Haworth, West Yorkshire, 1848.
Branwell Brontë - unexhibited artist, unacknowledged writer, sacked railwayman, disgraced tutor and spurned lover -finds himself unhappily back in Haworth Parsonage, to face the crushing disappointment of his father and his three sisters, whose own pseudonymous successes - allegedly kept secret from him – are only just becoming apparent.
With his health failing rapidly, his literary aspirations abandoned and his once loyal circle of friends shrinking fast, Branwell lives in a world of secrets, conspiracies and seemingly endless betrayals. To restore himself to a creative and fulfilling existence in the face of an increasingly claustrophobic environment, he returns to the drugs, alcohol and the morbid self-delusion which have already played such a large part in his unhappy life.
Sanctuary is a lacerating and moving portrait of self-destruction. In it, Robert Edric has reimagined the final months of one of the great bystanders of literary history, and, in so doing, has shone a penetrating light on one of the most celebrated and perennially fascinating families in our creative history.
Opening Sentence: I met a pack man on Sober Hill, leading a string of Galloways and carrying half a load himself.
Branwell Bronte is the only son of the Rector of Haworth. He has three highly successful sisters, all writers, Charlotte, Anne and Emily Bronte. While his sisters seen to enjoy good fortune with everything they do, Branwell struggles to strike out with a career. Whatever he writes never sees the same level of success as that of his sisters - and each attempt ends in miserable failure. No one seems to understand him. With one failure after another, his live spins into decline, and he begins to sqauander his opportunities.
This is a well written, but painful story about a protagonist who is neither stellar nor heroic, but rather someone who is a dismal failure at all he attempts. It is a study about human nature and how the power of one's attitude in life has a powerful effect upon us all. A nice historical novel about the lesser known brother of the famous Bronte sisters.