William Crimsworth, the Bronte's only male narrator, a teacher in Belgium, becomes involved in a flirtation with the headmistress of the school, but that ends when he falls in love with a student-teacher. The jealousy of the jilted headmistress creates obstacles to happiness. Considered to be the basis for Bronte's better-known work, "Villette."
This first novel went unpublished during Bront 's lifetime, rejected by publishers each time it was submitted despite her growing fame for such works as Jane Eyre and Shirley. It was released only after her untimely passing, when there was a great hunger for anything from the pen of this now-famous author, but it was a poor addition to her work. A critic in 1857 wrote that it was "crude, unequal, and unnatural to a fault; it has all the unripe qualities of a bad first work ." And indeed it is dreary and confusing, uninvolving and filled with minutiae, and suffers from many awkward and improbable devices, not the least of which is the choice of a male protagonist to tell a tale with many autobiographical aspects. The reading by James Wilby is expert and probably as exciting and dramatic as is possible, given the material. Comprehensive literary collections will want to add this early work of a major author, but more popular collections can safely pass it by.--Harriet Edwards, East Meadow P.L., NY Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.