The Top 5 Brontë Novels

29th July, 2022

Charlotte, Emily and Anne were three talented sisters who published several novels that have been enjoyed by many and given worldwide acclaim. The Yorkshire-born trio sadly passed away when they were still young, which leads one to wonder how many more amazing literary pieces they might have penned had they lived past their 30s. Here, we list their top 5 novels according to the public review website, Good Reads.

1. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Brontë

With over 17 film adaptations, Jane Eyre may be the most well-known of all the Brontë novels. It follows the story of Jane who after being orphaned at an early age, leads a lonely life until she finds a position as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There she meets the mysterious Mr Rochester and sees a ghostly woman who roams the halls at night. Widely considered a classic, it gave new truthfulness to the Victorian novel with its realistic portrayal of the inner life of a woman, noting her struggles with her natural desires and social condition.

2. The Tennant of Wildfell Hall – Anne Brontë

Usually regarded as the lesser-known sister, Anne published this book in 1848, a year before her death at the age of 29. The novel tells the story of Helen Huntington and her disastrous marriage to her husband along with the challenges she faces raising her young son on her own. It’s often said to be one of the first feminist novels in English literature as it shows Helen as an independent and courageous female protagonist who seeks autonomy instead of simply submitting to her husband and male authority.

3. Wuthering Heights – Emily Brontë

This is a classic of 19th century literature, considered by many as one of the greatest romantic tales ever written, and was the only novel written by Emily. Set in Northern England, at the moorland farmhouse known as Wuthering Heights, this gothic novel is the story of Catherine Earnshaw and the love she shares with Heathcliff. Spanning over 30 years, it explores the themes of the destructiveness of a love that never changes and the precariousness of social class.

4. Villette – Charlotte Brontë

Whilst Charlotte’s more famous novel, Jane Eyre, won the popular public vote on Good Reads, her final novel has garnered some of the most critical acclaim over the years. The story follows Lucy Snowe who runs away from her tragic past in England and becomes a teacher at a boarding school in the French town of Villette, where she is then drawn into romance and adventure. Her first-person account is an insightful study of a woman’s consciousness and how she deals with the turbulent journey of life.

5. Shirley - Charlotte Brontë

After the remarkable success and popularity of Jane Eyre, Charlotte chose to write something as “real and unromantic as Monday morning.” Shirley is set during industrialising England and is the tale of two contrasting heroines. Caroline Helstone is stuck in the oppressive environment of a clergyman’s home, whose simple and bare life comments on the plight of single women during the 1800s. The other is the vibrant Shirley Keeldar who after inheriting an estate and wealth, is liberated from social convention.

Reading does wonders for our wellbeing, so if there are any in the top 5 Brontës that you haven’t read yet or might garner a re-read, why not take a seat in your favourite reading chair and start turning some pages.

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