Sister Scribes

Download (4)Nicola here. Today I’m musing on sisters, real, literary and fictional. I’ve always been fascinated by the relationships between siblings. Perhaps it’s because I don’t have any full siblings that I’ve always wondered what it would be like to have a sister. Would we be very close, or different and distant? Would there be sibling rivalry between us or the sort of secrets you come across in books? What would it have been like growing up with brothers and sisters?

Today is the anniversary of the birth in 1817 of Branwell Bronte, the only boy amongst literary WYR_BPM_B37-001siblings Charlotte, Emily and Anne. Originally there were six Bronte children, five of whom were girls, so Branwell’s unique status as the only son of the family promised him more freedom and perhaps led to his being more indulged. Whilst the girls were sent away to school, in some cases most unhappily, Branwell was educated by his father at home (pictured above). The two older Bronte sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, died in childhood and their deaths made a big impression on all their siblings. Maria in particular showed all the signs of developing the same literary talents as her younger sisters. One wonders what might have happened had she survived and also whether Elizabeth, who was said to most resemble Anne, would also have grown up to be an author. Branwell, meanwhile, was a writer and an artist – one of his pictures is on the right – but he never achieved the literary success his sisters did, nor was he particularly successful with his paintings.

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The Enduring Appeal of Romantic Comedy

Nicola and SarahNicola here, talking about the popularity of romantic comedy, both in contemporary and historical stories. A couple of weeks ago I was at the London Book and Screen Week, interviewing Sarah Morgan about romantic comedies and why they are so appealing and so enduring. Not only did we have the chance for a great chat, we also had a private screening of Sarah’s favourite rom com movie, In Her Shoes, just for us and the audience in a very cool little cinema!

I love a good romantic comedy. The best and most enduring ones are funny, witty, charming and moving, whether they are books or on the screen.  I think
they are also thoughtful and complex and tell us about ourselves as humans – about emotions such as desire and love, about relationships and our longings and wishes. They often reflect the attitudes, assumptions and prejudices that prevailed when the films were made and from the very start in the 1930s they had intelligent roles with great dialogue for women. They often show heroines and heroes as well struggling to push back the boundaries that confine their lives. There’s a lot of good things in a package that has so often been underrated.

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