fbpx

Book Lists

The Brontë Sisters: Ranking Their Best Novels and Where to Begin

Dive into the captivating world of three sisters who made an indelible mark on Victorian literature.

Last Updated on April 19, 2024 by BiblioLifestyle

The Brontë Sisters

In the literary realm, few families have left a more indelible mark than the Brontë sisters.  Famed for their captivating novels and poetic prowess, Charlotte Brontë, Emily Brontë, and Anne Brontë heralded from an obscure corner of Yorkshire, have become synonymous with the Victorian era’s cultural landscape.  Despite their tragically short lives, the Brontë sisters authored some of the most enduring novels of the 19th century, with their works still being widely read and cherished today.  

“Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë is hailed as a groundbreaking novel that defied the norms of its time.  With its fiercely independent protagonist and exploration of female empowerment, it resonated with readers then and continues to captivate today.  The hauntingly beautiful “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë delves into themes of love, revenge, and the destructive power of obsession.  “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Brontë challenges societal expectations and confronts issues such as alcoholism and domestic abuse. As you can see, the Brontë sisters were not only talented writers, but they also explored a wide range of themes and topics in their works.

My entry into the world of the Brontë sisters was “Jane Eyre” and since then I haven’t looked back. I’ve reread all their works several times and I’ve found that over time, while my favorite has remained the same, I’ve grown to appreciate other works as I’ve gotten older. So in this article I hope to serve as a guide through your literary journey of the Brontë sisters. First I’ll share information on their individual contributions, helping you discern where to begin if you’re new to the Brontë world, ranking their books in order of my favorite, and answering some frequently asked questions.  So let’s delve into the world of these remarkable sisters and discover why they continue to capture readers’ hearts and imaginations.

Meet the Brontë Sisters

About Charlotte Brontë

Charlotte Brontë, a renowned English author, was born in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, on April 21st, 1816.  As the eldest sibling, she embarked on a remarkable literary journey, leaving behind a rich collection of published works.  Among her notable accomplishments, her magnum opus, “Jane Eyre,” stands as a testament to her genius and is widely regarded as one of the greatest novels of all time.  Charlotte’s distinctive writing style captivated readers through her vivid descriptions, intricately woven characters, and a profound sense of morality that resonated with audiences.  Tragically, Charlotte’s brilliance was cut short as she departed from this world at the tender age of 38.  Despite the brevity of her life, she left an indelible mark on the literary landscape that continues to inspire generations.

Charlotte Brontë’s Works

  1. Jane Eyre (1847): This novel presents the story of Jane Eyre, an orphan who becomes a governess and falls in love with her employer, Mr. Rochester, challenging societal norms of the time.
  2. Shirley (1849): Set during the industrial depression resulting from the Napoleonic Wars and Luddite revolts, this novel explores class struggle and the changing role of women in society.
  3. Villette (1853): The story of Lucy Snowe, an Englishwoman who takes a teaching job in a French boarding school, explores themes of isolation, unrequited love, and the role of women in 19th-century Europe.
  4. The Professor (1857, posthumous): Charlotte’s first novel, albeit published after her death, follows the narrative of William Crimsworth, an Englishman making his way in the world through education and teaching in Brussels.
  5. Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846): A collection of poetry penned under pseudonyms by the Brontë sisters, which, despite its initial lack of success, paved the way for their future fame.

Emily Brontë

Emily Brontë, the fifth child in a family of six siblings, was born on July 30th, 1818, in Thornton, a village located in the picturesque region of Yorkshire, England.  Growing up in this serene countryside, surrounded by rolling hills and breathtaking landscapes, she developed a profound connection with nature that would later influence her writing.  Her masterpiece, “Wuthering Heights,” is not only considered one of the greatest works in English literature but also a timeless tale of passion and obsession.  Through her vivid descriptions and compelling characters, Emily Brontë delves into the depths of human emotions, exploring themes of love, revenge, and the complexities of relationships.  Tragically, Emily’s life was cut short at the tender age of 30, as she succumbed to tuberculosis.  Despite her untimely demise, her legacy continues to captivate readers around the world, as her words immortalize the power of raw emotions and the enduring beauty of her beloved Yorkshire countryside.

Emily Brontë’s Works

  1. Wuthering Heights (1847): This tale of obsessive love and revenge set amidst the Yorkshire moors is Emily’s only novel, but its intense storyline and vivid characterizations have made it a cornerstone of English literature.
  2. Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846): A shared poetry collection with her sisters Charlotte and Anne that, while initially overlooked, later gained recognition for its poignant exploration of nature and emotion.
  3. Gondal Poems (1840s): A collection of poems that Emily and her sister Anne wrote for their imaginary world of Gondal, demonstrating Emily’s unique narrative voice and vivid imagination, although the collection was not published during her lifetime.

Anne Brontë

The youngest of the talented Brontë siblings, Anne Brontë, was born on January 17th, 1820, in the picturesque village of Thornton, located in the beautiful county of Yorkshire, England.  Despite her short life, she left an indelible mark on literature with her remarkable novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall,” which bravely addressed and challenged the societal issues considered taboo during her time.  Anne’s writing style was distinguished by its moralistic tone and the deep empathy she had for her characters, making them come alive on the pages of her works.  Tragically, Anne’s brilliant journey was cut short, as she passed away at the tender age of 29, leaving behind a legacy that continues to inspire and captivate readers to this day.

Anne Brontë’s Works

  1. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848): This novel tells the story of Helen Graham, a woman who leaves her alcoholic husband to protect their young son, a radical depiction of a woman’s struggle for independence and social issues like alcoholism and domestic abuse.
  2. Agnes Grey (1847): The novel is based on Anne’s own experiences as a governess, portraying the stark class divisions and the difficult position of women in 19th-century society.
  3. Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846): This is a collection of deeply emotional poems that Anne wrote with her sisters, revealing her innermost thoughts and feelings under the pseudonym Acton Bell.
  4. Gondal Poems (1840s): Anne and her sister Emily wrote these poems for their imaginary world, Gondal, presenting Anne’s unique storytelling ability; however, this collection was not published during her lifetime.
The Brontë Novels Ranked

Reading the Brontë Sisters’ Novels

Which Brontë sister should I read first?

For beginners, I highly recommend starting with Charlotte Brontë’s masterpiece, “Jane Eyre.” This timeless classic beautifully showcases the author’s exceptional storytelling abilities, captivating readers with its richly woven narrative. Set in 19th-century England, the novel takes us on a mesmerizing journey through the life of an orphaned girl, unveiling a world of intricate emotions, societal expectations, and personal growth. As Jane navigates her way through life’s trials and tribulations, readers are immersed in a tapestry of love, independence, and resilience that transcends time. So embark on this literary voyage and experience the profound depth of Brontë’s words, as she invites you to explore the complexities of the human spirit and the power of self-discovery.

Ranking the Brontë Sisters’ Novels

  1. “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë
  2. “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Brontë
  3. “Villette” by Charlotte Brontë
  4. “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” by Anne Brontë
  5. “Agnes Grey” by Anne Brontë
  6. “Shirley” by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

“Jane Eyre” is Charlotte Brontë’s renowned novel that tells the enthralling story of its eponymous heroine, Jane Eyre.  Born an orphan and enduring a traumatic childhood, Jane grows into an independent and strong-willed woman.  She takes a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with the brooding and enigmatic master, Mr. Rochester.  Their love story navigates through the labyrinth of secrets, morality, and redemption.  Reflecting a deep sense of feminist ideology, the novel explores themes of love, independence, and identity.  Despite the harsh societal norms and the challenges thrown her way, Jane remains steadfast, becoming a symbol of resilience and self-reliance.  “Jane Eyre” remains a timeless classic that resonates with readers for its portrayal of a woman’s quest for freedom and self-fulfillment within the rigid social conventions of Victorian England.

Buy “Jane Eyre” from Amazon or Bookshop

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

“Wuthering Heights” is Emily Brontë’s singular but significant contribution to English literature.  This classic novel, set against the hauntingly beautiful moors of Yorkshire, narrates the tumultuous and passionate love story of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff.  Orphaned and adopted into the Earnshaw family, Heathcliff develops a deep-seated love and obsession for his foster sister, Catherine.  However, social divisions and Catherine’s decision to marry Edgar Linton instead, inflict an irreparable wound in Heathcliff’s heart, leading him down a vengeful path of destruction.  The novel is celebrated for its exploration of complex themes such as love, revenge, social class, and the dichotomy of nature versus culture.  Emily Brontë’s vivid portrayal of impassioned characters and her profound understanding of human emotions make “Wuthering Heights” a timeless literary masterpiece.

Buy “Wuthering Heights” from Amazon or Bookshop

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

“Villette” by Charlotte Brontë follows the story of Lucy Snowe, a young Englishwoman who embarks on a journey of self-discovery after suffering great personal loss. She moves to Villette, a fictional town in Belgium, to work as a teacher at a girls’ boarding school. Throughout the novel, Lucy wrestles with feelings of isolation and unrequited love, all the while exhibiting remarkable tenacity and resilience. Brontë expertly weaves themes of loneliness, identity, and psychological introspection into a narrative that is both poignant and powerful. Lucy’s inner journey and the mysterious allure of the town of Villette make this novel a compelling exploration of character and circumstance, solidifying its place among the great literary works of the 19th century.

Buy “Villette” from Amazon or Bookshop

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

The Tenant of Wildfell Hall by Anne Brontë

“The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” is Anne Brontë’s groundbreaking novel that challenged the societal norms of the 19th-century.  The story unravels through the narratives of farmer Gilbert Markham and the mysterious tenant, Helen Graham, who takes up residence in the dilapidated Wildfell Hall.  Helen, a strong, independent woman, is actually escaping her alcoholic and abusive husband, a topic that was taboo and largely unexplored during the period.  The novel is a critique of Victorian marital laws and the limited rights of women, and it stands as a daring depiction of a woman’s fight for independence and respect.  Through her vivid storytelling and bold characterizations, Anne Brontë presents a poignant exploration of love, betrayal, and the strength of a woman’s spirit.

Buy “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” from Amazon or Bookshop

Agnes Grey

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

“Agnes Grey” is a compelling novel by Anne Brontë that offers a realistic depiction of a governess’s life in the 19th century.  Agnes Grey, the protagonist, is the younger daughter of a minister whose family falls into financial hardship.  To support her family, Agnes becomes a governess and navigates the challenges of educating the wealthy Bloomfield and Murray children.  The novel is a sharp critique of the upper-class society and the treatment of governesses.  It exposes the inequalities of Victorian society through the disgraceful behavior of Agnes’s charges and their indifference towards their less privileged governess.  Amid these trials, Agnes finds solace in nature and the local curate, Edward Weston, with whom she eventually finds love.  “Agnes Grey” is a testament to Anne Brontë’s astute observations of societal norms and the oppressive conditions for women in her time.

Buy “Agnes Grey” from Amazon or Bookshop

Shirley

Shirley by Charlotte Brontë

“Shirley” is a social novel penned by Charlotte Brontë, enriching the literary world with its exploration of political and economic turmoil and the role of women in such circumstances.  Set against the backdrop of the Luddite uprisings in Yorkshire, the narrative intertwines the lives of Caroline Helstone and the titular character Shirley Keeldar. Caroline, a timid and undervalued orphan, finds her life entwined with Shirley, an independent and wealthy heiress.  The novel, through the contrasting characters, delves into the gender norms of the period, offering a critique of limited roles available for women.  It also sheds light on the struggles of the working class and the fallout of industrialization. “Shirley” is a testament to Charlotte Brontë’s exceptional storytelling and her ability to weave social commentary into an engaging narrative.

Buy “Shirley” from Amazon or Bookshop

Brontë Author

Frequently Asked Questions about the Brontë Sisters

Who are the Brontë sisters?

The Brontë sisters, namely Charlotte, Emily, and Anne Brontë, were three of the most influential women writers of the 19th century. Born in the early 1800s in Yorkshire, England, they overcame personal tragedy and societal limitations to pen some of the most enduring novels in English literature. Charlotte, the eldest, is best known for “Jane Eyre,” Emily is famed for “Wuthering Heights,” and the youngest, Anne, wrote “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Despite their tragically short lives, their profound literary contributions continue to resonate with readers worldwide today.

Who is the forgotten Bronte sister?

The forgotten Brontë sister is often said to be Anne Brontë. She is the youngest of the Brontë sisters and known for her novel “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall.” Despite the novel’s groundbreaking critique of Victorian society and gender roles, Anne’s work has often been overshadowed by the more well-known novels of her sisters, Emily’s “Wuthering Heights” and Charlotte’s “Jane Eyre.” However, in recent years, literary experts and readers alike have begun to recognize and appreciate Anne’s profound exploration of societal issues, and she is increasingly considered an influential figure in her own right.

When did the Bronte sisters reveal themselves?

The Brontë sisters originally published their works under male pseudonyms: Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily), and Acton (Anne) Bell. This was a common practice among women writers in the 19th century due to societal prejudices against female authors. The sisters maintained their anonymity until 1848 when Charlotte Brontë was compelled to reveal their true identities to her publisher, George Smith, to dispel rumors that the ‘Bell brothers’ were one person. Thus, the literary world learned of the remarkable Brontë sisters who had penned such profound and enduring novels.

What happened to the Bronte sisters?

The Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, unfortunately, met untimely and tragic ends, all dying young. Emily Brontë was the first to pass away when she died of tuberculosis in December 1848 at the age of 30. Just a few months later, in May 1849, Anne Brontë also died of tuberculosis at age 29. The eldest sister, Charlotte, survived her siblings by a few years. However, her life was also tragically cut short when she died in March 1855, at the age of 38, likely due to complications from pregnancy. Despite their short lives, the sisters left behind a remarkable literary legacy that continues to be celebrated to this day.

Did any of the Brontës have children?

None of the Brontë sisters had any children. Charlotte Brontë, the eldest of the three, was the only one who married. She married her father’s curate, Arthur Bell Nicholls, in June 1854. Unfortunately, her marriage was short-lived as she died nine months later in March 1855. It is believed that her death was caused by complications related to her pregnancy, implying that she was expecting a child at the time of her death, but sadly neither she nor the baby survived. Emily and Anne Brontë, both of whom remained single, died at the ages of 30 and 29, respectively.

More about Emily Brontë

Did Emily Brontë ever have a relationship?

Emily Brontë, known for her fiercely independent spirit and her novel “Wuthering Heights,” is not known to have had any romantic relationships during her lifetime. She was deeply private and preferred the company of her family and the solitude of the Yorkshire moors to socializing. Emily also never married and lived at the family home in Haworth until her untimely death at the age of 30. There is no record or mention in biographical accounts of Emily having any romantic relationships, reaffirming her image as a solitary figure in literature.

What was the only novel written by Emily Brontë?

The only novel written by Emily Brontë is the classic “Wuthering Heights”. This masterpiece, first published in 1847, is acclaimed for its profound exploration of passionate love, revenge, and social class. Set on the Yorkshire moors, the novel chronicles the tumultuous relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff, an orphan brought to Wuthering Heights by Catherine’s father. “Wuthering Heights” continues to captivate readers with its deep psychological insight, intense emotions, and the haunting beauty of its setting.

What inspired Emily Brontë to write Wuthering Heights?

Emily Brontë drew inspiration for “Wuthering Heights” from various sources. Key among these was her own life experiences and the environment she grew up in. Raised in Yorkshire, the landscapes, moors, and solitude of the area greatly influenced her writing, and these elements play a significant role in the novel. Additionally, her reading habits and literary influences also shaped her work. She was known to have read extensively, with works from authors like Sir Walter Scott and Lord Byron influencing her. Furthermore, her experiences living in a home with a troubled brother and witnessing the effects of social and economic changes in her society are seen as significant influences on the complex character dynamics and themes in “Wuthering Heights”. However, the depth of imagination and originality demonstrated in the novel suggest an extraordinary creative mind at work, able to craft a world and characters that extend beyond her immediate experiences.

Was Jane Eyre written by Emily Brontë?

No, “Jane Eyre” was not written by Emily Brontë. This iconic novel was actually penned by her elder sister, Charlotte Brontë. “Jane Eyre” is widely celebrated for its progressive exploration of female independence and identity, and it stands as one of the most significant works in the canon of English literature. Emily Brontë, on the other hand, is best known for her equally significant novel, “Wuthering Heights,” a passionate tale of love and revenge set against the bleak backdrop of the Yorkshire moors.

What was Emily Brontë cause of death?

Emily Brontë, the celebrated author of “Wuthering Heights”, tragically passed away at the young age of 30. The cause of her death was tuberculosis, a common and often deadly infectious disease during the 19th century. She died on December 19, 1848, at the Brontë family home in Haworth, Yorkshire. Despite her short lifespan, Emily’s influence on literature has been profound and enduring, with “Wuthering Heights” considered a classic of English literature.

What do you think about these novels by the Brontë sisters?

The Brontë sisters’ novels continue to enchant readers with their timeless themes, captivating characters, and exquisite writing styles. Whether you’re new to their works or a dedicated fan, there’s always something new to discover in these literary masterpieces. I hope this guide has provided insight into the lives and works of these remarkable authors and helps you embark on your own journey through the captivating world of the Brontë sisters.

Have you read any books by the Brontë sisters?  Are any of these novels or their other works on your TBR?   What book by the Brontë sisters is your favorite?  Which Brontë sisters is your favorite?  Let us talk about the Brontë sisters and their books in the comments below.

MORE CONTENT TO READ:

All About The Brontë Sisters

+ show Comments

- Hide Comments

add a comment

  1. Nancy says:

    Villette is the most powerful book I have read. Not for every reader but certainly better than Shirley. It is right up there with Jane EYRE and Tenant…perhaps more so. The ambiguous ending ie perfect…because the heroine is okay with or without her hero…and that is the point.

    • Hi Nancy, thank you so much for sharing! I love Villette too, and I think I’ve grown to appreciate more as I’ve gotten older. Jane Eyre will always have my heart and Wuthering Heights is a close second. So those are my top three book right now. Happy reading!

Leave a Reply

so hot right now

Free Guide!

get the guide

Summer is a time for relaxation, adventure, and exploration.  So if you're looking for the best new books of the season, this guide is just for you.

The 2024 Summer Reading Guide has forty-five new releases organized across eight categories. You’ll also find some fun things to do at home, summer-themed recipes, plus more.

Download The 2024 Summer Reading Guide

error: Content is protected !!