the imagination and observations of three brilliant sisters into the tapestry of stories and poetry still relevant to our contemporary lives.
What the Bronte story has always had at its core is a question, how did literary genius flower in three women of a Victorian family from the English village of Haworth and the landscape of the English Moors when the mother died so young and the father was a clergyman in a small village? After all, in the years she served as a governess, the idealistic Anne had a status only a little better than that the servants hand in that time’s stratified English society.
Denton’s novel provides more than a hint of how the three sisters turned societal and domestic constraints in which they lived into characters and stories and poetry that have stood the test of time. Anne was, at least to the modern sensibility, a great novelist in spite of her contemporary reputation, and as she weaves her gentle spirit into dealing with the dissolution of her brother, her father’s loving distraction, and her two sisters’ determination to overcome the limitations of their sex in Victorian society, the reader gets a sense of how genius rose out of the tensions, love, and straining within the family itself.
This was not a flowering of genius from wealth and status, but from sparks engendered out of living in a certain time and place where meals were prepared and eaten, long walks in foreboding weather were gloried in, and conversation helped spur what would seem to have been, at the time, literary efforts without much chance of bearing fruit.
What Denton has achieved is a portrait placed in a time very different from the jangling present. Her story resonates in a way that suspends years and centuries and lets us feel the joys and sadness of a writer whose unflinching look at life, especially in her novels, rings with the authenticity of who, inside, she really was.
5 Stars Excellent
December 14, 2017 Christoph Fischer
I thoroughly enjoyed DM Denton’s other work and jumped to the download button as soon as I saw this.
In her previous work Denton wrote about a musician and composer whom she adores, and this seems to be the trademark of her writing. The same love for her subject shines through in the writing of this fine novel about Anne Bronte.
I know little of the Bronte sisters, so I can judge the book merely on its writing and characterization, and Denton excels in both of them. I lived with the sisters on every page, moved by their spirit and touched by the tragedy. The sisters came to life in a manner that I never questioned historical accuracy or wondered about artistic licence. For me this was the story, delicately written with wonderful descriptive prose, attention to detail and a love for the genre. While I feared the Bronte sisters might be a bit ‘too girlie’ a subject for me, I needn’t have worried. The depth and gravity of Anne Bronte comes across perfectly, making for an extremely satisfying read.
January 5, 2018 Mary Parkhurst
I love imagining myself back in the world of the Brontes, but I didn’t know anything about this less well known sister. Over the holidays I had a chance to curl up with this wonderful historical novel. With the fire crackling and cold, gloomy skies outside, I felt captivated by Anne’s desire to find her own creativity.
January 16, 2018 Martin Shone, Silence Happens
Of the three books I’ve read of Diane’s, this is now my favourite but that’s not to lessen the other two as they shall both be read again.
Anne Brontë comes through as a leading character in her own right, not as an understudy. Diane has written an exceptional history of a hidden jewel in the family Brontë and imbued her with a strength, a tenderness, and a will to animate and to shine.
Literary fiction has another distinctive voice in Diane Denton.
5 Stars Beautifully written novel
February 21, 2018 Amazon Customer
I’ve just finished reading this beautifully written novel by DM Denton. The title is inspired by one of Anne Brontë’s poem In Memory of a Happy Day in February. ”I long to view that bliss Devine; Which eye hath never seen; To see the glories of his face without the veil between.” The novel has a feel of the writing of Anne’s time and I love the way the author has woven lines from Anne’s novels and poetry within the story. It’s fantastic to see the writer bring Anne’s genius to the forefront and out of the shadows of her more celebrated sisters Emily and Charlotte . Lovely illustrations throughout . If you are a Brontë fan it’s definitely a book for your collection or just a good introduction to the life of Anne Brontë. I would highly recommend.
5 Stars Unique work of art
April 1, 2018 Marta
There are a few novels you can enjoy as much. The language and the style of story telling are the strongest points. Reading it is like going to another place, so wonderfuly written it was. I loved the difference portrayed betweet the lives Bronte sisters normaly led and the upper world of literature-perfectly summed up in this paragraph: ‘A certain fragrance from that Cinderella evening was the last thing Anne enjoyed before she finally fell asleep. Her short, discreetly mended gloves weren’t laid on the dresser with her sister’s equally worn out ones, but on her pillow where she could inhale the delicately floral perfume the slightest touch of the Smith sisters fingers had transferred to them.’.
And finally, it was the only Bronte based novel I’ve read that got the essence of Emily (Anne’s sister). Maybe not in a way she talked or dressed, but in a way she was.
Anne was done very well too. Especially passages about her writing and her relationship with William. Her relationship with William had a strange other-wordly tone to it. ‘Oh, dear God, let his memory stay with me and never pass away’.
April 29, 2018 Kimberly Eve, Victorian Musings
This is the most beautiful novel about Anne Bronte and her sisters that I’ve read in a very long time. It is the first I’ve read by author, DM Denton but not the last. I couldn’t put it down once I’d started. I fell into the author’s languid writing style and was captivated by her research and depth of scope of the life of the sisters. Let me be clear when I say that, Without the Veil Between is written from Anne Bronte’s perspective; focusing mainly on a brief seven year period in her life (1842-1849). Within these seven years, you meet young Anne who lives with her minister, widowed father along with brother Branwell, sisters Emily and Charlotte.
What stood out for me was the way the author humanized the entire Bronte family. I just loved the scenes written at home sometimes whispered sibling conversations so that “father” wouldn’t hear or seated around the dinner table everyone eating, sisters giving scraps to pets Keeper and Flossy while their fathered asked how they were all doing?
Of course, the most interesting were the chapters covering the sisters writing poetry, secret novels, coming to publication during their own lifetime. The scene between Charlotte Bronte and her father reading her published novel brought me to tears; his pride as father in that moment and how I’m sure he wished his wife, Maria could be there. Also, included throughout the novel were bits of Emily and Anne’s poems. The novel is beautifully illustrated by the author herself. It is a book to be savored and enjoyed.
5 Stars A Fine and Subtle Book!
June 17, 2018 Veronica Leigh
I was ecstatic when I learned that someone had written a novel about my favorite Bronte, Anne. The younger sister of Charlotte and Emily Bronte, history has overlooked the youngest Bronte sister. Her two novels had been panned by Victorian critics, from being too vulgar and scandalizing. Even Charlotte was ashamed of “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” and after Anne’s death, prevented it from being re-released. In the last twenty years or so there has been a revival in her popularity and she is now considered an early feminist icon. I won a copy of “Without the Veil Between” (as well as a beautiful illustration of Anne) and quickly devoured it. A faithful portrayal, the story follows Anne from her early days as a governess, to her literary collaborations with Charlotte and Emily, to the devastating downfall and death of her brother Branwell, and to the death of her beloved confidant Emily. Anne’s life was tragically cut short by consumption, which seemed to plague the Bronte family. It was refreshing to come across a biographical novel that beautifully portrayed the sweet, devout, and sensitive Anne, that clung close to fact. Those who know me well, know how irritated I get when I read a historical novel riddled with inaccuracies. Anne begins as a shy girl and evolves into a strong, capable woman who refuses to be silenced, no matter the opposition.